Monday, December 05, 2016

Southwest Airlines - My Experience in Excellent Customer Service

In today's world, travel is an integral part of a professional's life, but I didn't realize how much it would be part of my schedule until I took the CEO's job at Gradalis, a biotech company based out of Dallas. In last six months I have to been on the road almost every other week traveling not only to East and West Coast, but also internationally. This much travel is exhausting, but these days traveling is worse that its ever been.

I used to relish some luxuries of a professional traveller - for instance having Global Entry card that allows you speedy security check, or a boarding early because of my higher status on the Airline etc. But these days, those luxuries are gone. Thanks to US Government advertising, more people are signing up for the Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check program so the "pre-check lane" at the airport security checkpoint is some times longer than the regular line. With airlines reducing capacity by cutting back on number of flights, planes are flying jam packed. And thanks to the airline policy of charging $25 per checked bag, every body is lugging their suitcase into the plane as a carry on item. So if you are one of the last passengers to get on board, you can forget about finding luggage space.

If this is how I feel about travel, I wonder what the airline ticket counter staff and in-flight crew must be going through. I am sure they are exhausted dealing with packed planes and irate passengers. This is why when one of those staff members responds with courtesy, it is important to recognize their effort and the airline that employs them.

This last Friday was one such day, when thanks to the extra effort of the Southwest Airline ticket counter staff and the gate staff at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, I was able to catch a flight literally 10 minutes before the plane took off! As it happens, I was flying back from Cleveland to Dallas, and due to traffic and unfamiliarity with the airport, I arrived at the airport with about 30 minutes to spare. I walked up to the ticket counter staff fully expecting to be rebooked onto the next flight. Instead, the lady quickly took my TSA number, and printed me a boarding pass with TSA pre-check. Luckily the pre-check lane was not very busy, but by the time I got to the gate, only 10 minutes were left and the gate had been closed to the passengers. I walked up the ticket counter and asked if there was ANY chance of getting on the plane. The lady at the counter without blinking, called the gate staff and had them re-open the gate, allowing me to board the plane. The plane took off as soon as I sat in my seat.



Now, I have had a similar experience with American Airline, and I am sad to say that in that particular instance, the Airline staff refused to even make the phone call to the gate - even though I could see the jetway still very much connected to the plane!

In this day and age of hyper competition in airline industry, service is a key differentiator. My hats off to the Southwest Airline staff in Cleveland - You have hit the mark of "high quality service" in my mind and deserve my thanks. So thank you for getting me home, on time, to see my kids.

You can see why I enjoy flying Southwest Airlines and why I will keep patronizing this airline.