It appears that passengers now tweet at their own peril on airlines. We have previously seen how tweets have gotten passengers pulled from planes, including tweets that simply joked or criticized an airline. Now in Minneapolis, Duff Watson says that he was pulled from a Southwest Airlines flight because he tweeted his dissatisfaction with a gate agent. He says that the agent told him that his tweet calling her rude left her feeling threatened and that he could only fly with his children if he deleted the tweet. It appears a new twist on the company’s slogan, If it matters to you, it matters to us.
Watson says that the conflict arose when the agent refused to let him board early with his two children. He is on the priority boarding list but the agent said that his 6-year-old and 9-year-old kids were not. He objected to the notion of leaving his kids to board separately. He then said “Real nice way to treat an A-list. I’ll be sure to tweet about it.” And he did. When he boarded the flight, he tweeted “Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA.”
That is when he says that the three were approached on plane in their seats and told, according to the family, that the tweet was “threatening” and that they would have to leave the plane. His daughter said that the agent said that she was going to call the police. Watson said that he was forced to delete the tweet as his kids began to cry.
Southwest later apologized and offered the family $50 vouchers. The airline says that it is investigating the incident. Here is my question. Such actions usually require notice to the pilots or a supervisor. Why didn’t anyone stop the agent and say “Wow, you cannot force people to delete criticisms of us Kimberly.” The tweet itself contained no profanity or threat or even Kimberly’s last name. For those critical of the changes in air travel, it is another chilling glimpse into the increased sense of power of flight crew over passengers, particularly in removing passengers from flights.