There have been many news stories over the last two days regarding a family that was denied boarding on a Southwest Flight out of Phoenix on Friday, July 4, 2008, owing to unruly behavior onboard their previous flight.
Over the course of a four-hour flight from Detroit to Phoenix, our Flight Crew developed a genuine concern for the well-being of children involved in this particular situation. Our Crew exhausted all of their resources to resolve the situation, but it became clear them that they needed to address the situation before it escalated further – a concern that has since been echoed in a police report and by other passengers that were onboard the flight.
The family’s interaction with authorities in Phoenix prevented our Employees from communicating with them in order to offer other travel options and accommodations; however, we contacted them yesterday and are refunding the entire cost of their tickets.
Southwest Airlines carries countless numbers of families each year without incident, and is successful in assisting parents to follow Federal rules and guidelines onboard. Ultimately, we are responsible for the Safety of all of our passengers, even the passengers whose behavior appears to jeopardize that Safety.
I certainly understand many of the feelings expressed below regarding children with Autism; however, it is important to understand that this situation was not related to the fact that a child has Autism. The issue was related to the Safety of our Customers, and, as stated in the post above, a genuine concern for the well-being of children involved.
It is unfortunate that these situations get played out in the media – the facts of the story are never presented in their entirety. And, the truth is, it is neither appropriate nor desirable for us as a Company to promote the details to the general public as we would never want to publicly criticize or embarrass our Customers.
We value all of our Customers and begin every day and every flight with the desire for each person to have a wonderful experience with us. When circumstances prevent that from happening, we try to address those situations in the most responsible and respectable manner possible.
Although this situation was not related to a child having autism, I assure you that Southwest Airlines is committed to providing courteous and efficient service to all of our Customers with disabilities and assisting them in a manner consistent with federal law and Company procedures.