Southwest Airlines: Surprising & Delighting Since 1967
It’s rare to hear the words “great customer service” and “airline” in the same sentence. Often, it’s the complete opposite. Travel is affected by so many factors that are out of anyone’s control: weather, delays at the airport, mechanical issues, and weather (again) that it can leave any happy-go-lucky-customer frustrated when things don’t go as planned. However, even though every airline deals with these same constraints, a handful of airlines still consistently receive high customer service ratings because of their reactions to unforeseen delays or interruptions in regularly scheduled service. Today, we’re going to examine one airline in particular: Southwest Airlines.
Long-lauded for their dedication to engaged (and happy) employees and customer service, Southwest Airlines has a dedicated customer base. Those that fly regularly often know their gate agent or flight attendant by name (as well as the names of their spouse, children or pet), and vice versa. As opposed to hiring for experience only, Southwest Airlines makes a practice of hiring for attitude and training for skill. A hairdresser with the right customer service attitude and sense of humor will often beat out an apathetic flight attendant with 20 years of experience for the same job.
Here are a few examples of how Southwest Airlines surprises and delights its customers every day – especially in the face of delays and other perils of traveling:
- Ordering (and paying for) pizzas for all Southwest passengers when they had to be delayed at a small regional airport during a storm.
- Surprising passengers who make concessions for other customers (moving seats so that a mother and child can sit together, for example) with vouchers for their next flight.
- Helping a male passenger propose to his girlfriend by teaching him how to use the intercom, and also comping a bottle of champagne for an in-flight celebration.
- Reserving seats in the front of coach class for passengers who were randomly selected for additional security screenings at the gate. (Southwest allows all passengers to board in any order, and often the only seats “left” at the end of the line are middle seats or all the way in the back)
- Playing silly games at the gate when delayed – offering a $25 voucher off their next flight to the passenger with the biggest hole in their sock.
- Encouraging passengers to sing happy birthday to a distressed 4 year old, and asking all passengers to turn on their flight attendant call buttons so that “the airplane was lit up like a birthday cake.”
- Rapping the safety announcement to shake things up and engage the passengers. Sure to put everyone in a light-hearted mood!
Examples like this are part of the reason why Southwest Airlines has such a loyal customer base. In addition to doing everything else “right” (low fares, efficient baggage handling, basic in-flight accommodations) they go above and beyond to remind their customers that they care.
Have you ever flown Southwest Airlines or another carrier that left you feeling cared for? Share your experiences with us in the comment sections below!