Last week we brought you the story of an anti-law enforcement mentality from some Southwest employees in Chicago.
Now to be clear – our team at Law Enforcement Today believes it’s more of a reflection on the police bashing mentality in the city than it is that of the airline. Over the past couple of years, we’ve done hundreds of flights with Southwest and have never experienced anything like this.
Then again… the response from Southwest and a lack of willingness to address the problem has us thinking twice.
Here’s the back story.
Southwest Airlines Chicago Customer Service
Our national spokesman and one of our cinematographers were traveling and using the media exemption that Southwest offers members of the media.
They had just spent four days in Chicago with Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), interviewing the survivors of officers killed in the line of duty. They filmed countless sit-downs with incredible men and women talking about post-traumatic stress, the sacrifices of police families and more.
Those stories will launch through this platform, Law Enforcement Today. To give context, in the month of October, we were blessed to reach more than 50 million people. That’s more than the vast majority of local news outlets in America. The difference is we created and use this platform to give a voice to law enforcement and their supporters.
So imagine the disgust and rage they felt when the Southwest airlines staff in Chicago told them “we don’t recognize ‘law enforcement media’” and refused to honor the airline’s policy of allowing them to check overweight media bags as regular baggage… without needing a special pass.
From the original article:
It started the moment I walked up to the counter. There’s no masking my support for law enforcement, especially when I fly. I was wearing an LE hat and a thin blue line hoodie designed by Proud Pig, a company run by retired NYPD officers.
You could see the immediate look of disgust on the face of the woman at the Southwest counter.
I gave her my license and my business card, showing that I’m the National Spokesman for LET. I let her know we’d be checking two media bags.
“You is gonna have to pay for them overweight bags,” she told me.
Considering that my team will do 100 flights with Southwest this year – with media bags on every trip – suffice it to say we know a thing or two about their policy.
“They’re media bags, ma’am. Southwest’s policy is that there’s no overage charge on them.”
She looked at my business card, then looked at my outfit again with disgust.
“Yeah? What “media” do you think you wit?” she asked.
I gestured to my business card and told her I’m with Law Enforcement Today.
“That ain’t no media I ever heard of,” she said. “So you gotta pay.”
At that point I was done messing around. I asked her to get her supervisor.
A man walked over, also giving my outfit a look of disgust.
“You need to pay for these bags,” he told me. “You don’t have a media pass.”
I explained to him that I typically just travel with my business cards unless we are going to a large event with multiple media outlets. I told him we’ve never once had a problem. Southwest’s own policy doesn’t require media passes.
“Well I don’t know you,” he said. “For all I know, you makin’ up who you are.”
Given the fact that he was holding my ID and business card, I found that to be humorous. But I decided to play along.
“Ok, I told him. How about I pull up the website for you? You can see the countless articles from me, my bio on the website, the videos that I’m in across the country or anything else you’re looking for.”
“No media pass, you pay,” he said.
I reminded him that Southwest’s website doesn’t require a formal media pass to check media bags.
“We don’t recognize your little ‘law enforcement media’ thing here in Chicago,” he said. “You can complain to your little cop buddies. But in the meantime, I’m the boss and what I say goes.”
As you can imagine, I candidly had some choice words for them. But instead of saying something that would have me removed from the airport, I worked with my employee to move stuff into other bags.
The heaviest of the media bags had been four pounds over. Four pounds. These Southwest employees decided to make a debacle and insult the entire law enforcement community over four pounds.
I explained to him before we left that I’d make sure people heard about his comments.
“Yeah, you go ahead and write a little blog about it to your two followers,” he told me.
Southwest Airlines Customer Service Response
The original article went viral, garnering hundreds of thousands of views in a day. Southwest Airlines responded. Here’s my summary of what they said (you can read the actual email below):
“We are awesome. Blah, blah, blah. We love cops, but only during moments of difficulty and tragedy. Blah, blah, blah. We need you to follow rules that we haven’t made. Blah, blah, blah. Thanks for reaching out and giving us a chance to tell you just how little we care.”
Ok, so they didn’t use those exact words, but they could have saved the potential carpal tunnel issues by saying that and getting off their keyboard.
What they actually said was:
At Southwest, our goal is to provide the best possible travel experience to all of our Customers, and as one of our valued A-List Members, I genuinely regret learning we’ve let you down recently. Please allow me to assure you that Southwest Airlines is a strong supporter of our law enforcement community and all of our courageous first responders.
We have a long track record of going above and beyond to assist members of local, state, and national law enforcement agencies during difficult times, and remain committed to continuing to support the men and women in uniform.
We also work closely with many members of the media across the country. It was out of respect and appreciation for the job they do that we created an exception to our normal checked baggage policies. Our goal was to extend our typical Customer-oriented Hospitality in an area that would address the unique travel needs of the media.
Hence, our decision to waive the excess fees associated with additional, oversized, and overweight checked bags. As with any exceptions, we want to ensure that the appropriate Customers are able to take advantage of that opportunity.
Although it is not currently a requirement, we recommend to our media Customers that presenting a valid media ID badge is an excellent way to identify themselves as being eligible for this exception. We are currently reviewing this media exception to clarify its parameters going forward.
Nevertheless, I am truly sorry if any of our Employees fell short of your, and our, expectations for great Customer Service. Feedback from our Customers always helps us improve our operations, and we appreciate your sharing your input with us. I am confident that your future travels will reflect the Hospitality for which we are known, and we will always look forward to the chance to welcome you onboard.
Kim Seale, Southwest Airlines
Did you notice that there is no mention of investigating or looking into the comments made by the unprofessional counter agents?
Instead, their response was that even though the airline employees violated the policy – not LET – Southwest was going to reconsider their own policy as a result. Not handle the problem or the attitude – but rather punish the customers.
It reinforces the point Reyes made in the rest of the article: the culture of any company starts from the top. And it’s clear that their new approach is one where customer service no longer matters.
Here was the other example he shared, in his own words… which seems to fit their new culture shift:
The sad truth of it is that I believe that my once-favorite airline is fostering a culture in which the customer is always wrong. And they’re doing it by teaching employees that it’s ok to lie.
I started noticing it about six months ago for the first time. Every single flight I was on – EVERY SINGLE FLIGHT – the flight attendants would make an announcement that it was a completely full flight and that you needed to take the first available seat.
Listen – I get it. They want to speed up the boarding process. I’m totally on board with that. People are slow as molasses and it drives me nuts.
But here’s the rub – not a single one of those flights was completely full. Each had typically 10 or more unfilled seats.
Trust me, I know because in every case, one of those empty seats was next to me.
That’s by design. I’m typically flying wearing pro-police or pro-Trump outfits. Why? Because one of two things happen when I fly like that: either the seat next to me remains open, or I end up sitting next to a friendly.
A little white lie never hurt anyone, right?
It might not seem like a big deal… but as a business owner, I have a hard time believing that training employees to flat out lie to customers is in anyone’s best interest. When you create a culture where lying is acceptable, you throw your morals and your integrity out the window.
Caught in Another Lie
Last week, I arrived at Bradley International Airport (my home airport) to fly out and I was shocked to find that Southwest Priority customers were no longer allowed to use the priority line.
It’s worth pointing out that one of the reasons why so many of us who travel frequently strive to earn the “Preferred” status on Southwest is for that exact benefit. It saves countless hours.
I thought it might be an oversight, and so I reached out to Southwest. After four or five messages back and forth with them, I finally got them to realize that Bradley has always offered it… that it’s new that they’re no longer doing so.
I got a message back… suggesting Bradley International Airport was in part to blame.
I had a hard time believing that. So, I messaged BDL.
BDL responded quickly, letting us know that Southwest was lying – the decision was “100% on Southwest”.
Now I had Southwest blaming TSA. So I messaged TSA.
Their response? They let me know that it was 100% on Southwest.
Why wouldn’t the airline just own it, explain the reason and apologize? Why is the company creating a culture where they are teaching their employees to flat out lie?
What starts as encouraging lies… clearly begins to morph into the kind of customer service where employees feel empowered to attack law enforcement and laugh about it.
“Yeah, you go ahead and write a little blog about it to your two followers,” he told us.
Well, we did. And we have a feeling it’s going to be more than just two followers who read it.
Perhaps it’s time that Southwest take another look at the culture they’re fostering among the employees that they tout as being some of the friendliest in the skies.