I have been an exclusive traveler with Southwest for about 4 years now and love this airline. I always recommend my family and friends to use them during their travels. My wife and I recently were married in Florida and had all of our family travel using Southwest, and unfortunately had a huge issue during this trip. This story is long, and I want to be detailed, so bear with me. My mother-in-law is about 70 years old and is Vietnamese (I am Caucasian - this is relevant for the post). Her and her husband (also Vietnamese and about 75) have a small service dog that helps her with travel and has been trained to remind her to take medication. The breed is a Chihuahua, and I know, as many others, that they can be a little nippy and aren't always the friendliest to strangers. Knowing this, we made sure to have them bring a carrier and a muzzle, just to assure the airline that they could control the dog. My wife and I were already in Florida and they, including the rest of our family (9 in total, including 3 kids) were traveling from Virginia a day before our wedding. One of the kids decided to play with the dog and a stranger walked over to pet him. Of course, the dog growled, and the family immediately put him back in his carrier (still muzzled). The airline saw this behavior and during the boarding process decided that they would not allow this dog to fly. They waited until boarding to say something, leaving them absolutely no time to do anything. As you can imagine, our family was furious and called me to speak to the Southwest employees. I told them we could keep the service dog inside the carrier, muzzled, and place a blanket over the carrier. They said that they already made up their mind that he was not allowed to board. I immediately called Southwest HQ and spent 2 hours talking to them (the first 30 minutes to try and push them through to allow boarding, but then, after the flight took off, 1.5 hours holding and trying to describe this unfortunate event to anyone that was on the phone). During my time on the phone with HQ, the airline decided to shut the gate on my mother and father, along with their eldest daughter, refusing them boarding and pushing them to a flight 4 hours later. We had to call a friend and have them drive into Washington D.C. and pick up the dog (which could no longer serve the purpose of alerting my mother to take medication, nor subside her fear of flying), during rush hour. Meanwhile my mother-in-law was forced to wait the additional 4 hours at the airport with her husband and daughter. This was a huge blunder for Southwest and could have easily been averted had they had some compassion for people that require additional assistance. My mother-in-law is in a wheelchair due to an unfortunate head-on collision that broke multiple bones in her body and has severe headaches that only worsen during travel. We rely heavily on this dog and I emphasized this to the airline. Had my parents been Caucasian, I feel that this event would have been completely different (or if I was there to personally talk to the employees). I know that sometimes one event does not define a company, but I feel like their reaction to the issue does. I am hoping Southwest teaches their employees to have sympathy for handicap individuals, especially those that don't speak English as well as others, and are elderly. I will continue to use Southwest, but I am extremely disappointed in their handling of this unfortunate event. Everyone still made it to the wedding, but my mother-in-law suffered from the stress and was sick during this special moment in our life.
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