Entries in Southwest Airlines (15)


Southwest Airlines to Impose 'No-Show' Fee

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- For Southwest Airlines, it's going to cost you to be a "no-show." The airline announced Friday it will soon charge a new fee for passengers who fail use their ticket without canceling first, USA Today reports.

Southwest's current policy requires no fee for changing one's flight plans. No-show fliers can apply the value of their tickets toward a new ticket purchase, according to USA Today.

But the airline says too many no-shows is leading to too many empty seats. So Southwest will add the new fee for no-shows to its "Wanna Get Away" fares, the company's cheapest.

The company announced the new fees on an investor conference call Friday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Southwest Sued Over Hot Tea Burns

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- Southwest Airlines is in hot water for allegedly burning a passenger with a cup of scalding tea.

According to a lawsuit filed this week in Davidson County Circuit Court in Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 28, 2011, Angelica Keller, of Smyrna, Tenn., suffered second-degree burns during a trip from Nashville to Houston on the airline.

On that day, Keller, who was seated in a window seat in the first row of the plane, ordered a cup of tea. The flight attendant brought her a cup of piping hot water, which was sitting in another cup containing the tea bag and condiment packets like sugar and possibly creamer. Since there was no tray table or flat surface, Keller had difficulty disassembling the double cup and the water spilled all over her lap. And since she was wearing her seat belt, she could not move quickly enough and had to sit in "extremely hot water" until she could get up.

She spent the rest of the flight in the restroom.

According to the lawsuit, the flight attendant made absolutely no effort to inquire of plaintiff if she would like some assistance in being able to place the tea bag into the paper “hot cup.” Nor did she try to help. What’s more, the suit claims, both Southwest and/or the flight attendant were negligent because they failed to provide any kind of drop-down table in the front row; did not warn Keller verbally or in writing of the “potential danger involved in the delivery of hot tea during a flight”; and served water that was way too hot for use in an airplane where turbulence is always a possibility.

As a result of the accident, Keller’s skin blistered and peeled away from her body in her groin and buttocks area, even though she was fully clothed. The lawsuit, which seeks $300,000 for property damages, medical bills, injuries and pain and suffering and $500,000 in punitive damages, also claims that she has suffered permanent scarring, lost income, and “loss of enjoyment of life.”

In a statement to ABC News, Southwest spokesperson Chris Mainz said that “Our Customers’ safety and comfort are our top priorities, and we safely serve millions of drinks onboard every year.  The referenced event is unfortunate and we are currently reviewing it.”

In the most famous case of its kind, a jury found McDonald’s liable in 1994 for a customer’s coffee burns, awarding a $2.7 million judgment, which was later reduced. In that case, the victim suffered third-degree burns and required skin grafts after the extremely hot coffee spilled in her lap while seated in a car after visiting the drive-in window.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Southwest Airlines Apologizes to Customers Overcharged in Online Sale Error

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Southwest Airlines apologized Saturday to hundreds of customers who reported being charged multiple times for the same ticket.

Celebrating the milestone of reaching three million Facebook fans, the airline Friday announced the "LUV2LIKE" promotion, which was supposed to save participating customers 50 percent off select tickets.  Instead, many of the customers found their debit and credit cards had been charged multiple times with totals amounting up to thousands of dollars.

Adria Shipp of Greensboro, N.C. was trying to buy a ticket to go to Colorado for $200. The ticket purchase wouldn't go through, and then the website declined her debit card. Shipp says when she checked her bank balance, she was horrified to discover she had a balance of 16 cents.
"It was just panic that I have no money in my account," Shipp said of the erroneous charges. "Then I started thinking that maybe it wasn't Southwest at all -- like maybe this is a scam. Was it really from Southwest? Did I give my information to some random person?"
Other Southwest customers took to Facebook with their complaints after discovering the duplicate charges.  

"This is awful … I really need to know if I will get some kind of email confirmation that my duplicate charges (5 times for ONE flight) have been REFUNDED to my credit card immediately.  They blew my credit limit. Beeen [sic] on hold almost 2 hours," wrote one customer.

Another customer wrote that she had received 13 confirmations, but waited three hours to speak with a customer service representative.  " … I don't need $3,900 on my credit card for a $290 trip!!" she wrote on the airline's Facebook page.

Though Southwest says on its Facebook page it "will not address specific Customer Service issues" via the social networking site, the airline responded online to the growing complaints with an apology:

"Due to the overwhelming response, we experienced some site performance issues at various times throughout the day. We apologize to our Customers for any inconvenience and are proactively [canceling] any duplicate itineraries that may have occurred."

But for all the backlash, some have acknowledged the error but indicated they might remain loyal Southwest customers. Shipp said the airline charged her 10 separate times for her ticket, but she's not so unforgiving.
"I think I'll just be really careful and double check things. Usually when I fly, I try to only fly Southwest. I love them, so I don't want this to change how I feel about them, so I'm hoping that this is just a one time thing."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Low-Cost Carriers Flying High in Customer Satisfaction

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It’s no secret that low-cost carriers have won over the hearts of travelers everywhere.  But it may not be for the reason you think: When it comes to price, there’s typically not a whole lot of difference on routes where low-cost carriers compete with the legacy carriers.  Sometimes, the low-cost carriers actually cost more.

But a new survey from J.D. Power and Associates found that cost, as well as fees, are just two of the factors that led to higher customer satisfaction.  More than 70 percent of passenger satisfaction was driven by other parts of the overall experience, namely, a carrier’s policies and people.

The study measures overall customer satisfaction based on performance in seven categories (in order of importance): cost and fees; in-flight services; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; aircraft; check-in; and reservations.

Two low-cost airlines, JetBlue and Southwest, ranked highest and performed well in many categories that had nothing to do with price and fees.  JetBlue scored well for in-flight services and aircraft; Southwest for boarding/deplaning/baggage, check-in and reservations.

The absence of fees, however, does make a difference.  Satisfaction for airlines that charge for bags was 85 points lower, on average, than those that don’t.  Among traditional carriers, Air Canada, which also allows one free checked bag, performed well.  The two airlines that scored highest -- JetBlue at number one and Southwest at number two -- don’t charge for a first checked bag.  Southwest doesn’t even charge for a second checked bag.

Alaska Airlines came in first among traditional carriers for the fifth consecutive year.

Overall, satisfaction with low-cost carriers rose for the third consecutive year, while satisfaction with traditional carriers fell.  Among the traditional carriers, the only one that increased its satisfaction ranking was Delta.

“Despite the need for some carriers to charge unpopular fees, they can gain a competitive advantage by focusing their efforts on efficiency and positive interactions with the staff and crew,” said Jessica McGregor, senior manager of the global travel and hospitality practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

Here are the rankings for traditional carriers:

1. Alaska Airlines
2. Air Canada
3. Delta Airlines
4. Continental Airlines
5. American Airlines
6. United Airlines
7. US Airways

And those for low-cost carriers:

1. JetBlue Airways
2. Southwest Airlines
3. West Jet
4. AirTran Airways
5. Frontier

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'Too Fat To Fly' Passenger Sues Southwest Airlines For 'Discriminatory Actions'

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- Kenlie Tiggeman, the overweight passenger who garnered national attention last May after she claimed a Southwest gate agent told her she was "too fat to fly," is now suing the airline.

Tiggeman, who lives in New Orleans and blogs about weight loss on her website,, filed an injunction against Southwest in district court on April 20, alleging that the Southwest agents "did not follow their company policy and chose to discriminate, humiliate and embarrass" her in front of "airport onlookers," and that the airline uses "discriminatory actions...toward obese customers."

Southwest currently has a Customers of Size policy, which requires passengers to buy a second seat if they can't fit between the armrests. Southwest's seats measure 17 inches across.

Tiggeman said she is not seeking monetary damages from the airline and filed the injunction application pro se, without legal representation. She said she wants an industry standard to be put in place for flyers who have to buy a second seat, including rules so that it is no longer up to gate attendants to decide whether or not an obese passenger has to purchase a second seat.

"If you're telling me I have to buy two seats, you should tell me at the point of purchase, not the day I'm flying when I check in at the terminal," she said.

Tiggeman said she was horrified last May when a Southwest Airlines gate agent told her to buy a second seat.

"The gate agent came up to me and he asked me how much I weighed, what size clothes I wore," Tiggeman said. "He said that I was too fat to fly, that I would need an additional seat, and he was really sort of crass about the whole thing."

At the time, Tiggeman said she weighed between "240 and 300 pounds."

"There was no privacy," she continued. "He didn't know what the policy was. So he actually brought in a supervisor as well who didn't know."

After the incident, Tiggeman said a Southwest executive contacted her to apologize, refunded her ticket and offered her flight vouchers, which she accepted. But last November, Tiggeman said she was again told by a Southwest agent that she was too fat to fly.

In a statement to Nightline, Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said she was aware of Tiggeman's blog post describing the suit, but hadn't confirmed the filing with the airline's legal department.

Tiggeman's crusade is just a small part in what feels like a war that has erupted between the airlines and their passengers. Many charge for everything from onboard snacks, to blankets and pillows, to excess baggage and body weight. Just Thursday, Spirit Airlines announced that passengers may have to pay up to $100 for a carry-on, meaning bags that have to go in the overhead compartment and are checked in at the gate. Bags that can fit under the seat are still free.

But if you weigh more, should you pay more? Peter Singer, a bio-ethics professor at Princeton University, raised this simple but inflammatory question.

"It's not about treating obese people badly," he said. "It's about people paying for the costs that they are imposing on the airline or in general."

Singer is a mega-commuter, flying from his home in Melbourne, Australia, to the States. He thinks that on a flight from, say, Melbourne to New York, an obese person should face a roughly $30 surcharge.

"The airline is just one example that I've chosen," Singer said. "Buses and trains may have to provide wider seats. Hospitals have to have stronger beds, even having to have extra-large refrigerators for their morgues. So it's not hostility to obesity. It's just saying, where people are paying, why should other people who are lighter be subsidizing those who are heavier?"

Pressing forward with her lawsuit, Kenlie Tiggeman said she is not an advocate for obesity, but wants to be treated with respect.

"Shaming people isn't the right way to do it, then you'll just have a lot of depressed people," she said. "I don't care if I have to pay more, just tell me what I have to do and I'll do it."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Southwest Flight Attendants' Union May File Charges over Pilot's Rant

Southwest Airlines(NEW YORK) -- The Southwest Airlines flight attendants' union may file a discrimination charge against the airline after one of their pilot's cockpit microphones became stuck open and an obscenity-laced rant about the physical attributes of flight attendants was broadcast across the entire Texas airspace.

A Houston TV station obtained a recording of the audio in which the pilot bashed gays, women, "grannies" and overweight people. The conversation took place at about 7:30 a.m. CT on March 25 and was broadcast over the Houston air traffic control radio frequency, blocking communication between air traffic controllers and other pilots for more than two minutes.

"Flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are deeply disappointed and angered by the insensitive, and unprofessional comments demeaning flight attendants," the union wrote in an online statement.

The pilot was suspended without pay, but has since returned to work after undergoing diversity training. Southwest tried to dismiss the rant as a "private conversation" and an isolated incident.

"We also are dismayed by the response from Southwest Airlines' management," the union wrote. "The official response from Southwest's spokespeople and leaders has only added 'insult to injury.'"

The general consensus among airline workers is that this was an isolated incident and will not spark changes to the airline industry training standards said Brian Wozniak, the general Chairman for the International Association of Machinists District 142 which represents flight attendants at Continental Airlines.

"I've talked to a lot of our crews today. They are a little outraged at the individual maybe, but not at the system itself," he said.

Wozniak said in the 35 years he has spent in the industry he cannot recall "anything even remotely that derogatory."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Southwest Pilot Suspended for On-Air Rant

Scott Olson / Getty Images News (NEW YORK) -- Southwest Airplanes says it has suspended a pilot for a slur-laced two and a half minute conversation he had on an open air traffic frequency.

The conversation, essentially a misogynistic and homophobic rant, took place in March after the pilot failed to shut off his flight's communications link with air control.

In a statement, the carrier called the conversation inexcusable: "Southwest Airlines is committed and dedicated to maintaining the highest standard of ethics in the industry; in fact we've built our Company's reputation on the Golden Rule: treating others as you would like to be treated, with concern, care and respect. The actions of this Pilot are, without question, inconsistent with the professional behavior and overall respect that we require from our Employees."

The airline says the pilot in question was placed on an unpaid suspension and has underwent additional diversity education. He is now back at work.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Southwest, JetBlue Offer Best Frequent Flier Programs

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Signed up for an airline rewards program and hoping to turn your hard-won miles into a free seat? If you're a U.S. traveler, you'll have the best chance if you're a member of Southwest Airlines reward program "Rapid Rewards."

The airline was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 2 in the world by the ezRez Reward Seat Availability Survey for finding a seat. Travelers in Southwest's program have a 99.3 percent chance of getting a reward seat when they want one, living up to the airline's promise of "unlimited rewards seats and no blackout dates."

In a survey based on 6,720 booking queries competitors, Delta Air Lines and U.S. Airways didn't fare as well. The two carriers were at the bottom for free seats using a frequent fliers rewards program – ranking 23 and 24, respectively.

Travelers signed up for Delta Airlines "SkyMiles" program had a 27.1 percent chance of finding a seat and US Airways "Dividend Miles" members had it even tougher, with a 25.7 percent chance of locating a free seat.

On the other hand, low-fare airlines fared well in the survey with GOL, a low-cost Brazilian airline, ranking number one. The carriers rounding out the top 5 included Air Berlin, Virgin Australia, and Singapore Airlines.

There was some good news for U.S. travelers. Passengers that are a part of JetBlue's TrueBlue reward program have a 79.3 percent chance of finding a reward seat. Other carriers, like United Airlines, Continental Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and American Airlines were scattered around the list. United Airlines had a total availability rate of 71.4 percent and American Airlines had a 62.9 percent availability rate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Southwest Airlines Leaves Travelers Most Satisfied, Survey Finds

David McNew/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Southwest Airlines ranks highest in a new survey of air travelers who rated carriers based on their overall quality of flight.

Consumer Reports asked nearly 15,000 passengers to rate the airlines based on measures like comfort, customer care, cleanliness, in-flight entertainment, and other factors. Travelers were also asked to weigh in on being charged additional fees.

Southwest ranked highest for check-in ease and cabin-crew service, the survey found. Also high-ranking was JetBlue Airways, which finished second-best overall and was the only airline to outscore Southwest in seating comfort. JetBlue also topped the survey in terms of in-flight entertainment.

US Airways scored the lowest overall, with respondents particularly unimpressed by the airline’s cabin-crew service. US Airways also finished last in 2007, when Consumer Reports last assessed airlines.

The survey found that passengers who paid fewer additional fees were generally happier with their overall flight experience.

The survey was based on information gathered from 14,861 Consumer Reports readers regarding their experiences on 29,720 domestic round-trip flights between January 2010 and January 2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


AirTran Tops List of Safest US Airlines, but Who's Counting?

Comstock/Thinkstock Images(NEW YORK) -- It's easy enough to name the nation's seven safest airlines. It's hard, however, to say what good these lists are if your goal, as a traveler, is to avoid dying.

Consider the case of the passengers on the Southwest flight earlier this month who heard a loud bang and looked up to see daylight coming through the ceiling of their Boeing 737. If, before belting in, they had consulted the latest safety rankings, they'd have seen that Southwest's record is exemplary. On an incidents-per-flight basis, Southwest ranks as the safest of the major U.S. carriers and second-safest overall, coming in just behind much smaller, top-ranked AirTran Airways. (Southwest is in the process of acquiring AirTran.)

Knowing Southwest's safety ranking would have availed the passengers on the pop-top flight absolutely zip. That doesn't mean there aren't steps you can take to help ensure your safety in the air -- only that studying rankings isn't one of them.

The most popular rankings compare a carrier's number of flights against its number of safety "incidents." As determined by the FAA, "incidents are events that do not meet the aircraft damage or personal injury thresholds" of more serious "accidents." For example, a midair collision between a plane and a bird would likely qualify as an incident. A collision in the air between a plane and another plane would be an accident.

For leading U.S. carriers, there are a whole lot of flights, few incidents and even fewer accidents. So, while it's possible to say mathematically that Southwest outranks US Airways, the difference between Southwest's 0.0000203 and US Airways' 0.0000212 is…small.

You'd think that Christopher White, spokesperson for AirTran, would like to do a little boasting about his carrier's safety supremacy, but he, too, emphasizes that the top carriers are interchangeable when it comes to safety. "Everyone is 'safest,'" he says. "Today's aviation system in America is the best in the world. At AirTran, we do have a couple of things going for us: We have an extremely young fleet, the youngest all-Boeing fleet in the U.S. Newer planes give you less to worry about, fewer mechanical issues." AirTran also has scored highly for overall customer satisfaction.

So, what can you the traveler do to help ensure your safety? Quite a lot, say experts. Advises Bill Voss, head of the Flight Safety Foundation in Arlington, Va., "Look for airlines that have passed what's called an IOSA Audit, which goes above and beyond most regulatory requirements for safety." The International Air Transport Association (IATA) names airlines that have passed this audit. "Second, look to see if your carrier is part of a larger, global alliance, because airlines are very discerning about who can join these." As examples he cites the STAR and OneWorld alliances.

Airline industry analyst and consultant Robert Mann of Port Washington, New York says the best thing the traveler can do is to be "situationally aware"—in other words, keep your eyes and ears open, and if you see something that disturbs you, act on it.

Furthermore, if you do see something that strikes you as wrong, call it to the attention of the crew. The worst that can happen, he says, is that you'll mention your concern to the flight attendant, who'll pass it up to the captain, who'll send word back, "Thank you, but it's not a safety issue."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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