Nature or Nurture?

Consumerist blog: Southwest Nearly Lets Liver Transplant Patient Die Because He Wouldn't Buy 2nd Ticket.

Yes, you read that right.

Richard Brown nearly died on Sunday, January 21st, thanks to reckless indifference by a Southwest Airlines ticket agent.

A dying hep-C patient, Richard, secured an appointment at the Mayo Clinic. After getting turned down, he was referred to the University of San Francisco.

When he went to board in Scottsdale for California, the ticket agent refused to let Richard fly unless he bought another ticket, due to his weight.

The weight gain is due to water retention because of his failing liver. Richard lives on California Disability Pay and had no funds to pay for the extra ticket. The flight was not sold out.

The ticket agent didn't care when shown Richard's medical papers, saying, “each airport has their own rules and these are ours, no extra seat, no boarding.”

Richard, not having access to readily available funds, could not afford to purchase another seat. Indeed, various family members contributed the only spare change they had to give Richard a mere $300 for meals and incidentals. Again, the plea for help fell on deaf Southwest ears.

Richard contacted his mother via a collect call, who in turn immediately called Southwest's customer service, which turned out to be a myriad of transfers and wrong numbers. Customer service agent after customer service agent, each Southwest agent transferred Mrs. Diffey to a wrong number and refused to help, even once to the baggage department in Texas.

Until finally, an agent in Dallas named Becky offered to pay for the ticket herself.

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4 Responses to Nature or Nurture?

  1. Mojo says:

    Hooray for Becky!

  2. anon says:

    That’s actually really surprising (and a disappointment). In my experience with Southwest they have always been much more accomodating than any other airline, and their customer service reps seem to have much more authority than those at the legacy carriers to make exceptions to company policies. As this does prove, they do have some great people working for them.

  3. elliottg says:

    I have somewhere a copy of a check from Southwest Airlines for the $400 plus court costs that they made me pay for a reroute to Oakland airport for myself and my wife from the original destination (San Jose) which they had in the record. My 7 month old son’s flight was to Oakland and ticketed correctly. They didn’t seem to think it unusual that my 7 month old son was flying to a different airport than his parent’s and insisted that they were right. The computer records showed that a change was made 3 hours after I hung up the phone with the sales agent. No apology was ever received, but the check is pretty sweet as well as the correspondence with the company lawyer who laughably threatened to appeal the ruling to Superior Court (I so wanted that to happen).

  4. Another View says:

    There are a lot of things about this story that don’t “ring true.”

    First, it sounds as if the man was traveling alone and under his own power, so “nearly died on Sunday” if almost certainly an over dramatization of the situation.

    Second, Southwest has a whole department that is dedicated to Civic and Charitable Contributions, and one iof their duties is to process and facilitate requests for free travel for “medical needs.” Does this sound like the same airline being characterized in the above copy and paste “blog entry.”

    Third, Southwest’s Customer Service system and process is very simple. The odds of being passed around as described is extremely low.

    I would suggest that we don’t really know “the facts,” or at least both sides of the story, yet, and the near hysteria some voice is definitely premature and possibly completey unwarranted.

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