Southwest Airlines’s deteriorating customer service

I recently earned a new Southwest Rapid Rewards ticket. We have two weddings to attend this year (3 including our own) that require travel. I decided to use the free ticket to book a trip to Chicago over Memorial Day weekend for one of the weddings and found that there were no (free) seats available. This trip is three and a half months away so I found this discouraging, but attributed it to being a holiday weekend. I then took a look at the schedules to Washington, D.C. where we have another wedding to attend. Again, no flights. This event is four and a half months away and there are 2 different airports we could fly into and still there are no rewards tickets available. What makes this even more frustrating is that you were not even able to book flights on Southwest past May 9th until 1 week ago, so in 1 weeks time all the Rapid Rewards seats available for the two trips I need to take are apparently sold out. I remember the days when you were able to book virtually any flight with a rewards ticket. I understand that the company has to make business decisions to remain profitable, but Southwest’s whole manifesto has been discounted fares, great customer service and an easy rewards program. It seems that discounted airfares (you may have noticed recently that the maximum prices on flights has increased considerably) and easy rewards program has gone out the window and customer service is teetering, so what is left?

I called customer service to inquire about my inability to use my Rapid Rewards. I was on hold for 11 minutes before my call was answered and the woman was short with me, cut me off repeatedly and offered no consolation to my plight. Even if she knows she cannot help me, the least she could do is offer some word of apology and understanding. I asked her to speak to someone else and was referred to their customer relations department. I called them promptly and the representative there explained some of the reasoning behind the changes (revenue, of course) and also informed me that some flights have as few as 3 Rapid Rewards seats available. Although he was not able to get me any closer to a Rewards seat, he handled the call with care and understanding, which I did appreciate.

Well Southwest, now that your manifesto no longer seems to fit your business model, I wonder, what will you do to separate yourself from your competitors?

On a lighter note, when I did fly Southwest last week, I did find their in flight staff to be as delightful as ever, so at least they still have that going for them.

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