Frequent Flyer Family Wants to Know Why They Were Kicked Off a Southwest Flight

Erin Gatling and her family were flying Southwest yesterday. Southwest has an unusual procedure where they sell many ‘direct’ flights with a connection. The plane stops and if you’re continuing to the next city you stay on the aircraft while everyone else gets off. Flight attendants take a count, and then you can either stay onboard or get off if you wish.

Ms. Gatling says that during their connection her family was kicked off, and told they wouldn’t be able to continue on the next segment of the flight.

Southwest flight attendants apparently explained that her kids ‘were being a disturbance’ but she doesn’t see it that way. These are not inexperienced travelers. She reports that,

  • Her 3.5 year old child has taken 70 flights.
  • Her 16 month old has taken 30 flights.
  • They fly mostly on Southwest, so they know the drill.

She says her kids “did not cry or scream at all during the flight” and that no one would explain what “being a disturbance” — the reason given for being kicked off the flight — even means.

The airline did tell her that her kids were “running up and down the isle and jumping on tray tables.” So that could be it, right?

In her version their tray tables were never open so her kids couldn’t have jumped on them. And the only time they were up in the aisle is when she took her 3.5 year old to the lavatory. They were sitting in the back of the plane, just a few rows from the lav. And when they finished up, her 16 month old walked the 3-5 rows back to meet her.

I went to grab her and an attendant stepped between me and her, literally stepping on my foot. I said ‘excuse me mam, you just stepped on my foot’ and then shrugged it off as I reached around the attendant and picked her up and went to our seats. We never got up again. What the heck is happening?

Here they are broadcasting last night on Facebook live:

Southwest is usually considered a pretty family-friendly airline. I reached out to Southwest to see if they would share their version of the story. Here’s their response,

In addition to providing Legendary Customer Service to each Customer onboard, our Flight Attendants are responsible for enforcing regulations as well as our policies to ensure the Safety of those traveling with us.

Our reports indicate Customers traveling onboard flight 102 were not following inflight instructions. A Southwest Supervisor met the Customers upon arrival at their connecting city, Chicago, to discuss the events that occurred onboard. The Customers were unwilling to be approached by our Employees in the airport and when the situation escalated, local authorities became involved.

We made the decision to issue a refund to the Customers based on the reaction to our attempts to discuss safe travel to their final destination. The safety and wellbeing of our Customers and Employees is of the utmost importance to all of us at Southwest Airlines, and we are disheartened by the way this situation unfolded.

(HT: Scott T.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think “by the way this situation unfolded” is the exact language they used last time in a similar circumstance, like the “situation” has a will of its own. Gary can probably cite the exact post, but it caught my eye as corporate boilerplate p.r. news release.. Looks to me like the FA misinterpreted a situation, then stepped on the passenger’s foot, and took issue when the passenger pointed it out. Escalated it and got revenge. Others will say mom should have made sure the younger child was belted in and not able to come down the aisle toward her, and that’s true too. So mistakes on all sides, perhaps. I’m wondering if the FA saw some other child jumping on a tray table and concluded incorrectly it was the same kid.

  2. Another FA (aka flying waiters and waitresses) who didn’t like their interaction with the passenger and is now “uncomfortable” flying with them. I fly WN when I have to due to routes but I make my best efforts to NEVER interact with the FA’s as I am not a mindreader and I don’t know what will set them off. WN’s flying waiters and waitresses are always supported by Corporate regardless of how irrational and power hungry their behavior is. Do not interact with them if you can help it any time they still have power over you -which translates into – anytime before you reach your final destination.

  3. This is really disturbing. I realize that some people probably are looking to cause incidents and try to get a pay day $$$$ (like that woman claiming to be allergic to the dogs). But this guy seems very level headed and calm.

    Read his Facebook post linked above. The most disturbing thing is he says he got arrested by the police, and the police deleted videos from the phone. (Is this Legal???).


  4. It is getting to the point where you should either film every interaction with a f/a or hope the airline outfits all of them with body cams! Sooner or later, there will be pushback by the govt because a f/a will boss around some govt officials or celebs and get caught on film….it has happened, just not enough to cause a stir…

  5. The video evidence “deleted” is never really deleted. I can’t wait to see how many apologies are owed to this sweet family.

  6. This is really outrageous. Southwest’s story makes no sense and based on how the family is acting in their video I am inclined to believe their story. They did not understand why they were kicked off, and were still being calm while understandably annoyed. The husband was later arrested (SERIOUSLY??!!) for assault because an airline employee claimed that he bumped them with the stroller. I hope a review of terminal footage and the husbands recovered videos shows what really happens, and if the family’s story is true then some heads should roll at Southwest.

  7. This is, quite possibly, the biggest crock of you-know-what! Southwest’s response doesn’t even make sense!! I hope this family hits Southwest where it hurts! It is absurd that a mother was left stranded with 2 small children in a foreign town while her husband was facing these ridiculous charges! Grrr!

  8. Creeping authoritarianism. A mother with two kids is to be assisted, not policed. You are there to serve people, not make them toe your mark or you step on their toes.

    PLEASE get cell video of these. Make them famous wherever they go for all the wrong reasons. The worst of them will never be able to show their snooty faces in public again without being pointed out. It’s a game changer. Without the video you’ll have Trump airways with wannabe Cheetolini’s backed by 300 pound Trumpanzee goons. .

  9. Without addl info i have to side with Southwest. They fly everyday and have little reason to make this up. Its also much more of a pain tonkick them off the flight. My guess is that this family or mother has an attitude of her kids never doing anything wrong and we should all put up with the lack of parenting skills. They apparently fly a lot and may also feel that they can just let these kids run all over, etc.

  10. So we’re supposed to believe the cute mermaid family was just singled out for no reason and kicked off the plane? The FA’s were just waiting for the right family, who was doing nothing wrong, to come along and be nasty to? I seriously doubt it. I’ve seen too many kids behaving badly with the parents ignoring it all to believe there isn’t more to the story.

  11. I choose to trust southwest and i have seen enough brats, and they are surely cute in the parents’ eyes.

  12. I have met this family and the kids are actually good kids and the parents are amazing parents. I also have been on many flights with unruly children and have met many parents who think their children are perfect. But in this case I am siding with the victims (the family) and will only choose to fly Southwest as a LAST RESORT as a result of this altercation.

  13. @Greg above- sack-wrangling carrot-waxers of your ilk, Greg, make me want to vomit. Why in Sweet Jesus’ Name do you feel compelled to interject your political opinion – in this instance, your 100% gratuitous, irrelevant and unnecessary references to “Trump airways” and “trumpanzee goons”.
    What are you, twelve years old (with apologies to 12 year olds)?
    Your moronic terms are unfunny, idiotic, and total rubbish.
    And trust me, I have the same contempt and disgust to your doppelgänger grease-balloons who use terms such as “libtards” or “hillbots”, and the like.
    Grow up, pencil-dick.

  14. the kids are monsters (at a very young age, mind you) and mom & dad are snowflakes. we travel a great deal and have not seen kids do this. our int’l flights are long for children, babies are cared for by parents, toddlers stretch their little legs walking up and down the aisles and NEVER have I seen a flight attendant on any airline chastise a mom or dad for children’s behavior. Trust me – this is a pathetic family who craves attention. facebook the mom: you’ll gag at her profile pic!!!! you’re only seeing the ‘little’ one here. LOL

  15. Southwest did the correct thing. The mother literally says the toddler walked on his own. A toddler should be completely supervised when walking down the aisle especially with the possibility of turbulence. What would happen if he had fallen?

  16. @Betty, sorry, sweetie Flight Attendants are so much more than “Flying waiters and waitresses”. They are well trained to maintain YOUR safety on board, and ensure YOU are able to get out of the aircraft in the case of an accident. REGULATIONS are in place to protect YOU on board, and unfortunately for YOU, they are there to enforce those regulations. I have flown over 70 times in the past 5 years, always listen to the SAFETY briefing, say please and thank you to the FA’s and on the couple of rare occasions I have had special request, it was granted with a smile. As in any situation, you get out of it what you put in. Human interaction.

  17. @kat – when FA’s act like FA’s and not like power hungry little monsters I will call them FA’s. Otherwise they are flying waiters and waitresses!!! Which unfortunately WN has a very large percentage of flying waiters and waitresses.

    Several times I have written complaints to WN about their waiters and waitresses based on their interactions with OTHER passengers who are complete strangers to me because I have found their behavior appalling. I thankfully did NOT have any interaction with the little waiters and waitresses until I was getting off the flight at which point I got in their face to tell them how appalling their behavior was. Perhaps the WN waiters and waitresses could learn your point about human interaction being what you get out is what you put in! For you sake I hope you never have to experience one of their power trips to completely understand my point.

  18. Betty, Did you apply to be a flight attendant and get turned down? Their is no good explanation for your anger and vile tone than that.
    If you have that many poor interactions with flight attendants, YOU are undoubtedly the problem.
    I fly frequently, and have never had a negative interaction, because I treat everyone with respect. Your over the top attitude negates your comment.

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