Over this past weekend, I found myself watching Airline (reality show featuring Southwest Airline employees) once again. If you like to watch people and how they react to difficult situations, or how they blow up small conflicts into big ones, this show is for you. When you have stubborn customers who are quite demanding going against some power hungry employees, it will make for some great television.
Just about two years ago I commented on how I would most likely never fly Southwest Airlines ever. Ever. Just because of the way they treat their customers and the alcohol policy. If you have just one drink before boarding the plane, Southwest attendants can deny you entry to their planes if they smell the alcohol on you. They are allowed to make the judgement call about what effect one beer or cocktail has on you. To them, you may be unsafe to yourself or other passengers. Uh, yeah.
Yesterday, there was an episode that concerned an oversold flight. They have had these before but this mentioned their policy. Get this. It is Southwest's policy to sell up to 20% more seats than are on the plane. 20%. So if the plane has 180 seats (in the story they mentioned their plane held 187), they may sell 36 extra tickets to your flight. If you are not at the gate when they are boarding- whether you have a boarding pass or not- they will give your seat away. Thus, even though you have paid for a ticket, get to the airport early, you still may not get on the flight you have paid for.
But it gets better. They make it sound like it is a great policy. They figure up to 20% of the people that have purchased a ticket may not show up. Huh? Who doesn't show up for a flight unless their is some sort of emergency? They actually figure that 36 people will not be on their planes at any given time.
But all is not lost. They say because they oversell the flight, that if you are bumped, you will not lose any money. They are nice enough to allow you to use that ticket price for future tickets. So those 36 people are not losing out at all, unlike if they were flying on a different airline. Apparently those other bastard airlines will keep your money.
Hmmm...guaranteed a seat that I paid for, or play Russian roulette with my flight. Which is better? It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where the car he reserved has been given out. I would use that line with a Southwest rep. "The problem is, you know how to take the reservation, but you don't know how to keep the reservation."
Of course, all the people get pissed off when they find out that the seat they paid for and were promised is no longer available. I don't blame them. You plan your trips around the flight. If you cannot get back because the airline oversold the flight, you are most likely screwed. You will have to wait until they have another flight available- they won't assist you in finding another airline that can help. They will refund your money but you will need to get your own transportation or pay for a hotel for a night. Pretty insane.
Just another reason I won't fly Southwest. I guess I actually like getting somewhere. The hassle just doesn't sound like it is worth saving 30 bucks when compared to Midwest. That and I bet they don't give you cookies.