Congrats on this!
It's doubtful you remember me, but I wondered if you would be willing to assist me with an issue - you were so kind to me last year during the whole ATA debacle. I was the one who had scrimped and saved and booked 5 roundtrip flights to Hawii and was a sad girl. I had plenty to say back then and you were great in helping me. You were even going to find Karen (in the Customer Service area) and commend her.
Well, I need you help now with an issue I am having with my vouchers. I just wanted to see if you would be so kind as to intercede or direct me to someone who would. I searched through my email contacts for your address, but I have purged it since last summer. Would you be so kind as to help me now?
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I appreciate your comment. Same for Bob...and Bill. I am not a cold, callous person, and never have been accused of being so - - in fact, I have never uttered one rude word or launched a personal attack against a Southwest Employee in the decades that I have flown the airline. Yes, I said decades. My first 'real' Southwest flight was when I was in diapers. For those of your scoring at home...I am 32 years of age. According to my mom, I got my 'Southwest Wings' while still in utero. As a wee child traveling alone, I was buckled into my seat by caring, compassionate flight attendants and walked off the plane to greet relatives while my hand was held by one of your staff. 'Flight' has always been synonymous with 'Southwest' to me.
I have flown the skies between Dallas and Houston, Midland and Dallas, Dallas and San Antonio, Dallas and Harlingen, Dallas and Corpus Christi, Midland to Houston, Midland to Las Vegas...the list goes on and on and on. I can safely say that I have flown to/from just about Texas destination you serve....and a few outside of this great state.
Why? Because Southwest was raised 'right'...the same way I was raised. I gave my hard-earned money to your airline above all others...because I believed in your principles and the way you treated me. I can't begin to tell the stories of the flights I have been on....winning bottles of champagne in a 'trivia contest' on the way back from Vegas (thanks to some quickly formed alliances with fellow passengers)...being serenaded by quirky attendants and even singing in return...conspiring with fellow passengers to write hilarious messages to the pilots on cocktail napkins ( the flight attendants were also co-conspirators) one night during a HORRIFIC storm (Dear Captain, Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down, please. Love, the nauseous passengers in the back).
I have almost 30 years of memories of flying Southwest. (I would say MORE than 30 years of memories...but the time between gestating and about...oh, age four are a little bit hazy.)
That's probably why I am most heartbroken. Because this was the first time I ever felt like a 'confirmation number'. The first time I ever felt like a fare. The first time I ever felt like a bottom-line decision.
I don't blame Bill...I don't blame Bob...I don't blame Cassie. You do your jobs...you do it well. Sadly, somewhere...someone took a look at the numbers and made a decision. A decision that YOU have to live with...that you have to explain, defend, spin....however you want to take it. No, you're not happy. I'm not happy. And, according to what we have been told...the (former) holders of those 20,000 flights aren't happy, either.
No, it's not fair. It's not fair that it happened...or that we were told one thing...then saw another thing occur. It's not fair that you have to defend Southwest...a company you love so much that you have committed to sharing the 'spirit' every day as a part of your career.
Even in my disappointment, I understand. It doesn't make it hurt any less...but I understand. Does that mean I will fly Southwest again myself? I don't know. It will take a lot to win back decades of my loyalty...if it does occur. That doesn't mean I HATE Southwest. I just don't TRUST them any longer. It's been said more than once in these comments that the true complaint is that a number of people held off on trying to rebook because of the assurances from Southwest. If they had been booked on any other carrier...they wouldn't have taken that carrier's word for it. I know that if any OTHER airline had made the same assurances, I would have been borrowing money, raiding my 401k or knocking down a convenience store or two to book elsewhere. (Okay, maybe I am kidding about the 401k.)
But, Southwest's word meant something to all of us. And here's a lesson for 'next time'. Say "We don't know." Admit that you aren't SURE if you can accomodate everyone, but that you are working 'round the clock to do so. Say that you have every intention of making it right for the travelers, but that you cannot offer any guarantee or assurance...and allow them to cancel and offer timely refunds. (Another passenger on the same ill-fated flight to Hawaii was told that if he hadn't called in to actually cancel his flight for a refund that it would be approximately 60 days before Southwest returned his money. Whether that's accurate or not...that is what he was told when calling.)
Take a cue from Karen, the absolutely WONDERFUL woman I spoke to on Thursday, April 10, 2008. I read the email notifying all of us of the cancelations...and I called her to simply get more information. She was the epitome of 'professionalism'. Extremely kind, understanding...everything I could want in a customer service capacity from Southwest. She was VERY upfront and communicative. No 'spin'. She admitted that she had just gotten the cancelation information, and even asked for a moment a couple of times during our conversation so that she could review the pertinent information before answering specific questions. AND....when there was a SHRED of doubt...that lovely lady uttered the most HONEST and beautiful words on earth, "I don't know." She was honest with me...not knowing if I would accept the honesty or would turn into a vicious harpy once I heard those words. (See above, never uttered rude word or personally attacked a Southwest employee).
Karen gave it to me straight, even at the risk of upsetting me (or the countless OTHER individuals she had to deal with that day). I hope that SOMEONE at Southwest lets her know that she is the ONLY reason that I would EVER consider returning to the airline..if I do. So, Bill....do me a favor. Pass this along to Karen. Find her. I don't have her last name...but I talked to her on Thursday, April 10, 2008...sometime between 1pm and 3pm. (I'm sorry I can't remember the exact time, I was too busy wiping away tears of absolute frustration to check the clock.) All I know was that this 'Karen' was working her last scheduled day of the week (according to her comment that this was her 'Friday')...and that she was the most transparent, honest and most believable part of this whole nightmare....not for what she told me...but for what she admitted she COULDN'T tell me....because she did not know. On top of that, she was kind, arranged to cancel my bookings for me..ensure the Rapid Reward credits were returned to my friends' accounts, made sure I got the email cancelation of the flights. She was the one silver lining in the dark cloud that descended that day. I want her to know how much I appreciated her. (I would be grateful if you did this, I am an HR Manager here in Dallas....I believe in recognizing employees for doing the 'right' thing...even when they risk a negative reaction. It's especially important in Karen's case...as she most likely dealt with furious individuals all day and would otherwise never realize that her kindness to me made a difference.) And, my personal recommendation would be to give her a nice bonus. Equal to what I've spent over the last 24 months in flight at Southwest. Like I said, Karen is the only reason I would ever consider coming back to the airline. THAT woman is the 'spirit' of Southwest.
As an aside...I am still going to Hawaii...only because of my duty to the bride. A friend booked me today on American using his AA miles (since I am still waiting for my refund from Southwest) and I am going to reimburse him. What's the over/under on those flights? Should I start praying now? :)
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I'm one of those 'fly Southwest everywhere' girls - because my employer utilizes them exclusively.
I am a bridesmaid in a wedding in Hawai'i in July, and decided to turn that honor into a 'gift' to my family...a 'healing' time for us to bond after the unexpected death of my father a few months ago.
I booked FIVE roundtrip tickets for my mom, sis, grandmother and friend to Hawaii for 7/9 - 7/14. I was very blessed - between myself and two friends, I was able to come up with three RR vouchers and that took care of three of the tickets TO Hawaii...but, the rest was my very hard-earned, 'scrimp and save' money...money I set aside diligently every single month.
I had a moment of anxiety when I read of ATA's bankruptcy, but was reassured by the emails I received from Southwest. Surely, you would accomodate us...you had never failed me before.
Until today. When I got the email telling us our flights were to be canceled, I will be honest. I broke down completely. My 'gift' to my family is no longer an option. Not only can noone tell me WHEN I will be refunded for the amounts charged to my credit card...those funds won't even be sufficient enough to purchase TWO roundtrip tickets on another airline....and that's IF I get a refund in a timely manner. As it is, I am watching other airlines and am terrified that getting there myself is going to be a struggle, much less trying to accomodate the others in my party. That dream, I am afraid, went up in smoke the moment that ATA filed bankruptcy.
Do you know what stings even more, Bill? I purchased all of our airfare the moment Southwest opened up the bookings for those dates...way back in January. As Ernie O'Bryan pointed out - -
"This seems a shame because although we have been booked since January, I know that a person who scheduled a flight
at the last minute in March and planned to leave before May 3 would be able to jump ahead of the rest of us and have his tickets intact."
I agree with Ernie....in this case, our careful planning actually hurt us. Is that the message you want to send to your faithful contingent?
Yes, I appreciate the fact you're handing out travel vouchers for our 'inconvenience'...but those vouchers won't get me, my mother, sister, grandmother and friend to Hawai'i in July.
Bill, I am glad you didn't have to hear my mother sob on the other end of the phone when I broke the news of the cancelations. This is a trip she has been looking forward to since shortly after my father's death. It's been a bright point, one of the few positive things we have been able to do -- and the gist of the email today just frustrated me to no end. Basically, it came across as "we can't help all of you, so we aren't going to help any of you". I know that my assessment is harsh...but, so is the reality. I planned, I saved, I booked early...and I am left with few options and a MUCH higher financial burden...one that I am sure I can't overcome in the time remaining.
I wish Southwest had taken into consideration those of us who booked early and are thus already financially tied to you. You have held my money since January...that's money that could have been used to purchase fares from another carrier by now. I know you have no control over ATA's financial downfall....but, Southwest has had control of my money and control of our (now) non-existent trip.
I'll be honest - I don't know that I want to give Southwest another chance. Yes, I will now have quite a bit of voucher credit coming...but it is voucher credit from a company that told me today that my hard work, planning and faithfulness to this airline doesn't warrant them 'making it right' for me and my family.
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