I had my first bad customer service experience with Southwest Airlines today. Southwest has added a new boarding process. I think it will be good, but the gate agents have become very rude with it.
I fly Southwest a lot for work. I went from a 100,000 mile flier (1K) on United to living in San Diego where Southwest is my best option. At first, I didn’t like the Southwest paradigm, then it grew on me. The chaos at boarding was not something I liked, but I figured out the system and it worked for me.
No would ever say that the system was perfect. There was, and still may be, room for improvement. More on the system later. This is mainly about customer service.
So, I am going through the new system for the first time (I hadn’t been flying because of my surgery and blood clots – and also that my current job has less travel). There were no instructions that I could find and I couldn’t figure out what the signs meant. The only indication that things were different was a notice on my ticket that San Diego is trying a new boarding system.
I was excited about the prospects of a new system, but communication about what to do would have helped a lot. The overhead speaker was almost useless. No one could understand what the gate agent was saying. Maybe they were telling us.
I learned long ago in my travels that being friendly to the employees was much better for everyone. Well, everyone trying to board the plane was pretty lost. When I finally got up to board and asked if it was the right time, I got a very rude comment about not following the boarding process. I apologized and said it was confusing and we couldn’t understand the lout speaker. I was then told that it was not confusing and I was simply having problems.
I couldn’t believe it. About the only thing that Southwest has going for it over other airlines (outside of schedule) is the fact that their customer service is generally pretty good. Insulting a customer about to get on the plane does not fit into good customer service.
Is Southwest getting too big? They still aren’t as bad as the militant approach that United takes, but I was not impressed.