Southwest Airlines Has Heart

In meeting with a new public relations client for PR Power about revising his website copy, we discussed what differentiated him from others in his field. “I give a s__t!” he stated emphatically. And I supposed that is really the basis of customer service. If you care about your customers—their needs and their need for your service, your real question is, “What can I do for you?” or “What problem can I solve that will make your life easier?” THAT is really what people want from any service business.

His comment was starkly opposed to the response I got recently from American Airlines when I was requesting a partial refund for a ticket that had to be cancelled due to a medical condition experienced a year ago. I was trying to re-book the travel, having already forfeited the Airline’s $200 fee for allowing a partial credit on the $200 balance of the ticket—for a flight within a year. However, the year was from the date of purchase—NOT the date of travel, which was not clear to me at the time—possibly because I was in a severe medical crisis and more concerned about healing than an airline ticket.

However, in my written plea to American Airlines to receive the credit and re-book the ticket—which would cost me another $200—they said this:

Ms. Demartini, we believe that offering a full year to rebook travel provides our customers the flexibility they need to use their flight credit. I’m sorry for any disappointment I might cause by declining your request.

I tried to respond to the email, “You made your decision and I have made mine. I will fly with Southwest Airlines from now on since they do not penalize for cancelled flights.” But I couldn’t, because you can ONLY talk to American Airlines via an online form. They were not “sorry” but they are a sorry company. NO customer service – NO public relations.

This clearly shows they do not care—not about me and not about losing a customer or the additional fare they would have received if they had credited the part of the ticket I felt I deserved. A simple apology that their policy was not clear and that they would make this one-time accommodation would have made me a happy and repeat customer. They win, I win but instead, we all lose; me–money and time, them–a customer and their reputation—which is the most valuable company asset. I spent $400 with American Airlines and they did not deliver one dollar of service. Am I angry? Yes!

While I look forward to writing my new client’s website materials, with a clear customer service message, I also look forward to taking my trip via Southwest Airlines, an airline that literally has a heart in its logo. American Airlines—you have lost my business and I am happy to spread the word about why. That is Public Relations.