Tom - I guess the question I'd ask in response to your post is, "doesn't Southwest Spirit require that the Employee also get the benefit of the doubt?"
For all I know, that Employee is normally a fine example of Southwest Spirit and was just really off his game that day - he might have argued with his wife the night before (and if so, it was probably about how he always loses things); he might have had his house robbed last week - or he might really be devoid of Southwest Spirit. The point is, I don't know what the context for his rant was, but I do know this - in a situation such as this one, Southwest Spirit requires us to focus on the situation, issue or behavior, not the personality. That's why I addressed this issue in light of his behavior without condemning him as a person; he might be a stellar Employee whom I caught on a bad day. Without a relationship, and the context that provides, I am not in a position to say more.
Thanks, Tom, for reading Nuts About Southwest, and for taking the time to post your thoughts.
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I was in Philadelphia (PHL) on a Tuesday morning in early October when one of our non PHL-based Employees came in. He had arrived in PHL late the previous day and had left his laptop on the plane. Hoping to find it before flying back out later that day, he was understandably anxious, and one of our PHL Leaders was doing his best to help him. After a few minutes, however, it appeared that the laptop had "walked off."
This Employee made a perfunctory nod to his role in this – that he had been negligent in leaving his laptop behind – but then proceeded to lay the blame completely at the feet of the PHL Station with the following angry statement (I paraphrase): "In the old days that laptop would never have disappeared. Southwest's Culture sure has changed." The Culture gods, of course, have a sense of humor, for about five minutes later the missing laptop appeared - it had been in a safe all along.
In a sense, of course, this Employee was right. SWA's Culture had changed. Where he was wrong, however, was in thinking that the change was in someone else. PHL Employees had done nothing wrong – in fact, they had taken excellent care of a fellow Employee's valuable property. Where the Culture had changed was, in fact, in him; he assumed, without basis, that our PHL Employees were somehow so devoid of Southwest Spirit that they would steal his laptop; he failed to give them the benefit of the doubt.
For my fellow Employees, the moral of the story is that we are - all of us - responsible for Southwest's Culture every day, in every interaction with a Customer or Employee. Cultural problems are almost never "out there;" they are almost always "in here." If we all focus on the part of the Culture over which we have control – our own behaviors – the rest will tend to take care of itself. If we all obsess about the supposed Cultural failings of "others" while ignoring our own, then will our Culture be in trouble. Let's not let it happen.
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My recent post on the subject seems to have raised as many questions as I had tried to answer. In short, there is still a lot of confusion about what can, and cannot, be taken through the security checkpoint and, once through security, what items you might have purchased on the concourse can be taken on the airplane. Since these restrictions are subject to change by our friends at TSA when they believe the threats are changing, the most helpful thing I can tell you all is that, if you have questions, there is one place on the internet where you should always be able to get the most current information:
TSA's list of Permitted and Prohibited Items
I hope this helps. Thanks for all your questions and feedback. We appreciate it.
If, based on the TSA's latest rules, you have a great packing idea to share, let us know.
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Angela - We contacted TSA HDQ and they confirmed that moist towelettes, baby wipes, etc. should be allowed through the checkpoint. On occasion the Federal Security Director (FSD) at an airport may make a decision to the contrary on a local basis. When that happens and we find out about it, we report it to TSA. Most discrepancies get fixed once we do, but sometimes TSA allows its FSDs some latitude.
Could you let me know the airport(s) and date(s) of travel involved in the experience you describe?
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reply to Ewan Spence's query
Ewan - You can still get the same drinks inflight now as you could before August 10. The only restriction is likely to be from one of our Flight Attendants if you try to consume more than you can handle, if you get my drift.
Sorry to be a few days late getting back to you. Between the long Labor Day weekend and my college-football-is-finally-here-euphoria, well, I'm just now back in the swing of things.
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Matthew - I re-checked the TSA waittimes website and also had someone pose the question to TSA. The answer from both was the same - i.e., that the data you see on that site are comprised of a four week rolling average. Therefore, unless you have more information to substantiate what you wrote this morning, it appears that the entry i indeed accurate as written. Please let me know if you think I am still missing something here.
Thanks for taking the time to read Nuts About Southwest, and for expressing your opinion and concern about it. I hope you will continue to check in often.
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You've probably heard that the new prohibitions against liquids and gels in carryon baggage are supposed to produce longer lines at ticket counters and at security checkpoints. For what it's worth, as someone who has flown several times since August 10, I cannot discern any actual effects on the Customer waiting times.
Our own internal stats bear out that one impact of the new restrictions has been an increase in checked baggage. However, having checked bags in three cities in the last 12 days, I have yet to experience a wait longer than five minutes - no different from before. No surprise here - our Customer Service and Ramp Employees are hustling to deal with the increased checked baggage volume.
As for the security checkpoint, the waiting times in my experience have been no different from pre-August 10. Why might that be? Based on my observations, I'd chalk it up to a combination of reduced carryon bag volumes, quick adapting by our Customers, and good work by our friends at the Transportation Security Adminstration ("TSA"). For a more objective view of checkpoint waiting times, read this Baltimore Sun article. The TSA also maintains a website displaying up-to-date actual waiting times experienced at all airport checkpoints. It's a good way to see what you can really expect. Another website, FlightStats.com, also provides this and other information, but it is not as up-to-date.
Bottomline - I have seen no reason so far that anyone should be concerned about increased waiting times to check bags or clear security checkpoints in the post-August 10 environment.
Labor Day weekend is the last getaway travel period before things slow down in the fall. Tell us about your positive travel experience even under the new security rules. Or, maybe you hit a snag, but now you have a great travel tip to share with the rest of us.
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Today's release of our schedules and fares into our newest airport, Washington Dulles ("IAD"), reminded me that our initial announcement that we would be entering the IAD market raised a lot of questions from Employees and from other Southwest stakeholders. Along with several of my fellow Employees, I visited IAD the evening of and morning after that April 4th announcement to get a closer look at our newest addition. I will share what I found, setting the table with a little personal history.
The IAD Economy
I had last set foot at IAD mid-August 1989, under less than happy circumstances. I was about to be fired from a previous career, but that's a story for another day. What that experience left in my mind, though, was a blurry image of IAD and its market that was almost 17 years out of date. What I saw in early April brought IAD into focus for me.
Although our market research had prepared us for IAD's expansive market growth, the sight of all that development was greater than I had expected. You probably know all the Herndon Dulles Chamber of Commerce factoids, so I'll spare you those, and instead try to paint you a picture. As we drove along the Dulles Access Highway from the Capital Beltway to IAD, we found ourselves in what I can best describe as the capitalist equivalent of the Grand Canyon – mid-rise office complexes housing AOL on one side, Nextel on the other, then Oracle, MCI, Symantec, and so on for practically the entire 13-mile drive. What the Colorado River had done in northern Arizona, the American economy had, in its own way and in slightly less time, done in northern Virginia.
And I came away with one other, lingering impression about IAD. With apologies to The Chairman of the Board (Sinatra, that is, not our own Herb Kelleher), if we can't make it there, we can't make it anywhere.
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Tom Greer, airport director at Monterey, CA (MRY) is one of my favorite people in the aviation world. Like me, Tom is from a suburb of Birmingham (BHM). Unlike me, Tom has at his disposal a litany of Southern sayings that are deeper in meaning than you might at first realize. One of my favorites of these is, "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."
The first time I heard Tom say this, I wondered out loud whether this knowledge was the result of some deranged but detailed experiment he had conducted while a student at Auburn University - you know, something to pass the time until football season. After a few minutes, though, I realized that what Tom meant was that when you are trying to persuade someone to do something, and you have a choice of doing it either in an unpleasant way or in a pleasant way, the pleasant way is almost always more effective.
I was reminded of this last week, while on vacation in Europe. I had bought tickets on one of the relatively new low fare airlines whose choice of name implies that, by the time they started flying, all the really good airline names were already taken. Anyway, the flight attendants were doing their safety announcements, and pretty much nobody was paying attention. The head flight attendant, realizing this, addressed us in that tone of voice I reserve for when I am really annoyed with my children (every parent will know what I mean). "These announcements are for your benefit, not ours." Wow! May I have little oil with that vinegar? What next - listen because I said so?
Two thoughts immediately came to mind. First, I could not imagine the "traditional" airline that birthed this low fare subsidiary making such an announcement on its "mainline" flights. They wouldn't dare, but since we were low fare customers on their low fare offspring, it was somehow okay, they seemed to think, to treat us like children.
Second, I could not help comparing this experience to the humor I have so often witnessed our own Flight Attendants and other Customer-contact Employees choose in similar situations - honey as opposed to vinegar. I was suddenly very aware of how much our brand image is dependent less on our advertising, color scheme, or even fares than it is on how our Employees treat our Customers at the point of contact. I was at that moment quietly happy and proud to be an Employee of Southwest, where we offer fares low enough that you can afford them even if you are a child, but don't we don't treat you like one.
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