Skip to main content

Southwest Airlines Community

Customers with Disabilities Speak Out: Their Reviews are Great!

Southwest Airlines is proud to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).  In addition to recognizing the abilities of all of our Employees, we asked some of our Customers and Employees to share their personal experiences with Southwest Airlines.  The first story is guest-authored by Alex Montoya, Manager of Latino Affairs for the San Diego Padres, while the next comes to us from Connie Roberts, professional blogger, advocate, and review writer. The Straw that Stirs alexAs a person with a disability—I wear prosthetics on both arms and my right leg due to being born a triple amputee—I am used to extra challenges.  This is especially true when flying. Bags aren't very easy to carry.  Airports seem especially long and cavernous.  And security checkpoints can be rather intrusive. (If you're going to wave your wand there, at least buy me dinner first.) So even the smallest conveniences, benefits, or surprises are actually quite huge for people like me. Preboarding is a Godsend, particularly since I can pick a seat with good legroom and get assistance with my carryon. Also, I usually will ask that my (scrumptious) honey roasted peanuts be placed in an empty plastic cup—makes them easier to consume because I can just grab the cup lid instead of each individual nut.  And, without fail, a Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant will cheerfully provide the cup and maybe an extra bag of deliciousness. But one thing I've always known and accepted is that most airline flights do not provide straws.   They're considered a security risk, I was once told in the 80s, when I was younger, thinner, and had really big hair. So, for much of my life, on Southwest flights from Southern California to South Bend, from nirvana (San Diego) to New York, I've accepted this like taxes and Sylvester Stallone movies:  Just in case. Be prepared, and bring my own straws. What if not every flight had them?  Or what if they run out? Then my life changed on October 3, 2013.   I preboarded and eased into my window seat, preparing for a wonderful weekend in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas.  My Notre Dame Fighting Irish were playing Arizona State University in neutral-site Arlington, and the Passenger next to me was way too eager to engage in a trivia battle. As I prepared for this battle of wits, I also knew my soda was coming.  The usual order was taking place.  Bags of peanuts.  Empty cup.  And here comes the beverage, so I'll just reach into my pocket for my str-- ... "Oh don't worry, Alex," said the Attendant, who remembered my name from when I boarded.  "We got this. We've had straws on flights for a while now." Angels sang.  Clouds lifted.  The lady next to me shut up.  SWA, lest there were any doubts, had straws.   And one was going in my cup of Coke on a bed of crushed ice.  I was stunned.  I was speechless.  Seriously, I was really, really happy.  It made it much, much easier to consume my soda.  No spillage.  No straining my neck to reach my cup. I love Southwest.  In a “straw” poll, they win every time. Alex  Montoya is the Manager of Latino Affairs for the San Diego Padres.  He is the author of two books via Tate Publishing, "Swinging for the Fences" and "The Finish Line."   Both are available on Southwest Airlines Treats People with Disabilities Well Connie RobertsBesides airports and airport screenings, how does an airline treat people with disabilities?  Recently, I flew with Southwest Airlines and was surprised at their Customer Service from the staff at the checkin counter, to the Gate Agent and the Flight Attendants. Remember that with Southwest there are no assigned seats. But, when reserving my flight, I ticked a box that said I needed assistance getting to and from the gate.  My boarding pass had an “A” on it which meant I was one of the first to board, but more information was needed at the gate. At the airport, either at the curbside or Southwest counter, I reminded them of my need for a wheelchair.  Within minutes, one appeared.  I was scooted off to the gate where the Agent was told I required a blue preboarding sleeve for my ticket.  Besides preboarding, a wheelchair aide appeared as if I had rubbed a genie’s lamp.  While being pushed down the ramp to the plane, chatter filled the air—from other Passengers and aides. Then the most astonishing thing happened—the aide passed my carryon bag to the Flight Attendant who helped me load it in the overhead compartment.  Since I have trouble lifting my arms, I was so grateful.  Having the choice of any seat helped me as well.  Since it is difficult to walk long distances, sitting toward the front of the plane is the best area for me.  And it is close the front restroom.  My flight wasn’t a nonstop, so bringing healthy snacks helped me throughout the day. I was glad that there were no issues with waiting for a wheelchair when I left the plane.  This, by far was one of the best airline experiences I’ve had. Connie Roberts writes as Disabled TravelingMom and edits the product reviews for  She is a professional blogger who uses her words to advocate for others.  As someone with multiple chronic illnesses and a daughter with chronic medical conditions, her goal on is to support and encourage people with disabilities to travel.