Friday, March 26, 2010

My first time experience flying Southwest Airlines

First, it should be stated that we own Southwest Airlines stock (ticker LUV).  And I am a Southwest Rapid Rewards member.

This past week was my first experience with Southwest Air.  I had heard about them, and I loved their business model.  I have always thought them to be a solid company in an industry known for very poor operations.

So we got some tickets from Minneapolis to Denver (and back) to give it a test since they are fairly new in our MSP market.  Boarding worked well, though was a bit panic inducing since we were traveling with a 7 month old infant for the first time.  Thankfully we found out we could gate check a car seat and stroller and they would only count as "1" against our bag total.  We have a Graco SnugRider Infant Car Seat Stroller.  We like the SnugRider because it is light and compact and our Graco Sungride 35 Infant car seat attaches to this stroller.

So we push our stroller through the airport, and when time comes to board our plane to Denver, we gate check the stroller and car seat as we were told to do.  When we arrive in Denver, we discover that one of the rear wheels has been smashed so hard by something that it has bent the solid metal axle, and is causing the stroller to be difficult to push.  But we are in a hurry, and it looks like we can bend the axle back when we get back home, so we make haste to get out of the airport without making a stink.  Thankfully we didn't need the stroller while in Denver, we were able to borrow my brother-in-law's Bob Revolution Stroller they recently got for their child.  BTW, the Bob Revolution Stroller is an AWESOME stroller.  I got to use it a number of times during our visit.

So we are thinking it must be a random accident that our stroller was damaged.  I mean after all, the baggage handlers in the Southwest Airlines commercials all seem nice, competent and moderately professional.

On our return trip to Minneapolis, we again push our now damaged stroller, which frustrates us throughout the process of our check-in and getting to our gate.  The stroller pushes hard because of the bent wheel fighting to go a different direction than the other three wheels, but it beats nothing for sure. 

Upon arrival at our gate (C-28) we are met by a mass of humanity that had been snowed in at DIA with the heavy snow that had fallen Tuesday into Wednesday of this week.  We get in line in standard Southwest cattle call fashion and again we gate check our stroller and car seat as we enter the plane.  We then proceed to sit at the gate in the airplane for the next 95 minutes.  Yes, at the gate.  Not even waiting for de-icing, or in line to take off.  Full plane sitting at the gate.  Our 7 month old son is good for about 90 minutes.  The flight between Denver and Minneapolis takes about 90 minutes, so on the way out things went great.  Unfortunately, we hit the 90 minute point and still had yet to shove off.  So the next hour involved a crying squirming grumpy infant.  Thankfully those near us were gracious.  Thankfully for our sanity as parents, he fell asleep about 1/2 way through the flight.

So upon our arrival at Minneapolis (the Humphery Terminal) they hand us our stroller as we get off the plane.  We notice right away that the stroller is now really jacked up.  Now not only is the back wheel bent from the flight out to Denver, but now the front wheel on the same side is bent in multiple places as well and is no longer pointing forward like it was designed to.  On the front of the stroller, there are two wheels on each side that are parallel to each other like  |-| but now that front set looks like \-/ and twisted about 15 degrees off its proper axis.  We complain to the Southwest staff at the gate as we exit, and they tell us we need to talk with the Baggage Claim Office.

So now the stroller is really hard to push and does not want to go straight.  Ever had that really bad shopping cart at the grocery store?  That was us with luggage and a grumpy infant.

Southwest Airlines - where your bags fly free but we'll beat the crap out of your gate check stroller.

So my wife goes to the Baggage Claim Office to file a complaint while I retrieve our luggage.  Their response to our complaint was to tell us it is our fault for buying a nice stroller.  "You should just use one of those umbrella strollers" is an exact quote.  Customer Service FAIL.  We beat the crap out of your stuff, now we're blaming you.

My wife asks at the Baggage Claim Office if there is a system in place to alert the management of the baggage handlers for Southwest that this damage is occurring.  Lady kinda blows my wife off and says she'll let them know.  Doubt it.  Once is a mistake, but both flights causing damage and something is seriously wrong.

And as if that isn't enough, when they were unloading our plane they somehow managed to "jam" the bag conveyor in back, which meant we had to wait about 45 minutes for our bags to come out.  Mine came out before the jam, but my wife and son's were stuck somewhere in bag purgatory for a period. 

So I have sent a note to Southwest, and am hoping for a response.  We will see what they say.


Lynn said...

Did they ever reply? My luggage was destroyed by SW too. I showed it to the woman at the baggage claims and she replied SW doesn't cover wheels.. well it wasn't just a wheel missing.. there is a big hole where the wheel was. I didn't feel like sticking around to listen to her indifference to my problem so I went home to file a claim online. I found out once I arrived home that I am suppose to file a claim in person (with the same person who didn't care about my problem or inform me I am suppose to file a claim with her). Southwest Airlines has horrible customer service.

mrclm said...

They didn't ever admit fault, but did give us a $100 flight voucher. I complained via Twitter, email and we filed a claim at the airport as well. They were slow and resistant to admitting any damage occurred, but eventually they at least admitted it was damaged (though miraculously still not their fault).

Shawn Holstein said...

It's really a shame for some airlines to allow such maltreatment of their customers. It should be a rule of thumb for all establishments that they strictly implement proper guidelines and instead of arguing with the passengers, they must try to correct their services and give all their efforts to keep all passengers comfortable, whatever and however it takes. I hope this doesn't change your opinion about traveling by air.

Shawn Holstein @ Holstein Aviation