Southwest Airlines is accused of kicking passenger off a flight because of a tweet (Photo: Thinkstock)
We’ve heard of people getting kicked off planes for continuing to tweet after they were told to turn their portable devices off. But someone getting kicked off a plane for something he tweeted back in the airport is a new one.
That happened to a Minnesota man, who says he and his family got pulled off a Southwest Airlines flight because of a complaint he posted on Twitter.
On Sunday, Duff Watson was waiting for a Southwest Airlines flight in Denver when he got into a dispute with a gate agent. As a passenger in Southwest’s A-List program, Watson is entitled to priority boarding, but he claims the gate agent wouldn’t let him board with his 6-year-old and 9-year-old (who presumably are not A-List passengers). Watson tells CBS Minnesota that he lost that argument and had to continue waiting at the gate, where he tweeted, “Wow, rudest agent in Denver… not happy.” His tweet also included the gate agent’s first name and last initial.
Soon after they boarded, Watson says he was asked to leave the plane because the gate agent felt threatened because of his tweet. He says he wasn’t allowed to reboard until he deleted it.
Compared to how badly people sometimes freak out at airport gates, Watson says his confrontation was relatively mild (Photo: Thinkstock)
Watson tells CBS Minnesota the whole incident humiliated him and scared his kids. ”There was no use of profanity, there were no threats made,” he says of his in-gate confrontation. “There was nothing other than, you know, a terse exchange between a customer service agent and a customer.”
Perhaps most surprising about Southwest’s draconian response to Watson’s tweet: the fact that they responded to it at all. Yahoo Travel recently conducted an experiment where we tested the Twitter response times of major airlines by sending them all the same customer service query. The winning airline was Alaska Airlines, which got back to us in one minute. The losing airline was… Southwest, whose response time so far is six weeks and counting.
From a PR standpoint, Southwest — which recently failed Yahoo Travel’s Airline Twitter Challenge — might have been better off responding to our tweet than Watson’s.
As far as Watson goes, Southwest admits some kind of incident occurred. In an email, the airline tells Yahoo Travel: “On Sunday, July 20, a Customer was removed for a short time from flight #2347 from Denver to Minneapolis. He later continued on flight #2347 to Minneapolis. The incident is currently under review.” Watson says he got an apology and $50 vouchers for him and his kids. They’ll likely go unused, however, because Watson says he’ll never fly Southwest again.
Complaining on Twitter is a common, and often effective, tactic for savvy travelers. But is getting kicked off a flight because of a tweet a little extreme? Or do you think the gate agent named in the tweet had a legitimate gripe? Let us know in comments.