Here is Lee’s rant after flying on Southwest (which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol LUV) for the first time since the airline took over AirTran service at our home airport in Wichita, Kan.
You know the friend we all have who always says he will be there to pick you up at a certain time and it never fails: you get the ride but you are always late? Well my new friend who just moved into the neighborhood, Southwest Airlines, has become that guy.
Yes, Southwest Airlines drives a little more expensive vehicle than my friend’s Ford Festiva but the concept is the same. If you set a schedule to pick me up at a certain time, I expect you to be there. Yes, every now and then things pop up … but when it happens every time you ask for a lift!?! I doubt SW (I spent a lot of time with him recently so I can call him that) has much else to do and I know he has more than one plane.
Maybe SW was distracted as he is getting a lot of comments on his Facebook page and has a lot of Twitter followers to keep up with. SW also just hooked up with AirTran, so I know how it goes when you start a new relationship and you forget about your old friends who have always been there for you. Maybe the merger with AirTran is like a high-maintenance relationship and has become a drag on my boy SW.
The main point of my rant is this: if your only job is to transport people from Point A to Point B safely, learn how to run an on-time business and learn how to communicate with your passengers.
This weekend I was indoctrinated into the possibility of travel by rail while visiting the East Coast and I loved how quick and easy it is. With Amtrak, we were able to show up minutes before the scheduled departure, we left on time and we got to our destination on time. There were no security lines to go through, my bags weren’t scrutinized and I didn’t have to pour out any liquids (next time a 7-Eleven grape slurpee will be riding shotgun with me). We boarded quickly and Amtrak even cared enough to let me use their power outlets and free wi-fi on my ride. The only interruption was a quick ticket check. Otherwise, I was allowed to focus on the scenery while listening to the Beastie Boys on my mp3 player.
Clearly this post is jaded by the fact that I’m writing this while sitting in the Chicago Midway airport waiting on our fourth straight flight that has been delayed. On our way to our vacation we got stuck in Cleveland for three hours; on our way home we were in Chicago for an extra four hours and didn’t land in Wichita until about 1:30 a.m.
Does this mean I’m going to abandon air travel? While I wish I could travel more often by train, it’s not really feasible while living in the middle of the United States and having a limited amount of vacation days.
Maybe SW can get above the dreaded Mendoza line before the end of the year (for those non-baseball followers that is getting it right at 2 out of every 10 times, not exactly high expectations on my part).
But if SW can’t figure out how to show up on time, he will be on the list. I think every person I know has a list and I encourage lists as a good way to stop supporting companies that clearly don’t value customer service. Each leg of this trip was a hassle and I was left feeling like SW kicked me around and disregarded me even though I was a paying customer. If I pay you to do something, I expect it to get done and most of all, on time.