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I am no stranger to complaining (My complaint letter to Holiday Inn Express), but I do also like to take the time to share positive customer service stories as well (see: Thanks Hyatt for cleaning vomit out of my car!) I had another great story with a Southwest Airlines employee who I really felt like went above and beyond in helping my daughter and I get back home for Thanksgiving dinner.
I wrote a little bit about it when I covered the Southwest standby policy, but my daughter and I were in Chicago as her marching band marched in the Chicago Thanksgiving Day parade. There were 2 applicable flights to get back from Midway to Cincinnati – one at 1:15 p.m. and a later flight at 3:50 p.m.
The parade goes from 9-11 a.m. but I wasn’t quite sure where their band would be in the lineup, or how long it would take to pick her up after the parade, or how long it would take to deal with parade traffic to get back to the airport. Because of the uncertainty, I booked the later flight, hoping I could talk my way into the earlier flight if everything went well.
Trying to get home for Thanksgiving dinner
As it turned out, everything went well – the band was in the middle of the parade, pickup was easy and we took the Orange Line train to Midway so had no issues with traffic. We were heading to Midway by 11 a.m. Our family was planning on Thanksgiving dinner around 5 p.m., so I knew that getting on that earlier flight would be the difference between being home for Thanksgiving dinner and missing it.
First I called the Southwest Airlines standby phone number, which is just their regular customer service phone number (1-800-IFLYSWA). The agent quoted the Southwest standby policy and would not budge. I just hung up, figuring I’d have better luck at the airport
At the airport, first I tried the Southwest ticket counter. The rep that I spoke to was sympathetic (it WAS Thanksgiving Day after all!) when I explained that I wanted to do a Southwest standby to an earlier flight, but said the last time he tried to circumvent the Southwest Airlines standby policy, he got in trouble. He did speak to his boss, who “stood by” the stand policy (pun TOTALLY intended).
So then I tried the gate agent. When I explained again that I wanted to fly standby on Southwest, they again quoted me the policy and asked me for my 24,000 additional points. I asked to speak to a manager, who was again very sympathetic, but said that there was nothing he could do.
Running out of options, I called the Southwest Airlines standby phone number again, and after getting denied to fly standby on Southwest Airlines (again), asked to speak to a manager. The first customer service representative said “Well you can talk to someone but they’re just going to tell you the same thing”.
Thankfully, that turned out not to be the case! The manager on the phone introduced herself by name, and asked what she could do to help. I once again explained the situation, trying to conjure up Del Griffith.
And…. she actually said she could HELP! She said that she would be happy to make that happen, but because the flight was now less than an hour from departure, she had to get authorization from the manager at the gate. I looked for the nice manager I spoke to earlier (he was wearing a fluorescent yellow vest!) but he was nowhere to be found. I went back up to the gate and was trying to explain the situation to the gate agents when…. the call dropped!
So at this point we were at around 12:30 p.m. for a 1:15 p.m. departure. I got back on the phone with Southwest where I was greeted with an announcement of a 13 minute hold time :-(. I tried to see if the gate agents would authorize it with the name of the customer service agent I had talked to, but they would not do it. They said they needed someone to authorize the standby.
So… we waited. But then while I was still on hold, I got an incoming call from Southwest! It was the same agent I had talked to before! She explained that she wasn’t sure what had happened but then had gotten another call so couldn’t get right back to me. I was just glad that she took the initiative to call me back, since even with her name I wasn’t sure how it was going to work to get back to her.
It still took a bit of explaining and coordinating between the gate agent at the airport and the customer service rep on the phone, but at the end of it all, they handed me 2 boarding passes. By that time they were already boarding so we essentially walked right on to the plane at that point.
Thanksgiving Dinner…. SAVED!
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