[Disclaimer: This may seem like an ad for Southwest Airlines. It is not. It is a story of how marketing can actually reflect what is true – at least in my experience of this airline.]
I fly Southwest. Two free bags. Enough said.
Still, let me tell you about customer service like I’ve never received from any other airline. On their website, you can actually engage a screen that tells you which days are cheaper to fly. So much easier than re-typing alternate flight days on the booking page. Even after 20 years of frequent flying, I still stall out at check-in kiosks. The Southwest staff just seem to know right when to intervene and do it with graciousness.
Two free bags.
Open-seating is really a nice option. The check-in process at the gate is consummately fair. Onboard, the pilots and flight attendants act like real people (not like rigid, uniformed Ken and Barbie dolls). [Side-note: These folks in all airlines have very hard jobs and deal with all sorts of unpleasant people and situations. Still.] The Southwest personnel give all the FAA-required emergency information, but they do it in such an upbeat, people-friendly way that I actually listen. Sometimes, they are even funny. Just such a nice touch to relax weary travelers. On most flights, we are offered a choice of pretzels OR peanuts with our beverage. We get to decide.
Two free bags.
The best side of Southwest Airlines after the getting us safely from Airport A to Airport B is their personalized customer service. There are lots of stories of grateful customers in their onboard magazine and on various websites. I want to tell my story here.
Trips back and forth from Richmond to Atlanta are a regular part of my life because my dad lives outside Atlanta. He has Alzheimer’s. Our visits are still very sweet, and so far, he still knows me. Although he doesn’t remember now how often I come, when I was there last, or what we do, I make those trips as often as possible. As much for me as for him, perhaps.
A few months back, I was sitting in Concourse C of the Atlanta Airport, waiting for my flight back to Richmond. The next time I would come to Georgia, Dad would be in a Memory Care Unit. This was on my mind, as I ate supper out of a box from The Varsity. Then someone spoke to me. That someone was a beautiful young woman named Candice Hewitt. She was a Southwest customer service representative on hospitality duty at my gate.
We talked a long time, as if I was the only customer there. We talked about my dad. She listened…and listened…and listened. I knew she had other responsibilities and people to visit, so finally I “released” her. She reflected about how all kinds of people go through airports with happy destinations and sad. It’s not always vacation or weddings or successful business. She expressed that she was glad for our talk and that she would try to see me again at a gate visit during my travels.
We exchanged phone numbers. Believe it or not, Candice has been in touch regularly. Mostly we text. She checks in, just to say hello. I give her updates about Dad. We haven’t managed another gate visit, but that doesn’t really matter. When Southwest calls itself “the airline with heart”, Candice is who comes to mind. She is the heart of Southwest Airlines to me – the heart with skin on it.
I’ve flown a lot of airlines and had mostly positive experiences with them. Southwest’s culture intrigues me. I want to close with their purpose and culture statements (see below – from their website). The “Two Free Bags” policy is what drew me away from my previously preferred airlines. Many times, I don’t need to check bags. It’s then that Southwest’s Customer Service holds my loyalty. The elements of that service is communicated below, and the essence of it is pictured here, in Candice.
Southwest Purpose: Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable, low-cost air travel.*
Live the Southwest Way**
- Work Hard
- Desire to be the best
- Be courageous
- Display urgency
- Follow The Golden Rule
- Adhere to the Principles
- Treat others with respect
- Put others first
- Be egalitarian
- Demonstrate proactive Customer Service
- Embrace the SWA Family
- Have FUN
- Don’t take yourself too seriously
- Maintain perspective
- Celebrate successes
- Enjoy your work
- Be a passionate Teamplayer
Work the Southwest Way
- Safety and Reliability
- Friendly Customer Service
- Low Cost
Customers of Size Policy – so gentle and respectful of all – just an example of the consideration of this airlines to what could be awkward for some of their valued fliers.