Monday, June 25, 2007

Southwest Airlines: I think I'm in LUV

Apparently customer service is not dead, even in the much maligned airline industry. Quite the opposite. You see, on June 18th, Southwest Airlines took a poor customer experience, one which was due to a situation out of their control, and made the best of it. A thunderstorm threatened the Chicago area and air traffic controllers put a stop to all north and westbound flights, including our Chicago to Omaha route. We boarded our plane at 3:15pm for a 3:30 flight, but we ended up sitting on the tarmac for a full three hours.

Now a three hour delay for an 80 minute flight is exceptional, and since I was 36 weeks pregnant and traveling with a 2 1/2 year old to a funeral, it wasn't fun either. But my husband and I appreciated the crew's attitude. Every 15-20 minutes, the pilot would update the passengers on the situation and give us a revised estimate of when he thought we might take off. The flight attendants handed out water, peanuts and pretzels and did their best to entertain the unaccompanied minors across the aisle.

But while the behavior of Southwest employees on 2081 kept me from swearing off flying the discount airline ever again, the letter we received from Southwest has forever cemented my loyalty to the company. You see, they sent us unsolicited apologies along with a $75 travel voucher for each traveler.

Here's an excerpt from the letter, which was dated just three days after the flight:

"[W]e truly regret you had this unfortunate experience, and we would like to have another opportunity to provide you with better memories of Southwest Airlines. In this spirit, I have enclosed a LUV Voucher that we invite you to apply toward the purchase of a future reservation with us. Of course, this goodwill gesture may not offset the total amount of each person's inconvenience, but I hope it will be accepted as our acknowledgement of the frustrations created by this situation."

Did every passenger get this treatment or did we qualify because we're Rapid Rewards members who purchased full price tickets (the only fares available on one day's notice)? I don't know, but I hope we aren't the only ones feeling the love.

And there you have it. Thanks to Southwest's unexpected, authentic gesture, I'm spreading positive word-of-mouth for a company that I could just have easily been complaining about.