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Southwest Airlines' "Chief Apology Officer"

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Here's a link to an interesting podcast from Business Week, and it is an interview with Fred Taylor, who sometimes blogs for us.  As you can hear, Fred is quite a character (aren't we all?) with a very important job.
13 Comments
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Congratulations to both Fred AND Southwest Airlines for this wonderful piece of very positive publicity from Business Week! That was a great interview and I think Fred did a masterful job of explaining what he does while getting across the message of the Culture of Southwest and how they really LUV their Customers! Kim External Blog Boy 🙂
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Gee, Fred, I must APOLOGIZE that no one else will comment about you! Kim Chief Apologist for External Bloggers 🙂
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I've gotten a letter from Fred after we had the smell of smoke in the cabin just before landing and got followed to the gate by fire trucks in Lubbock. The incident was minor, but everyone did notice, and I did not expect to get the letter and green pass after that. Just shows how Southwest goes above and beyond to take care of their customers!
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Jason, You'll be glad to know that as a result of that incident, there is a new onboard regulation that says Brian is NOT allowed to heat his candy corn in the microwave any more! Kim External Blog Boy :) P. S. Brian was the embarrassed Employee you saw being escorted off the plane while he was still covered in white fire extinguisher powder...
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In that case...Thanks for the green pass Brian!!!
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Jason, nobody told me that microwaves and candy corn don't mix. Brian
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Brian, You've gotta take 'em out of the foil packages first! We'd better revoke your microwave privileges before you try to put one of the metal pans of Jiffy Pop with the handle and expandable foil covering in next. Run for the hills, Brian's in the galley! Kim Sitting Near the Smoke Detector (but not tampering with it) 🙂
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Pre-Boarding and gate agent in Houston, TX July 20 flight 3. As passengers, you expect us to follow the rules, most people do. The rule most broken and allowed to by the boarding agents, is pre-board. I was flying home on flt 3 out of Houston on 7/20/07. I printed my boarding pass as soon as it was available, arrived at the airport and stood in line, as I do more weeks than not. As pre-board was completing, a group of 10 or so teenagers got in the pre-board line, as they approached, the agent said something to the girl that was in the front of this group, she said something, he laughed and let them board. When group A started boarding and I got to the agent, I asked him why he let them pre-board, they were obviously not handicapped nor under 4 years old. He laughed at me and told me it was his niece and cousins, I asked for his name and he refused to give it to me. Once on the plane, this group of kids was laughing and talking about how easy it was to pre-board. If we as passengers are expected to follow your rules, the least that we should expect in return is for your employees to follow those same rules. Pre-board is grossly abused, and allowed to be, by your employees. For the past 21 months, I have watched this almost weekly, some agents try very hard to follow the rules, others do not seem to care, allowing the 4 year old that is obviously 7 to preboard with the parents and 6 other adult family members!!! As well as those that should be in the C line per their ticket and they don't want to wait. Not only are they allowed to preboard but they are also allowed to sit in the exit row and "save" seats with the attendents supporting this!! I believe that pre-board is needed and should be used for the handicapped and immediate family of infants and small children. But, let's begin to follow your set of rules.. I just needed to get this out of my system.
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Kim Sitting Near the Smoke Detector (but not tampering with it) Is this the one in your first class cabin Kim? The one with the blue kool aid? Always wear safety glasses when operating power tools Ding! boy Joe
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Joe, Kool-Aid?? Do you think Southwest serves Kool-Aid in First Class? Au contraire, mi amigo! (a little multi-culturalism for ya) In the opulent and much-coveted First Class cabin, we recline in our spacious and cozy seats with the 88" of seat pitch, dining on champagne, fine caviar and imported candy corn, while you lower-class slobs in the back struggle to tear open your small bags of honey-roasted peanuts. Fortunately, the eight-piece orchestra's beautiful playing of classical music is just loud enough to drown out your grumbling and complaining behind the curtain. Sorry, I'd describe more about life up front, but they are dimming the lights now as the featured entertainers, a singer and her piano accompanist, take to the stage. Have a great flight! Kim Who Only Travels First Class 🙂
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Please do not change the seating to what you did in San Antonio this summer. It was a disaster, sounds like someone cooked the book on this one as on all the flights I took and it was quite a few since I live in SA, most said one thing, IF IT AIN"T BROKE DON"T FIX IT. I hope Herb and Collen realize that Mr Gary Kelly is not going to be a good replacement when they walk away. He reminds me of a Frank Lorenzo or Steve Wolf. Young whippersnapper with his MBA and kooky ideas. Southwest serves a nich in America, tell me Gary, as a business man what airline can I walk up to the counter and purchase a round trip ticket for under $650 on any given day besides Southwest? You see that is why we like it, we don't want to see us go International until we are in all 50 states, when are you going to go to MSP and take on NWA? Your ideas that we need to have asile seats and pay for windows and going to Mexico and such will not work. Herb and Collen built something that is unique, you and your MBA knowledge can lead to only one thing, the failure of SWA in the near future. Please Herb and Collen think hard about who you want to run SWA after you leave, to me this man cooked the books out of SA this summer. Did you happen to go there and witness the long lines and people in the aisles of the terminal and the fact that due to the new design they took out seats? Be like Baltimore and Tampa where you have seats that go down A, B and C. Did you witness the delays of people getting on the plane in the B and C groups because Mom and Dad had to get the kids car seat in or close up the stroller, come on before it was bing bang lickity split when boarding the plane with the pre-board people. IF IT AIN"T BROKE DON"T FIX IT can be well said here. Just hoping that Herb and Collen see this and maybe stop Gary before he ruins a great airline.
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As a loyal Southwest customer of two small children, who travel about twice a month, I am sadden by the new boarding procedure...Southwest has just made flying more difficult w/ children. I agree some families abuse this early boarding luxury and not only take too much time, but bring their entire house on the plane... I wish Southwest attendants would have addressed these individuals instead of changing the policy for th rest of us!
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First thing's first: I would like to commend Fred Taylor on a job quite obviously well done. I was recently on the receiving end of his efforts, unexpectedly finding a letter and LUV voucher in the mail not long after going through a bit of a weather-related ordeal en route from Baltimore/Washington to Providence, RI. The sequence of events that travel day were unfortunate, but not exceptional, given the conditions - and certainly not something I would hold Southwest accountable for (in the end, we eventually made it to our destination - something that other airlines flying the very same route that night were not capable of doing). I certainly did not expect Southwest to go out of their way to compensate me for something that was so obviously out of their control, but Fred did just that, and in doing so rekindled my beliefs that Southwest was different. Thanks, Fred. I would like to address one other aspect of my travel experience that day (and on the various other legs of that trip which I flew with Southwest), a subject that seems to have already inspired some opinions in the comments above: the boarding process. Admittedly, this is the first time I've flown Southwest in some time, and what I recalled from the past was a unique free-for-all boarding process where everyone had a shot at taking a seat wherever they pleased. From what I could remember, it seemed like a fun way to go about it. Perhaps my memory fails me, though, because the boarding processes during my last trip were anything but fun. Starting at the boarding gate, it seemed there was an air of tension around the entire process. People were jockeying for position, questioning those ahead and behind them to see if they were in the right spot numerically. It seemed to put people on edge from the get-go. I was appalled to witness a grown, well-to-do businessman get in my partner's face, seething with hostility, to yell at her about how the number order didn't really matter - after she had simply informed him that he wasn't standing in the correct section. It became clear that he was intentionally positioning himself out of order to get a better seat (when his wife objected, he told her to be quiet and just do as he did). Everyone around was visibly upset by the ordeal. We were consistently in the latter portion of the B or C boarding groups, so whenever we boarded there were already a fair number of passengers seated. Every row, from the very front all the way back, was filled window, aisle, with an empty seat in the middle. It seemed even people traveling in pairs would sit this way to deter others. For a couple traveling together, it became a very stressful situation. We would either make a beeline for the rear of the plane in hopes that there were still two seats available somewhere, or sit separately in whatever middle seats were left. Nobody ever offered to shift over a seat to accommodate us (ironically, people with assigned seats on other carriers' flights are willing to make even this most basic gesture). It seems to me that Southwest has situated itself in a strange gray area between free-for-all boarding and assigned seating, and I believe that's a problem. It may be very simplistic of me to say so, but I think Southwest should either stick to its guns and retain an entirely open boarding system (or to whatever extent it was 'open' prior to these most recent boarding procedure changes), or migrate all the way over to assigned seating (and continue to attract customers with your friendly personnel, comfortable travel environment and low fares). I'm sure there were customers who hated the free-for-all boarding process, but there were also those who loved it and chose Southwest for it, and I think that's a healthy thing. Either stick to your roots or convert to assigned seating and be confident that Southwest will retain customers based upon the qualities I've mentioned... but this muddy middle ground, as evidenced by my own travel experiences, is just no good.