It’s very easy in these fast-paced technological times to take a customer service beef and basically broadcast it live over the Internet. But one Southwest passenger’s Twitter gripe over her four-year-old daughter getting assigned to a later boarding group has resulted in a lawsuit from the worker she complained about, alleging that the woman’s tweets and Facebook posts were defamatory and put the worker in a false light.
In a lawsuit filed recently that has since gone to a Tennessee appeals court, a Southwest operations agent is fighting back against a disgruntled passenger.
The customer posted numerous complaints when her young daughter was assigned the boarding position of A34, while the mom was in A1. The passenger claimed that the Southwest worker wouldn’t let her daughter board with her.
As reported by Eric Goldman’s blog, the woman tweeted:
i. “Gracie is 4. FOUR! she wanted her to board by herself or make us wait Till A34. Even though I was business select!”
ii. “I fly @southwestair at least 75x/year. just had WORST experience. Me; A1, Sadie: A3 Gracie A34. Woman refused 2 let Gracie board w/ me.”
iii. “Nashville. Gate A25. Flight to Denver. Her name is Jennifer. She said “get over it. Follow the rules. Or don’t fly.”
iv. She has done this to me before. She has the WORST customer service. My daughter is FOUR.
v. “that is ridiculous! [W]hat did she expect? Her walk on herself & find her seat like a grown adult?”
vi. “If your [sic] sympathize with me, when you respond be sure & include @southwestair in tweet. They need to know this WRONG.”
vii. Sadie had MAJOR blowout. I think it’s in response to our southwest air experience. She decided to leave them a gift on their plain. Teehee.
While the worker sued for defamation and false light, a Tennessee appeals court dismissed the original claim brought in trial court of defamation because the woman’s statements were expressions of her “frustrations and complaints that she was not able to board the flight in a manner she wanted.”
The court says that despite the fact that the posts didn’t have all the relevant information regarding the situation, no one would’ve thought that the Southwest worker was actually endangering the child’s welfare.
The defamation claim was properly dismissed, but the appeals court says that false light requires statements that are “highly offensive” but don’t have to be defamatory. As such, a normal person reading the posts about the Southwest worker would likely think she was a “rude and a bad service agent, one who was more concerned with adherence to the airline rules and procedures than the welfare of the child,” said the appeals court.
But the passenger says her words weren’t offensive, basically because everyone knows airlines are the worst, writing in her appeal brief: “[as the] court is surely aware, airlines are notorious for bad customer service . . . [t]he statements that were made by the appellee in this case are not only not highly offensive, they are sentiments that have likely been uttered by airline passengers for decades.”
That argument isn’t enough to address whether or not the statements put the worker in a false light, the appeals court said, so the while the appeals court dismissed the defamation claim, the false light claim will now move forward in other proceedings.
*Thanks for the Twitter tip, V.B.!