My husband and I chose to use Southwest to return home from our cruise on Friday, May 27 (Memorial Day Weekend). We booked a later flight (5:00 PM) as we were unsure how long it would take us to get through customs, to the airport and through security on the holiday weekend. We actually arrived at the airport quite early (10:00 AM).
We realized that we would have to wait quite a while for our flight, but nowhere in our ticketing paperwork was any mention of the company's policy of not allowing for luggage check in more than 4 hours before the flight. The first person we encountered at curbside check in informed us of this, but then directed us down to someone else who would be able to help us. Her idea of helping was to upgrade our flight to an earlier flight, at a cost of $46 per person. This was not an option, so she told us that we would have to wait until 1:00 PM. So, for the next 3 hours we had to wait in the small ticketing area since we could not get through security. The area had no food or shopping available and very few chairs. It felt like we were being treated as prisoners. Finally, around 1:00 we got back in line to check in. Imagine my ire that upon checking in (at the earliest possible time we supposedly could do so) we were placed in the second boarding group!
Once past security we found a customer service desk. It appears that the signage posted there is the epitome of their company's customer service philosophy; it basically said, no one is available please go find someone to help you. Well, we did. I found a supervisor and explained the situation. All we got was an apology, that there was limited space in their luggage area and that next time, we could actually get our boarding passes without checking in our luggage. This was not presented as an option when we attempted to check-in.
The supervisor also said that we could obtain boarding passes online and that was probably the reason why, although we checked in so early, we were in the second boarding group. Based on that logic, I would have expected every single person in the first boarding group to have a boarding pass printed on regular paper. Need I say that that was not the case. Furthermore, although their online check in is a convenience, it is not equally available to all of their customers (I.e. I was on a boat in the Pacific Ocean).
I would like to point out that we have flown other airlines in which checking in early has never been a problem. Also, the TSA itself suggests arriving at the airport early, especially on a holiday weekend. Who would have thought we would have been penalized by the airline for arriving early? Again, we had no problem with waiting for our flight; it was WHERE we had to wait and how we were treated. As I was told that this is a Southwest Airline policy and this is not the first time I have had issues with the company, I will definitely think twice before flying with them again. It will definitely be worth my spending more to be treated to good customer service rather than as a piece of cattle.
We have written a letter to Donna Conover - Executive Vice President Customer Operations.
We would have emailed, however, according to their site, "Call us traditional, but we elect to steer clear of the chat-style, respond-on-demand, quick casual format and focus on meaningful Customer dialogue. This is not because we don't care. It's because that style counters our commitment to Customer Service.
Our Customers deserve accurate, specific, personal, and professionally written answers, and it takes time to research, investigate, and compose a real business letter. We answer every letter we receive in the order it arrives, and we streamline in order to keep our costs low, our People productive, our operating efficiency high, and our responses warm and personal." Plus their customer relations department does not have a "1-800" number to use. Any call to them would be a long distance call that would appear ON MY BILL.