Some airports tap police to quell upset Southwest travelers

Holidays

(NewsNation) — Airlines have reportedly been requesting police presence to handle passengers’ mounting frustration as Southwest airlines have struggled to recover after being overwhelmed by a winter storm that left hundreds of pilots and flight attendants stranded out of position to operate flights.

According to NewsNation affiliate WKRN, a Southwest Airlines employee at Nashville International Airport (BNA) requested an officer to escort passengers from the concourse to the pre-security ticket counter.

“Southwest Airlines personnel contacted the Airport Communications Center asking that a police officer be dispatched. We understand and appreciate the frustrations travelers may have, and we are working to provide the best passenger experience for all,” BNA said in a statement.

Similarly, ABC News correspondent Shelley Childers reported Houston Police increased their “security presence” prior to Southwest telling passengers they would not be offering to reschedule flights until Jan. 1, 2023.

The BNA incident was captured on video in a now-viral TikTok. The family in the video said an officer told them arrests could be made if they didn’t leave the gate and go back to the ticketing desk outside security, even though their flight to Ohio was delayed.

“It was absolutely shocking to experience that. I think the comments were to strike a chord of fear and for a moment fear rose up but a righteous indignation rose up as well,” Shelley Morrison, the woman in the video, said on NewsNation’s “Rush Hour.”

“The insult to injury was our treatment by authorities there at the airport,” she continued.

Southwest has blamed the weather and outdated scheduling technology for its recent woes. In response, the airline’s CEO, Robert Jordan, released a video apologizing Tuesday and vowed to make things right.  

“We have some real work to do in making this right,” Jordan, who became CEO in February, said. “For now, I want you to know that we’re committed to that.”

“Please also hear that I’m truly sorry,” Jordan added.

Ryan Green, Southwest’s Chief Commercial Officer, followed with similar sentiments Thursday

“We’re continuing to work to make this up to you and you’ll hear more about that soon. But for now we’re focused on restoring reliability and the level of customer service that we expect from ourselves and you expect from us.”

Rich Nichols, a lawyer who deals with crisis management, tells “Rush Hour” he believes it may take a while for frustrations to simmer and acknowledges it’s been a long week for airline and airport workers as well.

“They need to be somewhat compassionate and understand the frustration people are feeling put themselves in the shoes of someone’s flight that’s been canceled for four to five days and have empathy,” Nichols said. 

Southwest has set up an entire page for customers to submit refund and reimbursement claims for meals, hotels and alternate transportation. They also claim service will be back to normal Friday, Dec. 30.

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