Southwest is Inspiring People With How Well it Treated a Customer… But Don’t Be Fooled

After United called the cops on a passenger and he was dragged off the plane and bloodied, an American flight attendant nearly hit a baby with its stroller, and a Delta flight attendant threatened to have the government take young children away from their parents, any show of kindness by an airline is news. Even if it happened two years ago.

Southwest Airlines went to great lengths to care for Peggy Uhle. It’s covered this month here also and here as a contrast to United, Delta, and American.

  • Her flight pushed back from Chicago Midway to Columbus, Ohio. Then it returned to the gate. Her husband was trying to reach her but her cell phone was off, as required, so he called the airline. Their son was in a coma in Denver.

  • Southwest rebooked her on a flight to Denver. Southwest didn’t charge her anything.

  • She was given preboarding for her Denver flight and a packed lunch.

  • They rerouted and delivered her checked bag.

It’s a great story, but it shouldn’t be part of the current narrative of airlines abusing customers.

There are plenty of great Southwest stories, like diverting for this healthy crying baby and congratulating passengers for drinking all the booze onboard.

But the story of Peggy Uhle isn’t a recent one. It occurred in May 2015, just weeks after Southwest forced a woman to turn off her cell pone for push back as she was receiving texts from her suicidal husband. He proceeded to kill himself.

(HT: @MichaelTCohen)

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. Just completed a Southwest questionnaire relating to a flight taken yesterday from Columbus, Ohio to Tampa. Although none of the questions was geared to be jammed into a small space awaiting boarding, I ranked their service as ‘great’. The flight attendant had an amazing sense of humor. Big negative was the seat. So uncomfortable, hard as a rock! Could not fly more than 2 hours without serious discomfort.

  2. One of your best columns ever. I am a big WN fan (and I know you are finally starting to appreciate them since your relo to Texas) but their employees occasionally screw up like everyone else. Arrogance is apparently a prequal to work in the industry. Unfortunately the only sound solution will be DOT regulations mandating simple basic customer service requirements – as was successfully done with the tarmac delay rules.

  3. your site is descending into Jerry Springer type gotcha tabloid style hysteria and you’re losing credibility by the day.

  4. Thank you! My friends have been reposting the story on FB and some news outlets are reporting it like it’s a new story. Also, because of the deceptive reposting, I now wonder if the original story was even true.

  5. The original story is true, I can absolutely attest to that from being involved in this whole ordeal.

  6. I’ve had almost exclusively positive experiences with Southwest, but have had a few very specific negative experiences as well. Agree with all here that no airline is perfect.

    My favorite Southwest “quirk” is the New Orleans airport. Not sure if this is new or I’ve just been in the airport at the right time lately, but my last 2 trips to New Orleans a gate agents had found a creative way to deal with the endless questions they get asked – Anybody who approached her with a question immediately got her microphone and request for a serenade (any song) before getting an answer.

    When it happened to me I was in a “grouchy businessman” mood (I do not sing and am not a singer), but after my turn with a very gracious audience I had to admit I had something of a “Disney moment” – forgot the business cares of the day and really enjoyed connecting with a group of people who became more than nameless faces getting in the way of me getting home.

    If you’re in New Orleans in the SW Terminal and you hear a commotion, go check it out. Someone’s probably singing and I guarantee it will brighten your day 🙂

  7. Thanks for not letting good news stand! I almost had a positive response to that story.

    There isn’t enough bad news out there, so anytime a good story can be dragged down, we have to make sure we stand together and pick it apart. Who knows what would have happened if you hadn’t soured me on this story? I was almost fooled into a smile!

    Keep up the good work TMZ, I mean Buzzfeed, I mean… Wait. What site is this again? It’s a travel site???

  8. Up to 2 bags free, great cancellation policy (10 minutes!) and generally friendly employees. That makes a huge difference.

    Even with uncomfortable seats

  9. I was the one fooled thinking the story was new (and kudos Gary for the H/T). I understand Gary yet agree with Kevin. I can use any inkling of people doing good today even if it happened in the past. Put it under ‘oldie but goodie’ but still remind me that it happened – chances are if its positive – most of missed it the first five times among all the negativity crowding our news feeds and inboxes… If it was bad – its told over and over and over ad nauseam – if its good? Once at the bottom of the news if it was a slow day. GO SW!!

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