In ten+ years of air travel, I have exclusively flown Southwest Airlines with only one unavoidable exception, a butt-and-spine-numbing 16 hour flight to a remote island in Micronesia via Continental, which has an absolute monopoly on that part of paradise.
I am writing my first blog entry today (ever!) to share with readers a truly remarkable story about the extraordinary lengths to which SWA employees will go to assure complete customer satisfaction. I am still shaking my head in disbelief and astonishment, days later...
In early August, I flew SWA from Burbank to Denver for a personal business trip. During the first (uncrowded) leg of the flight into Las Vegas, I worked on some time-sensitive paperwork projects I'd brought along in a work file... writing out my monthly rent check, completing some pre-op medical forms for a pending surgery, organizing my business trip itinerary with maps and travel directions to lodging, reviewing my rental car confirmation printout, and finalizing some government forms. Before deplaning in Las Vegas, I packed away my work file of documents in the outside pouch of my carry-on luggage, ready to roll fast because the connecting flight schedule was tight , with just minutes to spare. I ran the length of the concourse to catch the connecting flight to Denver, and was the last passenger to board the flight before departure. The flight was packed, with just a few seats still available near the front. I'm kinda short and petite, so it was a physical challenge to hoist my carry-on luggage up into the overhead storage compartment on my tiptoes.
It was a quick flight into Denver with a bit of wind and turbulence mid-flight, but even so, SWA arrived right on the dot. Because the flight was full and everyone was in a hurry to deplane, it was a human traffic jam in the aisle, waiting for space to stand up so I could retrieve my carry-on case. The turbulence had caused some shifting and my case had wedged in at an angle; I had to stand on tiptoe and tugged really hard on it to haul it out of the overhead compartment.
After deplaning, I stepped into the mind-boggling futuristic world of Denver International (my first time ever to that part of the country) and I rode the lightning-fast underground shuttle to the last concourse. A quick walk outside, and I caught the next shuttle bus for the drive to the rental car mecca. (Wow, what an impressive, well-engineered airport!)
Standing in line at the Dollar Rental Car counter many miles from the airport, I reached into the outside pouch of my carry-on case to retrieve my work file with all my car rental confirmation papers, maps and directions. NO!!! The entire pouch was EMPTY! A quick-time movie played in my memory bank as I hit re-wind to review where my important papers could be, and I realized immediately that the entire file must have spilled out into the overhead compartment when I had tugged on it to dislodge it, and I was too short to see. My rent check! My pre-op surgery form! The maps and directions to my lodging and business destination! My government forms! And a brand new non-fiction book: "Tales of a Female Nomad." I called 1-800-IFLYSWA from Dollar and explained the problem and was connected to the Denver Baggage Claim department, then Lost & Found. My flight itinerary and a description of my lost items were quickly recorded on an electronic report and I was encouraged by the SWA representative to call every day or two while in the Denver area to check on it. She assured me the flight staff would be alerted, and if found, the items would be held for five days. There was hope that the lost may be found...
But as the days passed in Colorado and I continued to check in by phone, confusion reigned and hope faded. I learned that the flight from Burbank to Las Vegas had been checked instead of the flight from Vegas to Denver! I finished my business in Colorado and on the return trip to Burbank five days later, I gave a detailed report in person to one of the SWA reps at the Burbank Lost & Found counter. She was empathetic, but matter of fact; she braced me for the probability that flight attendants had most likely cleared the overhead compartments when the flight reached its final destination that night, and whatever had been left behind most likely would have been discarded by the maintenance and clean-up crew.
I made a few more calls to Lost & Found over the next couple weeks, but there was no change in status, so I resigned myself to the fact that this was a hard lesson to learn; from now on I'm going to have to secure my paperwork inside my carry-on, or make a point of asking someone tall to check the overhead bin for me. I had already put a stop payment order on my rent check, explained the situation to my landlady, and sent a replacement check.
Now here is the miracle, Folks...
Nearly five weeks had passed since the trip to Denver and one night after work, I unlocked my mailbox to find a big envelope from Southwest Airlines crammed in there. Inside, I found the ENTIRE CONTENTS of my work file ~ all the documents and paperwork that had been in the carry-on pouch, except for the rent check and the brand new book. I was stunned. What were the odds? There was also a cheery little note tucked in the package from Bettie & the crew in Lost & Found. What rare gems they are! I called all my friends the next day to tell everyone how amazing the staff is at SWA.
And the next day after that, another package arrived, with the missing book tucked inside and miracle of miracles, my landlady's rent check!
I would like to publicly thank all of the Southwest Airlines employees, in Burbank, Las Vegas, Denver, and Houston, in the air and on the ground, who each did their part in connecting the dots to fully retrieve a file that traveled halfway across the country and found its way back to me.
I love you, Southwest Airlines!!! You are the best, and you hire the best!
Bless you all,
Summer in Ventura
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