Took a trip, and flew Southwest Airlines.
I was already stressed about this; being aware of SWA’s lousy history with dealing with fat flyers.
SWA’s current policy is (http://www.southwest.com/html/customer-service/extra-seat/index-pol.html):
“Customers who encroach upon any part of the neighboring seat(s) may proactively purchase the needed number of seats prior to travel in order to ensure the additional seat(s) is available. … The purchase of additional seats serves as a notification to Southwest of a special seating need, and allows us to adequately plan for the number of seats that will be occupied on the aircraft. … Customers of size who prefer not to purchase an additional seat in advance have the option of purchasing just one seat and then discussing their seating needs with the Customer Service Agent at their departure gate. If it is determined that a second (or third) seat is needed, they will be accommodated with a complimentary additional seat(s).”
So we bought the extra seat as part of our reservation. We bought the extra seat according to SWA’s instructions for 2 people traveling/requesting 3 seats:
- In the ‘Passengers’ field, indicate the total number of seats needed by selecting that number of adults. (For example, if one Customer of size requires two seats and is traveling with one other adult in his/her party, select ‘3 Adults.’)
- Complete the ‘Whos’ Flying?’ name fields for a Customer of size as follows: A Passenger named tom Smith would designate Passenger One as ‘Tom Smith,’ and Passenger Two as ‘Tom XS Smith’.”
Not rocket science. Being the precise fellow that he is, my husband Whaliam followed these instructions to the letter.
When you get to the airport, SWA requests that you:
Domestic U.S. Travel: Customers of size may check in online or at a Self-Service Check-in kiosk to reserve their boarding positions, but they must see a Customer Service Agent to receive the required documents and be eligible for a refund after the flight.
Domestic U.S. and International Travel: Customers of size must obtain a Seat Reserved Document from the Customer Service Agent at the Gate to obtain a Reserved Seat Document and Refund Advice Slip for the additional seats purchased.
Again, not rocket science.
And being the responsible fatty that I am, I followed these instructions to the letter.
And that is where it all went to shit.
Two Customer Service Agents, one of whom was tied up with a couple for as long as I was there, and longer – I don’t know what was going on – it’s not like you have a lot of choices when you are flying SWA. Anyhow, perhaps the busy Agent was smarter than the one I got (doubtful, though, since it took him so long to deal with whatever was going on with the other couple).
I got the other Agent. I tell her I’m flying-while-fat, I need my seat reservation and my paperwork for refund. She stares at me blankly. I reiterate. I am fat. I have (proactively) reserved an extra seat. I need the items which SWA’s website has assured me I will get from the Customer Service Agent.
She asks for my reservation paperwork, which I hand to her. She starts tapping away at her computer keyboard. She then tells me that Whaliam did the reservation “all wrong” – that we cannot be on the same reservation and she will have to totally redo it. WTF? I ask her if she is sure? She says she is. I tell her that I have never heard of such a thing and that the reservations were made in accordance with the website’s instructions. She looks at me like I’m an idiot. I ask her to clarify, in case I ever (am foolish enough to) fly SWA again. She tells me (contradicting the website) that the fatty needs a separate reservation for the fatty-designated seats.
She gives me my reserved seat folder and a new boarding pass (which now, instead of being in the first group, has me in the last group boarding – should I choose to not preboard).
I tell her I need the paperwork for the refund. She stares at me blankly. I reiterate. She tells me she doesn’t know of any paperwork. I tell her that it is SWA’s policy, and the website says she will give me this paperwork. I also tell her I doubt that I am the first fat person who has flown SWA, and I don’t understand why this is all so difficult. She gets on the phone. For a really long time. (Sadly I did not bring my print out of the SWA policy with me to the Agent’s desk.) Finally, another Agent shows up. She reaches in a drawer and pulls out a pad of Refund Advice Slips, tears one off, and gives me one.
I am fit to be tied. I go sit down, literally, shaking with rage, anger, shame, you name it.
And that’s when I realize that the Agent did not give me my original paperwork back. So I go back – and wait in line, because that other Agent is still fiddle-farting with the same couple. I finally get up to the (same) Agent and ask her for my paperwork back. She doesn’t want to give it to me. I explain that I might need it, according to the Refund Advice Slip (which she had just given to me). She still doesn’t want to give it to me. At least this time, I came forearmed with the SWA policy printout and the Refund Advice Slip. So she digs it out of her trash and hands it to me – still wadded up. Nice.
I must admit, though, flying home, we had absolutely no problems. I walk up to the Customer Service Agent, hand her my boarding pass print out, she taps on the computer for a few seconds, and hands me back my reserved seat and preboard packet, and the advice slip. I told her about my experience flying out of SJC, and she blamed it on SWA contracting out jobs rather than using SWA employees at some airports. I thanked her profusely for actually knowing her job.
So while SWA may have gotten their shit together on paper, if you fly SWA while fat, be sure to have a print out of their policies in your fat little hand when you go to the Customer Agent desk because it is a crap shoot as to how you will be treated.