Screw You, Southwest

Posted in Domestic US, In the Air, Southwest

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?

 

Photo:Attribution Some rights reserved by angeloangelo

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Comments

  1. Agreed, the website error is definitely something that Southwest did wrong. I’m not sure what could have gone wrong on their end. Despite this, I think it’s an error that your girlfriend waited 5 minutes after she was scheduled to arrive to text you that she hadn’t taken off. That definitely could have been done sooner. I’m sure she knew that she would be delayed before that point.

    • I think I wasn’t clear about her text. She texted me when she was already in the air. She said there was a pocket of 3G or something, so it went through. They didn’t tell her the flight was delayed.

  2. Nope, still think you are an entitled jerk. Its not like Southwest purposefully tried to mislead you. Perhaps there was a glitch in the system somewhere that caused the mistake that is very rare. Unless you know exactly what caused the errors, you seem like a whiner complaining over something as meaningless as 1 hour of time. Given that your job affords you the freedom to simply sit around for 90 minutes in the middle of a weekday, I think you come off even more entitled.

  3. It’s amazing people still pay to fly that airline. None of my brothers flights were on time in the past year. Not one! He only sticks with them because of the easy companion pass. Makes sense why they still board by groups and numbers.

    • Well considering that they’re on time 75% of the time, do you think perhaps you’re letting confirmation bias affect you a wee bit?

  4. I do not think you’re a jerk because of the SWA situation. I do feel you’re a jerk because of your tone in responding to posters.

  5. I feel your pain. Southwest systems do this routinely so it had to be on purpose. I am sitting on a southwest flight right now that was suppose to depart 10:50am but pushed back at 11:05am. Southwest site claims it left at 11am but we didn’t take off until 11:15am. Guess what? Site claims an online landing at 12:05. Seems unlikely unless they get really good tailwinds.

    This happens on well above 60% of my southwest flights that are delayed. System only updates much later.

  6. I don’t see how this is specific to Southwest. I can point to at least a dozen cases on other airlines where the definition of arrival or departure are vague. I’ve sat at a United gate that shows on-time when the arriving plane is clearly an hour behind, and they wait until 30 mins before departure to ‘update’ so that everyone doesn’t jump ship to the next departing ‘on-time’ flight. In fact, I’ve found that SW is more accurate in that ‘arrived’ actually means they are at the gate. From your description of the situation, it could have been likely that the plane was already coasting around nearby (aka arriving) but there were arrival delays.

  7. Yes you sound completely entitled and your rude responses to people disagreeing with you are immature.

    Next time use the flight aware app, it’s much more accurate.

  8. What’s worse – your GF’s keeping her phone out of airplane mode or a minor inconvenience while you waited with sparkling eyes for her to arrive? I hope you at least took the time to buy her a flower.

  9. I tend to get airport run dudy when I am in town and see this happen all the time with multiple carriers. Yes, the carriers should do a better job at providing accurate information, but knowing that the airline provided info is not always accurate, I just use FlightStats or FlightAware and haven’t had any issues that I can remember. I suppose the best you can do is chalk it up to a lesson learned.

  10. @Gene – Excellent advice. Feeding trolls reminds me of the Shaw quote “‘Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”

  11. Welcome to being hazed airline style newbie :). I would recommend websites like flightaware.com for actually tracking the flight so you know where in the air the flight is.

    +-ADT

  12. The plane was late because your girlfriend kept her phone on. That messed up the entire airline’s instrumentation, which they had to reboot and are still working to untangle the mess. (BTW, your GF must be very sweet.)

  13. Yeah – I’ve seen this happen on the Southwest website, and American, and United. I’ve signed up for notification alerts with different airlines and received nothing sometimes, and phone calls/texts every 10 minutes other times. Inconsistency is the one thing that’s consistent with these notifications. I’d agree with your other readers as well, to use Flightaware.com (possibly in conjunction with the airlines app as well) to get the better picture of what’s going on.

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