Southwest Sucks (or How Not To Do IMC)

20 years ago when I was an MBA student at Columbia Business School, I was introduced to Southwest Airlines. We studied Southwest in several classes related to human resources, marketing and strategic management.  I was so excited when they finally started routes on the East Coast.  I still remember my first flight and hearing our flight attendant deliver an amazing Darth Vader impression, which had us sitting in our seats as quickly as possible.

When I became a professor more than ten years ago, I started to share my own stories about how Southwest’s focus on customer service had given them a distinct competitive advantage in the airline industry.  Southwest was the only airline that I would fly (and Southwest’s credit card was one of only two credit cards that I carried). From a marketing perspective, Southwest had earned my brand loyalty.

How times have changed.

In the past two years, I have flown on several Southwest flights where there have been serious customer service issues.  In one instance, the crew was so disorganized that my husband had to take a woman in a wheelchair to the gate for her next flight so she would not miss it.  In another instance, the flight attendant “lost it” and started berating passengers.  I was so upset with one incident that I actually took the time to send a letter about the situation to several executives at Southwest, only to receive a corporate form letter in response.  This Saturday, I experienced yet another operational flight delay that resulted in a missed connection and a Southwest response of “the earliest we can rebook your flight home is Monday” (I even offered to fly to alternate airports).  Thankfully, Delta had no difficulties getting me home (Delta also has a policy of automatically rebooking passengers that miss connecting flights as a result of airline operations).  My days of flying Southwest are over. Now when I mention Southwest it will be as an example of how not to do IMC … and a reminder of how hard it is to maintain a competitive advantage.

The basic premise of integrated marketing communication (IMC) is simple.  IMC is the use of consistent messaging AND product delivery that serves to enhance brand equity and moves customers to become advocates for the brand.  Southwest continues to invest in a message strategy that touts “customer service excellence” but fails to deliver a product that reinforces that message.

Interestingly, Southwest seems to recognize its potential shortcomings.  A student shared with me that when you search the term “Southwest sucks” on Google that Southwest has already purchased the domain names southwestsucks.com, southwestsucks.biz, southwestsucks.org, etc.

I tell my students that the 11th commandment should be “Thou shall not compete on price alone.”  It seems that price might be Southwest’s only advantage these days, and eventually that will not be enough.

 

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Comments

  1. Hi, Professor:

    As much as it pained me to read this because I still consider myself a loyal brand follower of Southwest, I wanted to do some digging to see if Southwest is truly losing its edge. In my research I found an article from earlier this year on Huffington Post where they talked about some of the more quiet, not-so-popular changes Southwest has recently made including the $40 charge for passengers who wanted to be among the first 15 to board a flight and charging for no-shows who purchased the cheapest “Wanna Get Away” fares. Even more alarming is that Southwest may not be the low-cost option much longer. “Brad Seitz, president of the research company Topaz International, said the company studied Southwest’s fares on 100 different city-to-city routes and concluded that the Southwest competitor offered a lower fare more than 60 percent of the time.” For their sake, I certainly hope they get with the program and living out their brand.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Lindsay, I really appreciated your feedback. I have been surprised with how many supportive comments that I have received about this blog post. One of my colleagues said, “Very apt timing for this post, as Southwest sent an email this week about making reward flights harder to achieve. They are truly beginning to blend in with the rest of the airlines.”

      I realize that the airline industry is one of the most challenging on the planet. However, for 40 years Southwest was able to succeed where others could not. In fact, I kept the 40th anniversary issue of Southwest Airlines Spirit inflight magazine where Herb Kelleher (founder of Southwest) said, “From our operational inception through today, Southwest has been an innovative inspiration.” Their lack of customer service these days is certainly not inspiring.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts. de

    • Kate Knox says:

      Replying a year and a half later–I agree. Their vision seems to be increasingly based on the premise that getting people to participate in the gaming aspect of hopefully beating others out, will make people happy to be snubbed on such things as effective customer service, caring attitudes, a barrage of annoying or even disrespectful ads on the phone (“Are you over 50? Here is opportunity to get a health button to wear…because we have decided you are probably not healthy.” or “for just $1.99, get out your credit card! you can get a deal…!”), and of course paying $12.50 for early check in, but …
      Wait! You aren’t guaranteed any seat that you are paying for and..
      .wait again! You can’t print boarding passes till 24 hours in advance with the other hoards of people trying to check in.
      BUT aha! You can “jump the line” if you pay us more.
      Nice messages.

      Southwest is no longer an “innovative inspiration” except probably for the CEO’s bonus. Sad trend. Not flying with them next round.

      • Dawn Edmiston says:

        Kate,

        Many thanks for your posts. Yes, it always troubled me that I would purchase Early Bird CheckIn but if the Southwest flight was late to its destination and the connecting flight had already boarded, I would receive one of the last seats on the flight rather than one of the first seats on the flight … and I would not receive a refund (or even a drink ticket) in response to the situation. So I stopped purchasing Early Bird Checkin … and of course, as I have stated in this forum, I have not flown Southwest for the past two years. And honestly, I am a much happier traveler these days.

        Thanks again for sharing your comments, Dawn

  2. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been a loyal SWA flyer for 20 years and currently am an A List Rapid Rewards member with a companion pass. Yesterday I flew from Nashville to San Jose. One of my bags did not arrive. I filed a report and was told they would call when bags were located. I called last evening and again this morning. No luck locating the bag last night. Today, the gentleman on the phone told me the bags had been located but he could not tell me where they were or when they would arrive. I told him I was supposed to drive out of town and I’d like to shower and change and asked if he could tell me when the bags would arrive. He said, it’s Southwest’s policy to call when they arrive because if he gave me a time of arrival and they didn’t arrive, I would be more pissed. I told him I’m more pissed now because he won’t give me a time or where my bags are located. I then called the local office and was told my bags will be in town at noon today. I asked if they offered reimbursement for toothpaste or shampoo. She responded it’s our policy to only offer $50 after your bags are missing for 24 hours. My bags wheere lost at 5:40 pm last night so guess it’s not their reaponsibility.

    What has happened to my beloved Southwest Airlinea.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Joe,

      I appreciated your post. I certainly share your disappointment in the decline of our “beloved Southwest.” I hope that your luggage was finally returned.

      May the New Year be filled with experiences that are memorable because of a commitment to excellence and not because of a failure of customer service.

      All the best, Dawn

  3. I rarely write reviews but this is the first site I found when I searched southwest sucks! I’m an a list flyer and I have never had such a bad experience as I’m having now. Flight has changed delaying my take off by hours. This sucks! I had plans that I will now miss. Flying from bwi to fll and it’s a great weather day, wtf?

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      David,

      Thanks for responding to this blog post and sharing your insights. I rarely write reviews either, but I have done so on occasion to recognize either exceptional or unacceptable experiences … and I am sad that Southwest now falls under the latter category.

      I am especially surprised that Southwest would not try to be more accommodating to their most loyal A list fliers. One of my greatest frustrations is the lack of communication during situations of this nature. I realize that mechanical and weather issues can be a challenge, but there needs to be greater communication with clients to allow them to make alternative plans if needed.

      I hope your weekend has improved. All the best, Dawn

  4. Daniel Jones says:

    I have been a rapid rewards member since 1999 and a vocal fan of SWA up until 2012. I have used the book “Nuts” to train and inspire employees to provide great customer service. Sadly, I am in awe as to how the current management has ruined the service (and brand) of this once great business. Today, as an A List member and Companion Pass holder, I have flown my last flight with Southwest. I have been on 32 flights since January 1st. And 26 of them have not been on time. I was supposed to be at home in my bed last night, but unfortunately spent the night in a hotel out of town due to their incompetence ( 3rd time this has happened in 3 months).

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Daniel,

      I appreciated your post and of course was sad to hear about your recent Southwest experiences as well.

      The Wall Street Journal published an article last week, “Southwest Airlines, Once a Brassy Upstart, Is Showing Its Age.” The article declares that Southwest has “begun to resemble the mainstream rivals it rebelled against in its youth: carriers that were slow-growing, complex and costly to run.”

      The article highlights the frustrations that many of us have experienced first-hand. “Last year, it lost more bags per passenger than any other carrier. And after years as one of the most punctual airlines, just 72% of Southwest’s flights were on time in the fourth quarter—dead last in the industry.” “From 2007 through 2012, Southwest’s cost to fly a seat one mile rose 42%—more than any other major U.S. airline.” The labor strife that Southwest is now facing certainly does not bode well for the future of the airline.

      In addition, the article notes that, “Southwest faces costly upgrades to its outdated computer systems.” As I mentioned in my initial post, other carriers’ are automatically able to rebook customers. However, Teresa Laraba, Southwest’s SVP Customers, attests that Southwest staff have to manually reschedule each disrupted passenger. Laraba is even quoted in the article as stating, “I’ve been waiting a long time” for upgrades. It sounds as though we are not the only ones frustrated with Southwest these days.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your comments, Dawn

  5. Geary Pellegrini says:

    Dear Dr. Edmiston:
    I do not have the marketing acumen or research capacity that you and your commenters have and can offer only my anecdotal observation.

    It seems to me that, sadly, Southwest is well down the path of the legacies. My experience suggests that there are insignificant differences between Southwest’s route availability, pricing, and customer relations and those of the dinosaurs who herd us on and expect us to be thankful that they are willing to take our money.

    For years, Southwest was my airline of choice and I am disappointed by what it has become.

  6. This is the first review I’ve ever left for a travel industry supplier and I believe very few of those which i read. My business is student group travel and for the past 12 or so years, we have flown an average of 2,000 to 3,000 students and their teacher / chaperones per year on AirTran. In fact we have done so much business that i have personally come to know a number of people in group sales and operations. We are all mourning the loss of Airtran.

    I had my first group flight experience with Southwest this May. Some examples for how Southwest made 52 enemies in one fell swoop; quite the marketing achievement!

    Once booked, Southwest requires a company check for deposit. No non stop flights between Buffalo and Atlanta – Airtran had 3 a day. Each member of the group is issued a paper ticket which, if not presented at time of check in, nullifies the seat! So 80’s! Groups receive no priority in boarding so they have to be checked in on line – one by one – or in person – one by one.

    My group boarded in B and C priority and found that due to lack of contiguous seats, parents and kids were being separated. Many kind folks on these flights (no non stops remember?) recognized the angst this situation caused and voluntarily traded seats.

    Flight attendants have one priority and its the same mandated to the cockpit crew – turn the flight in 30 minutes. As time went by, rather than trying to mitigate the confusion caused by their boarding process, they became more persistent, sarcastic and finally downright nasty.

    I’d love to say never again but from Atlanta its now Southwest or Delta, What a shame, both were once great airlines, but today, just flying banks.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      David, I sincerely appreciated your comments.

      I would think that if an often financially distressed organization such as Amtrak could do group bookings well (from my own experience) that a profitable organization such as Southwest would have few difficulties in doing so. It seems that Southwest is making many things harder these days for consumers.

      And the fact that many of the individuals who have responded to this discussion topic are “A” Listers and have extensive business networks such as yours does not bode well for their brand building efforts.

      What continues to make me most sad about the decline of Southwest is the lack of customer service. When I first started flying Southwest, the culture of customer service excellence seemed to emanate from leadership throughout the organization. Although I have no doubt that there are still positive and professional workers at Southwest, they no longer seem to be the norm. Of course, a lack of customer service typically reflects a lack of leadership, resources and training.

      As a professor of marketing, this discussion thread continues to be an insightful learning experience for me. Each post that is made serves as a poignant reminder of how important it is to instill a true customer service mindset in all of my students.

      Many thanks for sharing your experiences, Dawn

  7. Carol Mantasoot says:

    Having lived in Burbank, CA I used to fly SW to San Jose and Phoenix 5 or 6 times per year for work. My husband flew weekly from Burbank to San Jose. We loved them because if we missed our flight, the funds would be saved for another flight. I recently booked a flight for my mom to come visit and she had to cancel when a mammogram revealed something that needed to be biopsied immediately. That’s when I found out the funds for wanna get away tickets are no longer held for missed flights. I was disappointed and grumbled a bit but I can understand we all need to make money. I would have appreciated a grace period or a get out of jail free card for rewards members. I thought it seemed a little cold for my once cuddly Southwest Airlines.

    Now I’m sitting at the airport being told my 3PM flight was cancelled and the only seat they can guarantee me leaves at 7:10. I told the gate agent I have children at home and only have child care until 5:30 so they would need to book me on another airline. I was told they don’t partner with other airlines so they couldn’t help me. How are they going to get 3 plane loads of people into two planes? There are two ladies sitting next to me who had tried to get on an earlier flight but we’re told they would have to pay a $200 change fee. That would have opened up two badly needed seats and filled two empty seats on the earlier flight. I don’t even recognize Southwest Airlines. I fly every 2 to 3 weeks and I will NEVER fly SW again. Any other airline would have re-booked us.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Carol,

      It continues to make me sad to hear of experiences such as yours on Southwest. You might have noticed that we discussed the rebooking situation earlier in this thread.

      Of course, as you mentioned, allowing travelers to fly on earlier flights if space is available is a smart one … an empty seat is lost revenue and such allowances give the airline a “second chance” to gain revenue (or in this case, increase customer satisfaction) on other flights. I realize that the airline industry is one of the most competitive and there are bound to be challenges. However, too often, Southwest seems to be creating its own challenges.

      I appreciate your insights and hope your future flight experiences are positive ones, Dawn

  8. Joseph Viscusi says:

    Dawn,

    I happened to come across your blog after reading an article in the Huffington Post on August 27th about how Southwest “lost” a passenger in Newark Liberty Airport for 11 hours. Truth be told, I was looking for other people who think Southwest sucks as much as do.

    I’ve never understood the fascination with Southwest, and living in Nashville, there are many people here who firmly believe they are the greatest airline on the planet. I see the airline as nothing more than a city bus with wings led by effective marketing and sales gimmicks.

    I travel frequently for business and when I had the choice to make my own travel arrangements, stayed as far away from Southwest as I could. Like many of the folks that have responded, we could sit around a campfire for an entire fall season and go through horror stories thanks to this airline. Being that I am no longer allowed to make my own travel arrangements, I’ve severely cut back on my business travel and have even considered other airlines with layovers if I absolutely have to travel for business.

    From the pleasure travel side of the house, my girlfriend and I frequently compare notes when we travel. Living in two separate states in two different time zones give us a wealth of great information to work from. I routinely fly at least four times a year from Nashville to LaGuardia (non-stop) and she routinely flies at least four times a year from Long Island / Islip to Nashville (via Baltimore). Over the course of the six years we’ve been doing this, my success rate has been about 75% solely with American Airlines and she’s less than 50% solely with Southwest. Granted, I have half the flight segments as she does, but I’m not the one having trouble getting planes between my hub in Nashville and my hub in Baltimore.

    Her last two trips on Southwest in the last three months have been nightmares. Easter Sunday was a crap shoot, as there was trouble getting her flight from Nashville to Baltimore, something I experience regularly when I travel for business. The only saving grace that night was that her connector to Long Island was even more delayed than the Baltimore flight. Things went so bad this past Monday that she just gave up and bought a ticket on Delta to LaGuardia. I guess the three-hour flight delay with no hopes of catching the connector (this time) finally shook her confidence.

    I have friends that work and swear by Southwest and I’m constantly frustrated by their reasoning:
    1. Open seating does nothing to speed along the boarding process. The only thing that will improve the boarding process is getting the Boeing folks to add a second entry door behind the wings. As a side note, if you have a half-full flight and everyone sits up front, the 737-800 series can’t take off and you lose 15 minutes at the gate getting some of the folks to move to the back to balance the weight.
    2. If you can give me a card that says B45, you can give me a card that says 16F. It’s insane that people have to stop what they’re doing at exactly 24 hours before the flight to check in with the hopes of getting a decent number and not a C26 because you were 10 minutes late.
    3. Their ticket pricing might be competitive in certain markets, but they aren’t cheap. I routinely pay half as much to fly to LaGuardia as my girlfriend pays to fly out of Long Island / Islip.
    4. The quick-turnaround boarding process Southwest relies on to keep the planes in the air can easily fall into disarray when you have two flights boarding at the same gate within 30 minutes of each other staffed by a gate agent that refuses to take control of a quickly deteriorating situation.
    5. Bags do not fly free, nothing flies for free, you’re just not paying for them in the traditional way. If it’s weight on a plane, it’s money and there’s a better than average chance you’re paying for it. There were some very interesting articles a couple of years back on American Airlines getting rid of the junk on their planes to save weight and money. The number one offenders were magazines/newspapers.

    Like many of the comments by other readers above, this airline has lost its way and is not the same airline you were excited about researching 20 years ago. It’s not the same airline it was just six years ago and will certainly continue to fly south with the recent AirTran acquisition/merger. I’m not sure how you market an airline that despite recognizing their shortcomings, continues to rely on clever marketing and sales gimmicks. I’d be curious what grandma in Newark has to say.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Joseph,

      Many thanks for your insights. It seems your girlfriend and I suffered similar fates having to book a Delta flight after Southwest failed to provide options (and I have not traveled Southwest since that point).

      You made several excellent comments about Southwest operations. Honestly, I was surprised that the recent wheelchair incident with the elderly grandmother (thankfully) received such national press. As I mentioned in my initial post, I had personal experience with Southwest failing to transfer a customer in a wheelchair properly. It is interesting that Southwest would lament, “Skycaps … are not Southwest employees” (after admitting its own gate agents also failed in service delivery). A focus on customer service needs to pervade the entire value chain of an organization, to include contracted partners. And addressing such a situation with standard travel vouchers is certainly not the appropriate response to an exceptional circumstance.

      Thanks again for contributing to this discussion, Dawn

    • Kate Knox says:

      Totally agree and thanks for your analysis. My husband and I were just now laughing about how they say their “no seat selection” system saves time. Are you kidding me? What is the value of disgruntled passengers and a culture that offers few if any advantages over other choices? People vote with their feet. Adios SWA.

  9. I found this site after googleing Southwest sucks, seems I am not alone in mourning the dying of an old friend. I just finished my second message to customer service about missed flights. Years ago Southwest was a very good economy airline with well trained personnel and great customer service. It is very sad to see what they have grown into. Now I have a hard time finding a reason to chose SWA over any of the others, pricing advantage is almost gone, customer service is gone, their good frequent flyer program is gone and they never had assigned seats, so what is their advantage? I hope someone there reads this site, but with the attitude I have gotten lately, it probably really doesn’t matter to them what we think.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      David,

      I appreciated your comments and certainly empathize with your recent Southwest experiences. It is especially sad that in this era of advanced technologies that Southwest is not leading the effort in customer service excellence.

      I read last month that, after two years of negotiations, Southwest finally reached a tentative agreement with customer service agents so perhaps that is a step in the right direction.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your insights, Dawn

  10. I fly to Vegas alot for work. I have a had cancellations, leading to undignified bumping and digging to get on the next flight, delays leading to missed connections, gates with no airline personnel, you name it. I hate this airline with a passion. The employees act like they are doing you a favor for letting you fly on their airline. My other choice is Spirit from, where I fly, but I’m not yet ready to go there. I don’t know what’s below the cattle car class that coach on SWA is.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Stephen,

      Your comments were very timely as I just completed my first flight on Air New Zealand and it was a wonderful travel experience. Even though we had a flight delay, the crew kept us updated on the situation in the most positive and professional manner. The flight service was outstanding, not to mention that they recently introduced the “most epic safety video ever” http://youtu.be/qOw44VFNk8Y. Definitely reminded me of the old Southwest.

      I hope the New Year brings happier travel experiences, Dawn

  11. Jason Campbell says:

    A List preferred with companion fare here. I fly Southwest alot as I am a software consultant. Since October of 2014 when the law expired that prevented Southwest from direct flights to key markets, Southwest service has gone to hell. I average 150 to 200 flights per year which in the past Southwest had received the majority of the business. No more. The Tulsa Airport Director admitted in a recent article that Southwest knew in advance that their business class customers would be impacted…. And apparently Southwest didn’t care. I’m just one person, but this one person will no longer be flying Southwest.

  12. Jon Umsted says:

    Like some others on this post, I had been a relatively positive supporter of SWA because they nearly always are flying in inclement weather when other carriers (American specifically) are dealing with system impacts from large local or hub-impacting storms. In 2014 I had two incidences where I was able to schedule last minute flights (literally) because American were not able to fly due to weather…..but I digress.

    I spent a lot of time flying SWA in early 2014 because of work and had thought I had secured A-list status for 2015. (My domestic flying stopped in June 2014 because of family situations). As I boarded a flight on a return trip from Dallas an January 11, I noticed I did not have A-list on my boarding pass, which I thought was an oversight. An email to their customer service confirmed I had not hit the 35,000 mile mark. I was a TOTAL of 160 miles shy of that mark…I had 34,874 miles!!!! So I got on the phone with their “customer relations” today and was informed there was nothing they could do since it was past the end of the year…….they reiterated they do not allow people who do not earn 35,000 revenue qualifying miles to earn A-list status.

    The problem with that statement is they offered me to obtain A-list status for 2014 even though I was about 2,500 miles short in 2013!!!!!! When I brought this up to the call center rep, she informed me they no longer do that……..

    I offered her a chance to keep my business by finding a way to keep my A-list, but she was insistent they make not exceptions. I calmly let her know that that decision will mean that I will no longer use SWA as a carrier and I spent over $10,000 last year on airfare. I guess their guidelines for operating their customer relations group are now driven by something other than customer satisfaction.

    I’m greatly disappointed and wanted to affirm your article about the lack of integrated communications has cost them a customer who used them exclusively for the last two years. There was no warning at the end of the year saying I was close or warning that there would not be any “grace” points given this year. Very, very, very disappointing.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Jason and Jon, many thanks for sharing your insights with us. I have heard from readers (who have not posted comments) that they appreciate at least knowing they are not alone in their struggles with Southwest.

      In both of your situations, I would think that changes could be made to retain your business. How difficult would it have been for Southwest to send an email to current A-List members who were within 500 (or another optimal data point that should be simple for Southwest to calculate) miles of losing status in December to remind them of the need to make a quick holiday flight? This would have not only allowed A-List clients to remain A-List (and loyal) but also increased revenue for Southwest. Such a simple cost-effective marketing solution.

      Thanks again for taking the time to share your experiences, Dawn

  13. Ray Sharradh says:

    Glad to hear it wasn’t my imagination that had me thinking, “What has happened to the Southwest I used to love?” Their fares have gone up-up-up, their customer services has gone down-down-down, and their turn times have gotten longer-longer-longer, and they’ve crammed more seats in their planes. I used to be able to slump down in my seat and could straighten my legs – not anymore. I used to marvel at watching them block a flight in, run everybody off, get everybody on, and restock the drinks and peanuts in 20 minutes. Sure, the pilots taxi like they’re at the Indy 500, but planes make money in the air, not on the ground (as long as they’re full – which they usually are.) Short turn times are now 30 minutes, add gas at a stop and turn times approach an hour. So, they’re still delivering cattle-call boarding (which I don’t mind), higher fares, longer trip times if you’ve got a stop or change of planes. Southwest is morphing into a legacy carrier, charging legacy carrier prices but delivering low-cost carrier product. Southwest was chomping at the bit to get into Washington National to compete with American on Washington DCA – Dallas (WN-DAL/AA-DFW) service. The “Southwest Effect” has crashed the former typical fare of $400 to having fares around/under $200 often available. But Virgin America has jumped in on the DCA-DAL pair after AA had to divest DCA slots in their merger with US Airways. Let’s see – deal with Southwest’s low-cost carrier service, or get on board with hipster airline Virgin America, complete with assigned economy seating, reasonable prices for two levels of economy upgrades, free TV, on-demand movies, excellent food selection and reasonably priced. If Southwest isn’t going to defend their brand loyalty, I see no reason to subject myself to their declining standards of customer service. I now travel almost exclusively with either Virgin America (sadly, not much of a route structure) or Jet Blue (recently caved to the “cram more seats in” phenomena, but still industry-leading leg room.)

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Ray, I really appreciated your post. You have certainly articulated so many of the challenges that have been shared on this blog about Southwest during the past year. They seem to be missing a multitude of opportunities to grow brand loyalty. Can you imagine the positive viral marketing that Southwest could leverage if they were as customer service-oriented as the “old” Southwest? I would love nothing more if someday I could post on this blog that “Everything Old is New Again” as it relates to Southwest.

      Here’s to wishful thinking, Dawn

  14. Thank-you Dawn for hosting this blog. I am A-List Preferred with Companion for several years now. I used to be a loyal Northwest customer unit they merged with Delta. Service became non-existent, even for elite status fliers. I remember reluctantly switching to Southwest. How great they were! Low air fares. Mostly on time. Friendly. Customer-oriented. I remember talking to their employees – they were proud of themselves and had every right to be. How that has all changed! What a contrast! Now they are not low cost. Most of the time they are more expensive than other airlines. They are mostly late. I mean they are more often late than on time. They have about a 50/50 bag loss date with me, which is why I don’t check my bag anymore. There’s no protection/help for business travelers like me when connections get messed up – you are basically screwed. This makes me so sad because they used to be so super. I honestly don’t see any point in flying them anymore. Very sad.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Robert,

      Many thanks for contributing to this discussion. It is interesting that so often the sentiments in this blog evolve around the sadness that we feel for the loss of our customer-oriented Southwest. Thus, it seems rather ironic that Southwest recently launched a new branding campaign where the infamous “heart” is more prominent than ever and is even painted on the underbelly of their planes.

      I applaud Southwest’s advertising efforts, but their heart certainly seems superficial to those who have shared their experiences on this blog (and the thousands who have viewed this blog but simply did not comment).

      Thanks again for your insights, Dawn

  15. Standing here in Orlando watching a flight with available seats leave, because my ticket was “not eligible to use standby without a full price upgrade 300$”. I knew they might not help me, but this is Southwest right.. they always help.. right?

    Now, I get the rules, but when you compete on price, at the cost of common sense, it seems foolish. To allow me on that plane would cost them nothing, and potentially free you a seat on my later flight. They are telling me NO, as ads are scrolling by screaming “No change fees!!!”

    I’m actually not angry or surprised… But sort of mystified how a once model for customer service (which isn’t a complex idea – because most of customer service is based on common sense) will allow a traveler to walk away from a “customer service counter” with their head down. Don’t get me wrong they were all nice, but unless I pay 300 to upgrade to full price ticket, I’m not getting that empty seat. These rules are written on the ticket, even glued to the gate agents desk, so rules are rules right?

    Southwest made its mark on the industry by putting themselves in the shoes of the common traveler and doing whatever was reasonable ( that which is based on common sense) to exceed customer expectations. They have lost that edge, they are just a low end discount airline now, indistinct from any other low-end airline.

    Perhaps it is my fault, because my company bought this restricted ticket or my fault as a consumer for pushing prices so low with internet searches and web sites that find low prices. My fault for choosing Southwest.

    So Southwest, I apologize, as a consumer, for putting you in this position. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best not to purchase a ticket on your airline and force to execute on that customer service credo, it seems like you lost the memo anyway.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      I could not have said it better myself. It makes absolutely no sense (financial sense or common sense) not to make every plane as full as possible. Even if you have a discounted ticket, your seat becomes available on the next flight, when Southwest might actually need it … so they can make two customers happy and achieve greater profits.

      Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dawn

  16. I used to live in Texas when SWA was a regional airline that was up against a larger airline; American. They competed on comfort, value, flexibility and fun. I have flown SWA for 21 years and over the past several years seat size and leg room have been severely reduced. An adult that is over 6 ft and 200 pounds are extremely uncomfortable, plus there are no provisions for people that are considered obese. So I feel that the new model for SWA should be “Fly SWA the Uncomfortable Airline”. I also feel that their value based model no longer exists and as far as the fun goes, the flight attendants are no longer fun or interact pleasantly with their customers. Lastly, flexibility with their low fare price tickets does not exist. If your travel plans change they will not honor their original ticket without a full fare price increase. For the next 21 years I shall do my best not to fly SWA.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Steve, it saddens me that in the past two years I have received so many comments on my “Southwest Sucks” post. And our stories are typically very similar … loyal fliers who long for the days when Southwest delivered a unique selling proposition based on customer service. Now, Southwest is simply a commodity product. Having said that, it was not much of a surprise when the airline ranked behind other domestic carriers in this year’s Skytrax’s Top Airlines.

      Here’s to flying friendlier skies on other airlines, Dawn

  17. Southwest ruined our vacation, on Dec.29 canceled our morning flight from Cleveland to Las Vegas. We spent 2.5 hours in line only to be told there was no available flights for 5 days. Basically no trip, meeting friends for New Years. Southwest claims the crew had been flying too much and couldn’t fly due to regulations. Of course they have no available back up crew. I’m sure if there was a mechanical problem same result no trip. Southwest unreliable at any price.

    • Dawn Edmiston says:

      Jody, that is certainly not a happy ending to 2015.

      I continue to be surprised in this era of advanced technologies that more cannot be done to deliver customer service. I recall the days when an airline could not accommodate passengers they would arrange for travel on other carriers.

      I hope you have a happier start to 2016, Dawn

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