So, Southwest lost my luggage. Actually, I believe they got lazy with my luggage. My flight into Love Field arrived a few minutes before midnight and we all trudged through the old section of the terminal to get to the makeshift baggage claim where we all waited for our bags.
Until several of us discovered our bags weren’t there. Curiously, it appeared that among us, most missing bags had come from the East Coast.
There was a section of baggage being supervised by SWA staff between the two makeshift baggage claims. I went over there to check on the location of my bag because I thought there might be a chance my bag went ahead of me. You see, when I got to St. Louis that night, I noticed that an earlier flight to Dallas (Flight 110) was leaving late and I wondered if the bright purple transfer tag with DAL on it wouldn’t have caused my bag to transfer quicker than myself.
But when I handed my claim ticket over and asked the staffer to check around for my bag, I got “You need to go to the office and file a claim. That bag ain’t here.”
I was fascinated by the fact that she knew this despite there being 100 bags give or take in the area. This woman had all the bag claim checks memorized for those bags.
Next I went to the bag claim office and when it was my turn, I was asked what they could do for me. Again, I handed over my claim ticket and asked that they find my bag. This staffer, without saying anything else just started typing. Then she asked for my driver’s license. Now, I’m kind of weird about handing over stuff just because someone asks for it. Particularly identification and credit cards.
“Why do you need my license?” I asked.
“Do you want us to find your bags?” She responded harshly.
So, I don’t do snippy very well when I am overtired and I have been patient for the day. I explained (firmly) to the staffer that I did want my bags found and that my question as to her purpose for my driver’s license was not inappropriate whatsoever. She responded that she wanted to get my information for getting the bag back to me in slightly less snippy tones and I gave it to her.
Then I asked: ”So, is my bag lost?”
She looked at me blankly and I repeated: ”Is my bag lost? Does Southwest not know the location of my bag?”
“Yes, it’s lost”, she replied.
“Then tell me it’s lost before acting as if I should just blindly follow your lead. It would also be nice to hear an apology for misplacing it.” I stated.
“Do you even want me to find your bag sir?” said the staffer.
I really don’t do snippy well when your company has lost my bag and then behaves as if I am the inconvenience. That’s when I asked for her supervisor. Her supervisor sent her to get a can of water and curiously 2 police officers showed up. As soon as they did, I hit “record” on my iPhone.
Before any of you attempt to lecture me on privacy laws, recording that conversation is absolutely legal in the state of Texas and most anywhere else. It’s a public conversation. However, Texas also has one party consent. It was legal so don’t send me messages about this.
The agent finished her work on getting my info, printed a one page form and then kind of blew me off. At this point, it’s worth explaining something: I was not upset in the least about my bag having got lost. Well, maybe a tiny bit but not really much at all. Bags get lost. In almost all situations, they are returned in a very timely manner. There was nothing in mine that was essential or valuable. I was highly confident that it would be found early the next day at the worst.
But I do not like to be treated as an inconvenience when an airline has made the mistake. There is a culture among airlines that has them pushing off the problems created by the airline onto customers. I don’t buy into that and I very much do hold the airline responsible for its part. They are getting paid hundreds of dollars for a service. Airlines have a particularly bad habit of turning lost baggage customers into ugly stepchildren in the process.
I was really not worried about this issue at first because it was, after all, Southwest Airlines. A business that is, first and foremost, customer centered.
Except when they lose a bag these days. In that case, they are a defensive legacy airline acting hostile towards its customer.
I waited to speak to the agent’s supervisor and I explained that I was disappointed about how I was treated but that I was not particularly concerned about the bag. I told her that it is very important to simply say “We lost your bag and we’re very sorry about that. We will do all that we can to reunite it with you as soon as possible.”
They say the first step to fixing things is admitting you have a problem.
In the supervisor’s case, she wasn’t quite ready to admit a problem. I find it disappointing that at the end of a long day, my chosen airline had staff acting like American Airlines instead of Southwest. It does point to a trend I’ve seen with Southwest over the past 2 years and I do wonder if Southwest is losing its customer-centric culture.
Now, I did get a phone call at 8:10am the next morning from Southwest saying they had my bag in Dallas and offering to deliver it immediately or in the evening. That person was acting like she was all over the problem and very motivated to make something happen. And she did. My bag was delivered that night by 9pm by my choice and I was plenty happy.
My bag did not even get on my plane in Newark. I find that particularly sad since I arrived at the Newark airport about 90 minutes before my scheduled departure and checked it at the curb when I arrived at the airport. Southwest had about 85 minutes to get that bag on the aircraft and by all appearances, they may not have even tried hard.
Instead, they sent it on a late night flight from Newark to New Orleans. The bag was then transferred to an extremely early flight from New Orleans to Dallas arriving at 7:25am the next morning. Clearly someone had thought this through in terms of routing. This was a “least impact” route.
I strongly suspect that some bags were kept off my airplane for weight purposes. After all, it was a 737-700 with 143 seats that were crammed full with a full complement of overhead luggage and a full complement of checked bags. If so, double shame on Southwest. If not, then Southwest was just lazy.
Some time ago, American Airlines used to weight restrict its flights from Chicago to Dallas and vice versa on their MD-80′s. If you flew from Chicago to Dallas mid-day, your luggage didn’t show up with you quite often. It came about 4 or 5 flights later on a flight that wasn’t full. American Airlines did this because their aircraft were weight restricted with the heat and full loads of fuel required.
I hated that behavior then and I would hate it now. But I will never know for sure what happened. That’s OK.
As for Southwest . . . well, if they were to challenge my account of my interaction with their agents, I would welcome them to come over to my home and listen to my recording. It would save them from a very embarrassing moment. It would not be wise to issue some announcement saying the had investigated and the passenger was treated appropriately. Calling those cops over was overkill and certainly not due to me yelling or screaming. I did neither. The police officers were curious about SWA’s behavior too. They were in a good mood and one of them followed me out to the curb where I waited for a parking van to pick me up. We had a short and pleasant conversation. He was genuinely curious to know what had SWA so worked up. That makes me wonder why the baggage agents were so afraid.
Was it because they had done this to way too many people already that day and they knew that many were very angry over missing bags?
That recording will stay private unless necessary to refute the airline.
It was not a happy experience that night at Love Field. It wasn’t exactly a one-off experience. It didn’t feel like a one-off experience because I did not encounter one cranky agent. I encountered 4 of them. It used to be that if an agent did such a thing at Southwest, the other agents would pull them aside and tell them to get it together. That definitely didn’t happen that night.
Would I recommend against checking your bags now? Nope. I think you are a fool if you’re carrying luggage onboard with you. If you want to be a fool, go be a fool. But in over 3 million miles flown, that was just the 2nd time I’ve had a bag misplaced. Both times the bags were located and effectively in the right city in 8 hours or less.
Would I recommend against Southwest? Nope. But they go on the watchlist now.
I would point out to Southwest one very important thing: They were not the cheap flight when I booked that trip. United Airlines was the cheaper flight and it was non-stop. But I chose Southwest for the superior customer service experience. A few more incidents like that and it won’t make sense to book Southwest. I can move on to another airline or just go with the cheapest. If I’m going to be abused, I may as well be saving money while I’m being abused.