As far as I’m concerned, Southwest owes me for an hour of my time. You: “What?!? That guy is so entitled! What a jerk!” Before you react like that, listen to my story.
It was Tuesday. My girlfriend was coming back to town via Southwest. As a good dude should, I offered to pick her up. She gave me her flight number and I arranged my schedule to go pick her up at 12:35pm when her flight landed. The whole time she was in the air, I tracked her flight via the Flight Status feature on Southwest.com. It gave me the green clock sign and the “On Time” message, so I left my house at 12:20 to go pick her up.
Shortly before the airport, I pulled into a parking lot to wait instead of circling around the whole terminal horseshoe. I checked the site again and instead of the “On Time” designation, it said “Arriving.” Awesome. I decided to just wait until I got a text and then I’d ride in on my Mazda as if it was a white stallion and rescue my damsel from the perils of LAX. This is where things got weird.
I got a text at 12:40 that said “I’ll text you when we land so you’re not waiting around lax for me.” Um, what? As far as I knew — based on the Southwest site — she was already on the ground. I called. No answer. I texted. No text back. I sat there for twenty minutes waiting for a response. No response came.
The whole time, Southwest.com told me the flight was arriving. Either this was the slowest descent known to man or an outright lie. Finally, at 1:07, I get a text back. My GF was finally on the ground. This is a full 30 minutes after the “on time” flight was supposed to land. Ten minutes later, they actually got to the gate. What was supposed to be a 30 minute round-trip airport run had turned into over an hour and a half fiasco by the time we got home. That’s why I feel like Southwest owes me an hour.
Why did I title this story “Screw You, Southwest?” They provided inaccurate information and there’s no reason to do so. Airplanes get delayed all the time. I understand this. I’m sympathetic to this. It’s the whole reason why almost every airline in existence has a “Flight Status” feature on their website. I’m not sympathetic when that information is blatantly wrong. It’s not like the plane landed and the Southwest grounds crew was like “Where were you guys? We were waiting for you!” Airplanes are rigidly controlled vehicles. The airline and airport know where they are at all times. Conversely, I can’t imagine the website is manually operated like the scoreboard at Wrigley Field. It must be controlled by real-time data that’s updated regularly. If this isn’t the case, then Southwest has more problems than I can imagine. If this is the case, then there’s no excuse for the information being wrong. This is an algorithm we’re talking about. It takes raw data, plugs it into a set of rules, and spits out other data. If the plane is delayed, the system should be able to reflect that in a millisecond. For some reason, though, it doesn’t.
I’m not mad that the plane was late. I’m mad that Southwest has a system in place to let you know if a plane is going to be late and for whatever reason, they choose to let it display inaccurate information. You could counter and say it was a one-time thing, but I tried an experiment yesterday. I followed the same flight (1794) via the Flight Status feature. At around 12:25, it started to say “Arriving.” The wesbite said actual arrival would be 12:45. At 12:47, it was still “Arriving.” I decided to check Google’s flight tracking software and, lo and behold, it showed that the plane actually landed at 12:42pm. So why is the Southwest site still displaying “Arriving” at 12:53? It makes no sense to me.
Finally, at 12:59 the Southwest.com site switched “Arriving” to “Arrived.” The “Actual” time was then changed to 12:47. What use is any of this information if it’s posted after the fact and contradicts the information that was up before? How can a flight still be listed as “Arriving” a full ten minutes after you claim it arrived? For such a precise industry, this system is completely out of whack.
So screw you, Southwest. For both wasting my time and the time of countless other people who have relied on your Flight Status feature only to find out that it doesn’t accurately reflect where the plane is. No, I don’t think they actually owe me anything. I do, however, think they owe it to their customers to present true and accurate information. Right?