Southwest Passenger Kicked Off Plane Because of a Tweet

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What’s the craziest reason why a passenger has been kicked off a plane? How about for a Tweet.

That’s right, a Southwest Airlines passenger was removed from a flight after he sent a negative tweet to @SouthwestAir about a customer service agent. Well, the agent didn’t like what he wrote so decided to kick him off the plane.


Per this CBS Minnesota article, A Twin Cities man is upset about the way his family was treated on a Southwest Airlines flight because of a tweet.

Duff Watson says he was asked to de-board a flight from Denver to Minneapolis with his two kids on Sunday after an agent didn’t like a tweet he wrote about her service.

Watson and the agent had a disagreement before boarding initially.

“I was left, you know, very upset, very embarrassed, very humiliated,” Watson said.

He’s an “A-List” passenger, which means he gets priority boarding. But a gate agent wouldn’t let his 6-year-old and 9-year-old board with him — so they’d all have to wait to board later.

“In leaving I said, you know, ‘Real nice way to treat an A-list. I’ll be sure to tweet about it,’” he said.

And that’s just what Watson did.

“Something to the effect of, ‘Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA,’” he said.

Soon after getting to their seats, the family of three was asked to leave the plane.

“[She said] her safety feels threatened at this point because of what I tweeted,” Watson said.

Watson’s daughter, Lucy, said she feared for her father.

“She said ‘I’m going to call the cops,’” Lucy said. “I like thought something bad was going to happen, like my dad being in jail.”

Watson says at that point, his children started to cry. He doesn’t understand why his family was targeted.

“There was no use of profanity, there were no threats made. There was nothing other than, you know, a terse exchange between a customer service agent and a customer,” he said.

Watson says he was forced to delete the tweet.

“She said, ‘You can’t board the plane unless you delete that tweet,’” Watson said.

Southwest Airlines sent a statement which confirmed that a customer was removed for a short time and continued on to Minneapolis. They also said the incident is under review.

In an email to Watson, Southwest apologized for the incident. Because of confidentiality concerns, they could not disclose any disciplinary actions taken.

Watson says he’s not satisfied with their response. All three received $50 vouchers, but Watson says he won’t fly Southwest Airlines again.

Bottom Line

The first issue here is should the passengers two kids be allowed to board with him since he is an A-List member and gets a higher priority. I would say that even though they technically aren’t suppose to, that it wouldn’t have hurt to allow them to board together. These kids are 6 and 9 year old, they shouldn’t be expected to board alone.

Now the next issue is tweeting a poor customer service failure to the airline. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, and in-fact I prefer dealing with airlines through Twitter.

If the agent didn’t do anything wrong, then they should not be concerned about a tweet about them. I think this whole story is ridiculous and that the passenger should have never been kicked off the plane.

What’s your take on this?

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  1. I’m all for flight crews having authority to remove pax, but too often we see these power trips. Sure, there may be more to the story than what we have heard, but I doubt an A List customer with 2 kids is a threat.

    Unfortunately, in the world of consolidated airlines, there is very little recourse for customers. The AA guy who had his miles revoked for “fake” bookings, this, etc. Too often, we are seeing poor customer service responses without any real response or consequences (except for the occasional online public shaming).

  2. It depends. If I post something negative regarding Southwest, will I too be denied boarding next time?

    Kidding aside, this is a huge error on the part of the flight crew, IF the facts are accurately represented. Anything short of immediate dismissals – yes, plural – and several flight passes would be inappropriate.

  3. southwest is well know for this sort of behaviour why would anyone fly them….. if you do be prepared…. i am not surprised….. I will never fly them EVER….. not even an option….

  4. Given that letting the other 2 passengers on with the A List would mean 2 other passengers would not get the seat they might want, did the agent follow SW Policy?

    Any SW flyers who knows? If someone boards late with 2 small children, does SW work to try to seat them together by asking other passengers to move?

  5. 1) According to the Southwest link below, a passenger holding an A boarding pass traveling with children may all board with the A group.

    2) The gate agent felt her safety was threatened when the passenger was flying AWAY from her? Makes no sense at all and seems to definitely be a power trip.

    3) Devil’s advocate counterpoint: Perhaps the passenger should have refrained from using the employee’s full name in his Tweet. These days, it might be perceived to have placed a target on her back.

  6. I doubt we are getting the whole story just like the headline of this post. He didn’t get “kicked off” of the plane it seems. They called him off and let him re-board.

    I have mixed feelings about letting family members board with A-lister’s. On some flights everyone would be boarding with the A-list if that happened. The A-list system isn’t perfect but it’s much better than many airlines. If I remember right, family boarding is just after A-list so he could have just boarded at the end of the A-list but most likely he acted like a jerk to the gate agents. Then insulted them on twitter.

  7. In response to Lumpy, yes, I have recieved free drinks numerous times for moving to allow a family to sit together. They always try to accomodate and generally speaking, are pretty accomodating. This sounds like a single bad employee that thought by scaring the passenger, they woudln’t get a bad mark from their employer… Now they should just be fired, no questions asked.

  8. So A-lists are only good for the holder. In the end they all arrive at the same time at the same place. Fox News is awaiting a “more robust” response. But in the meantime A-lister received $50 voucher and an apology.
    SW policy allows 4 and under to board but in a later grouping.
    An adult traveling with a child four years old or younger may board during Family Boarding, which occurs after the “A” group has boarded and before the “B” group begins boarding.

    However, those Customers holding an “A” boarding pass should still board with the “A” boarding group.
    From SW FAQs on Boarding the Plane: Can groups assigned to different boarding positions board together?
    Yes. However, in order to maintain the integrity of the boarding process, we ask that earlier boarding positions board with the later positions. For example, if a passenger is assigned position A16 and wants to board with a passenger assigned position A45, the passenger holding the A16 boarding pass should board with the A45 passenger.

  9. Given that he was traveling with 2 kids that are not old enough to board on their own, the gate agent should’ve just let them through. I wonder if she has kids and what she would’ve wanted done for her in the same situation. If he was trying to get through with a bunch of adults, or teenagers then of course the gate agent was right to ask the other passengers to wait in line for their turn.

  10. If there was no profanity and no violent threats towards the agent, the agent should have just left it alone. I know they are trying to do their job, but there’s no need to be an asshole about it either.

    Southwest’s system is retarded. The A-List concept is ridiculous. yes, everyone get online and wait 15-20 minutes. Just stand there in order. If you are not A-list and you don’t check in 24-hours before your flight you’re likely in C Boarding Group. I flew with my family last year on Southwest. The gate agent didn’t allow my very little ones, 6 and 7 years old to board with me, since I’m an A-List Preferred. The 10 years old I understand, but for 2-7 year olds they should allow to board with the parent. I know there is Family Boarding, but trust me by the time A Boarding Group is done there is no way a family of 4 or 5 would be able to seat in a row. They really should block off certain seat sections for groups of 2 or more that would like to sit together. Yes, I do see some nice flight attendants that will request for volunteers to move, but that seems like a very broken system. Often times I see a couple split up because there’s only a few seats left. It is not their fault they checked in late. They probably bought the tickets together months ago. If they flew any other airline, they would be able to sit next to one another holding hands and falling asleep on each other.

    Either way Southwest feels like the Greyhound of the sky. Herding people on board. They do this because they want a faster boarding process. The price used to be cheaper when they had the cheap bid on jet fuel. Now their prices may actually cost more than other airlines.

    There are 2 things I like about Southwest: Companion Pass, and No Change Fees. Other than those 2, I avoid flying Southwest.

  11. I’m A-List Preferred with 2 children (pre-teen) and would much prefer that children be allowed to board with their parents and be allowed to do so consistently – the inconsistency is the most annoying part. By sometimes not allowing my kids to board with me, there’s a lot of stress in the boarding process. Indeed, the routes I travel a lot are expensive on southwest and include a layover. If not for the no change fees and companion pass, Southwest would not be my first choice either. What’s really silly is that my children are less likely to be allowed to board with me if I have a business select ticket, so I am less inclined to buy a business select ticket even when it is a win-win for the airline and me to do so (e.g., more revenue for them and double points for me).

  12. The tweeter been defended enough here. I think to tweet a complaint is fine, but to give that much detail of the person and where they are goes a little beyond. I’d bet people waiting for the specific flight got that tweet.

    Is he teaching his kids to threaten people whenever you don’t get your way?

  13. This has nothing to do if he asked for the rules to be broken or what. We all ask for the rules to be broken for us all the time. It’s about how she responded with her answer. “No get back in line and do not ask again” is very different than “Sorry sir they have strict rules and I hate breaking them since there are other kids in line also, do you mind jumping in behind the As for me? You notice these issue never seem to pop up in first class on Air Singapore? It’s insane how politely they ask you to put the laptop away versus American Airlines and their staff of rude flight attendants. This is the single rudest industry in America and I’d bet money she was horrible and untrained. If you are a rude you deserve your name tweeted, I hope she gets fired. Who is she to threaten to call the cops? for what? I’m stubborn, I would have said call them. Is there a law against me tweeting your name? Bob Smith, Susan Johnson. Call the cops on me!!!

  14. Here is one last story. MY wife had her stroller lost by a SW gate agent which made her late to her connecting flight as she had to carry a car seat from all the way down there terminal. When she boarded dead last there was an off duty deadhead flight attendant in the last row that need to move so my wife could put our 1 year old daughter next to her. She refused to move and told my wife “That’s what family boarding is for” and went on taking to the on duty flight attendant. My wife set our baby down went to the front of the plane and ask the flight attendant in the front to grab the pilot. He procedded to to go to the back of the plane and told her in front of everyone to “Move her ass” or get off his plane. 100 people on the flight started cheering! My wife posted a picture of her sleeping on the flight drool running down her chin on facebook and told the story. True story! She was SOOOOOO rude and inconsiderate. FYI my wife is from Alabama and full of manners and class as a lot of folks from the south are.

  15. First off, Southwest is my favorite domestic airline, even though they have warts just like the rest. I fly all the time with my wife and 3 year old son. I have A-List Preferred and a Companion Pass… most of the time we fly using points, but I will sometimes buy a Business Select ticket to get the 12x points to renew my A-List status. Some gate agents are totally cool with them boarding at the same time as me, while others make them wait in line while I board. This is especially true when I have bought a Business Select ticket and board in the first 15 passengers. Since it is open seating, this is a completely dumb rule since I’m obviously going to save space for my wife and kid to sit next to me once I board. Bottom line, this is just someone acting out after being given a little bit of power… and a frequent flier who feels overly entitled whines like a little baby when he doesn’t get his way. They both acted out of line in this situation.

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