When a passenger with severe allergies complained about a support dog on her flight, eerily familiar footage of a disgruntled flyer being brutally ejected from a plane soon followed.
Southwest Airlines appears determined not to make the same mistakes as United Airlines. In a situation remarkably similar to the recent United scandal, Southwest is dealing with public outcry after footage surfaced of a passenger being brutally dragged off a flight as a result of a debatable policy decision.
United Airlines officials are widely viewed to have dropped the ball when responding to outrage over the mistreatment of physician David Dao who was violently removed from his flight to make his seat available for an employee. The airline initially blamed the victim before finally offering a full-throated apology nearly a week later.
Southwest Airlines found itself in much the same boat this week after a passenger was roughly dragged off of her flight after complaining that service dogs on the plane were putting her health at risk due to her severe allergies. Like United, Southwest struck a defiant tone at first, before choosing the route of appeasement. Learning a lesson from its competitor’s missteps, however, Southwest officials were much quicker to reverse course.
“Our policy states that a customer (without a medical certificate) may be denied boarding if they report a life-threatening allergic reaction and cannot travel safely with an animal on board,” a Southwest Airlines spokesperson told NBC News in a statement. “Our flight crew made repeated attempts to explain the situation to the customer, however, she refused to deplane and law enforcement became involved.”
While the airline initially reiterated the policy reasons that caused the flyer to be ordered off the plane and noted that her refusal to follow crew member instructions helped to escalate the situation, officials soon took a more conciliatory tact, simultaneously apologizing for the incident while at the same time pointing the finger at the police who were called to remove the uncooperative passenger from the aircraft.
“We are disheartened by the way this situation unfolded and the customer’s removal by local law enforcement officers,” the airline said in a later statement. “We publicly offer our apologies to this customer for her experience, and we will be contacting her directly to address her concerns.”
Anila Daulatzai, the woman who stars in the latest viral video filmed on a Southwest flight Tuesday was criminally charged for her part in the dispute. In addition to deft public relations work, this fact put Southwest in a much better position than its legacy carrier rival – Dao was never criminally charged and in fact, eventually reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the airline.