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Changes to ESA policy

New Arrival

 This past week I had a flight reservation on Southwest and had made this reservation months before which included an ESA registered pet. (which happened to be my small parrot.) I have flown Southwest for as long as I can remember and I’ve been flying Southwest with this ESA registered animal for the last three years. In fact, if it were not for me informing staff ahead of time that I have this animal, no one would ever know he had been on the plane because he never makes a peep or comes out of his carrier. I was completely unaware of the policy change as I had checked to ensure I still had him attached to my reservation the weekend prior to my scheduled flight and there was no mention of this change.  I made the long trek to the airport with luggage in tow plus my bird in his carrier only to be denied the ability to board our flight due to a change that occurred only days before. The agent told me it says online dogs and cats only. He wasn’t very sympathetic or helpful.  While I think this change is ridiculous, as there has been few incidents involving a parrot on a flight, but there have been several with dogs, and yet you’ve restricted the ESA guidelines to only permit dogs and cats… What really upsets me about this whole Incident was the failure to notify me.  It seems to me if you’re going to make a policy change you should notify those customers with existing reservations for who this change will affect. How hard would it have been to send an email letting me know of this change in advance to my arrival at the airport.?!?! I’ve spoken to many people about this incident and all were dismayed and disgusted with the way the situation presented itself and how rudely I was turned away and told by the ticketing agent that I could’ve just read the policy online and it was my responsibility to know this regardless of past travel with my ESA pet. Customer service is your responsibility. If somebody has been flying your airline with an ESA pet with no issue for years, how would they know that there was a change in policy so suddenly?  Why would review the online policy before their flight when they have been flying with ESA pet for years and even in the last month?!?! I’m beyond disappointed, I’m rather disturbed with the direction that Southwest is heading. I am not the only person who has had to deal with some very abrupt customer service lately, and aside from being cheaper than other airlines and allowing free baggage, you’re starting to lose your edge on being the best choice. I would appreciate an apology for the extreme Inconvenience and extra travel cost that this lack of notification caused me. 

3 REPLIES 3
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Re: Changes to ESA policy

Top Contributor
Solution

Your experience is rather unfortunate. As this is primarily a customer to customer forum I suggest that you call Southwest or write to them via one of their official social media channels.

 

--TheMiddleSeat

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Re: Changes to ESA policy

Top Contributor

I agree with you. It is not acceptable to have the airline "spring" the change on you at the airport and then deny you and your ESA boarding. That is truly unfortunate.

 

As the other poster said, perhaps  you can contact customer relations to discuss the matter. If you feel very strongly about the matter a letter to the president, Gary Kelly, might be appropriate. Kelly will probably not see the letter, but his administrative assistant probably will. It will get the appropriate attention it deserves.

 

Again, sorry this happened to you..

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Re: Changes to ESA policy

New Arrival

I unfortunately had a similar encounter.  This past Friday I flew with my ESA at ATL airport, which is a 4lbs yorkie that doesn't make a peep as well. I checked in my two bags at the ticket counter, and was never spoken to or asked anything about a letter for my pet.  I also went through TSA with no issues. Now here is where the story gets good.  When I arrived at the gate, my animal was on her leash.  before boarding I put her back inside, and even proceeded to ask the gate agent Ms. Thomas, if passengers with service/ESA where allowed to board early...she then replied "I aint never said that"...Ok so I proceed to sit in the seat closest to the ticket counter with my pet in her carrying bag on my lap. Right in front if Ms. Akesha Thomas.  I boarded the plane sat down, and about 4 min before take off. Two flight attendants approached me, and ask me if I has a dog, I proceeded to say yes, and they then asked me to come to the front to speak to Ms. Akesha Thomas.  When I got to the front of the plane I was basically verbally attacked by Ms. Thomas right in the jet bride in front of the door of the plane where everyone could hear.  She proceeded to ask me in a very loud harsh attitude tone of voice "did you pay for that dog"  I proceeded to tell her that she was and ESA.  She then asked where was my letter,  I let her know that I was unaware of the policy change.  She then told me that I was going to have ot get off of the plane, miss my flight, and come pay for the animal.  Thats when I began to have a panic attack because she pretty much did not explain what was going on, and gave me no time to process what was going on. She humiliated me in front of everyone.  In the middle of having trying to calm myself down, and get my thoughts in order I proceeded to tell her that I would be willing to pay the fee, but I cant miss my flight. (I mean technically it is a miss on SW behalf not mine.) She then got on the jetbridge phone and started talking to someone saying that someone needs to come ans escort me off of the plane, because she has no time for this.  At this point I am pretty much begging her to please let me just pay the fee and get back on the plane.  She then says okay with still talking on the phone with an altitude about everything that was going on.  She gave my card number over the phone but the card didnt work, she then made an announcement to everyone that the card was declined....but i knew I had money, so I asked her to let me just sign into my banking to see whats going on. Even the two flight attendants that were standing by me witnessed my bank account and seen that I had no issues.  She then told me no I gotta go and i was just going to have to miss my flight....Im still in tears at this point. It was so bad, that the captain of the plane came out to see what was going on.  To end my story. One of the flight attendance knew I was having a panic attack, and she also recognized that the gate agent was being rude, so she paid the fee for me, and allowed me to stay on the flight....I am not sure how to end this story, but I just wanted to put it out there because it was alot.