Strange day on SWA

Old Apr 10, 10, 5:02 pm
  #1  
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Strange day on SWA

Bizarre day at LAX. Started off with an announcement for another flight that "the airplane is broken" and the folks would have to wait for a replacement. Poor devils but oh well. Then the announcement came for us. Yep, flight 2505 to OAK would also be delayed because of a "broken airplane". Hey, .... happens, right? Finally, we lined up when a replacement was located. Noticed several folks with children hanging around the gate and asked the GA if they were family boarders since the kids appeared to be pre-teens rather than four and under. I asked her if that was an exception to the rule and she said yes. Then we were finally boarded about an hour later than schedule. We backed away from the gate and then suddenly the airplane stopped. The pilot shut down the engines and made this announcement. "The ground crew just noticed that one of the wheels has a flat tire and we will be delayed while it is fixed". One hour later we took off. I swear to God this is true. I miss the old SWA....

Last edited by carraher; Apr 10, 10 at 5:19 pm
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Old Apr 10, 10, 6:56 pm
  #2  
 
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Agreed it's bizarre. But I'd much rather have a mechanical issue - or even three of them - on the ground than in the air.
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Old Apr 12, 10, 12:28 pm
  #3  
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Originally Posted by carraher View Post
Bizarre day at LAX. Started off with an announcement for another flight that "the airplane is broken" and the folks would have to wait for a replacement. Poor devils but oh well. Then the announcement came for us. Yep, flight 2505 to OAK would also be delayed because of a "broken airplane". Hey, .... happens, right? Finally, we lined up when a replacement was located. Noticed several folks with children hanging around the gate and asked the GA if they were family boarders since the kids appeared to be pre-teens rather than four and under. I asked her if that was an exception to the rule and she said yes. Then we were finally boarded about an hour later than schedule. We backed away from the gate and then suddenly the airplane stopped. The pilot shut down the engines and made this announcement. "The ground crew just noticed that one of the wheels has a flat tire and we will be delayed while it is fixed". One hour later we took off. I swear to God this is true. I miss the old SWA....

I am so sorry for your delays, but I am a bit puzzled by your last sentence. We had mechanicals way back in June of 1971 and flat tires too. And as for boarding, as little as nine years ago, you would have had to wait in line at the gate for a decent boarding pass and the gate only opened an hour before departure. If you were on a connecting flight, you always got the last boarding passes. And then after you waited in line at the gate, you had to go over and wait in one of the three boarding groups, if it was an airport with the boarding lanes. Families always preboarded in front of everyone else back then, even if the kids were 11 or 12. Yes we were smaller then and you may have had more interaction with Employees back then, but you had to because you couldn't check in online. I think it's easy to say anytime things are disrupted, I wish for the good old days, but consider this: When I started with Southwest 15 years ago, some folks were always telling me that things were better at the old SWA. Because we are bigger today and have more flights there is a greater chance you may have a mechanical or might run into an Employee having a bad day, but that doesn't mean our overally reliability or Customer Service has faltered. For the 15 years I have been with SWA, we consistently have one of the highest completed flight records in the industry. Back in the "good old days" we hoped to receive four good letters to every complaint letter. Most of the time we made that goal, but today we receive NINE good letters to every complaint. A greater chance of something going wrong is the downside of being bigger and offering more flights. But on the other hand, you would really miss the old SWA because we didn't fly to LAX until the mid 80s.

I don't say this to discount the pains of growing or the need to remain vigilant to our core values, but it bothers me when people try to dismiss problems by saying "the old SWA was different." Yes, it was. Both good and bad.
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Old Apr 12, 10, 5:26 pm
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Originally Posted by SWABrian View Post
I wish for the good old days, but consider this: When I started with Southwest 15 years ago, some folks were always telling me that things were better at the old SWA.
Since I started 30 years ago, I've also been hearing the same thing(s) over that same time period...

While I too am sorry that Customers sometimes experience multiple issues, at least some of the negative impression(s) can easily be subjective and/or emotional in nature, and not necessarily reflective of realities. For example, if a Customer's flight is delayed due to an aircraft swap, and the new aircraft experiences a flat tire upon pushback and takes an additional delay to change it, that's unfortunate, but the tire still needs to be changed for obvious safety reasons, and that need isn't mitigated by the Customer's "already" having taken a delay (for the aircraft swap). Carrying the example further, once the tire is changed, and the flight is finally rolling down the runway, should some other malfunction take place that necessitates aborting the takeoff (as per procedure), is that supposed to be "disregarded" because the Customers have "already" taken delays for both the aircraft swap and the tire change? Of course not--the key is following procedures, and doing so objectively and unemotionally.

In the aftermath of the 1986 Challenger accident, noted physicist Richard Feynman (as a member of the Rogers Commission investigating the tragedy) observed "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled", and truer words have never been spoken.

Again, sorry for the OP's delay, but with nearly 550 aircraft, it's not unusual to have a few, and it's unfortunate that the OP had a "combo platter", but that said, I hope things can be kept in the proper context, operationally-speaking.

Cheers...
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Old Apr 13, 10, 7:05 am
  #5  
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I agree of course that mechanical issues must be addressed before taking off as a higher priority to the inconvenience for passengers. This day was an extreme exception to my usual experience. That said, I remember telling my wife, "what kind of announcement is that "the airplane is broken"?. The male GA actually made that same unprofessional remark twice in announcing the status of two different flights. I remember, and appreciate, a bit more formality on the part of the professional staff in years past at SWA. The family boarding situation, frankly, made me angry. I occasionally travel with a six year old. I would love to have her travel next to me because I always get a low boarding number but it is against the letter and spirit of the boarding order. As a second option, I would like to avail ourselves of the family boarding but, at age six, she is no longer eligible. Because the GA made no effort to clear the two families with pre-teens away from the preboarding area, it was obvious she was going to allow them to board between A and B groups. I questioned that and she admitted that she was going to make an exception.

In summary, what I miss about the old SWA of just a few years ago, was the perception at least, of fewer breakdowns, professionally acting staff and consistency in following procedures. When the flat tire occurred, I was by that time in a bad mood and it was just the frosting on the cake.

Last edited by carraher; Apr 13, 10 at 7:23 am
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Old Apr 13, 10, 7:44 am
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+1 to Brian and OPNLguy! Inconvenient things do happen that benefit no one. The biggest difference with WN is that at least the OP was told the truth about what was going on. Telling passengers the truth is typically a foreign concept to most of their competitors.
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Old Apr 13, 10, 8:43 am
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Originally Posted by GoSpurs View Post
+1 to Brian and OPNLguy! Inconvenient things do happen that benefit no one. The biggest difference with WN is that at least the OP was told the truth about what was going on. Telling passengers the truth is typically a foreign concept to most of their competitors.
Thanks...


(BTW, I love your tagline...)
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Old Apr 13, 10, 3:56 pm
  #8  
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I appreciate all of our WN employee friends on this board. However, I must agree with the OP that telling pax that "The Airplane is Broken" is rather unprofessional. How about using professional conversational English to describe that there is a "mechanical issue/problem/etc. with the aircraft".

When it comes to mechanical problems, a profeesional (no jokes, no slang, etc) is always preferred. It shows attentiveness to the issue and shows the pax that WN is serious about safety issues.
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Old Apr 13, 10, 5:51 pm
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"When it comes to mechanical problems, a profeesional (no jokes, no slang, etc) is always preferred. It shows attentiveness to the issue and shows the pax that WN is serious about safety issues."

That is exactly the point I was trying to make. The GA may have been trying to do an impersonation of Cheech Marin or perhaps that was his own speech mannerism. It didn't seem like he was joking and hopefully he was not. In any case, his words were ill chosen and perhaps he will receive some training if identified. He was working Gate 11 if that is of any help.
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