Anne - posted on 08/17/2011 ( 1 mom has responded )
I am a 34 year old mom who was flying alone on Southwest Airlines on August 13th, 2011 with my two small children, age 1 and age 4. We were traveling on flight #2649 from Baltimore to Seattle after returning from a visit with my parents.
As I'm sure you are aware flying with two very small children can be a stressful experience for any parent. In fact, I was so concerned about inconveniencing other passengers that I purchased a seat for my 1 year old even though he could have flown for free on my lap.
When I arrived at the gate, A2, to board my 9 AM flight my 1 year old was crying loudly because he wanted to be out of his stroller. I was embarrassed and wanted to comfort him but I chose to keep him in the stroller because I had my hands full handling two bags, three boarding passes, and the two children all by myself. I also didn't want him running around interrupting or slowing down the boarding process.
I chose to wait in the pre-boarding area so we could get on quickly after the A group boarded. Suddenly, a Southwest gate agent named Randy came over to me and I thought perhaps he was going to take pity on me and let me board early because he could see how I was struggling. Instead he became aggressive and said loudly:
"This is a 5 1/2 hour flight! Are you going to be able to quiet that kid down? Because if I let you on this plane and you can't shut him up the pilot will turn the plane around and kick you all off before take off."
I was shocked that someone in customer service would act this way, especially to a young mother struggling with two very small children. I replied quietly:
"Yes. He just wants out of the stroller but I can't let him out because I have my hands full."
Randy just walked away but I was mortified. Later, on the flight, I had a stranger come up to me and tell me how terrible they felt for me and they couldn't believe the gate agent had spoken to me in that way.
Even though my children quieted down once we were on the flight I was so upset about the experience with Randy that I actually started crying quite hard when my son began to fuss again.
It was at this point that a Southwest flight attendant, Sonia, came over and was incredibly kind and comforting to me. She sat with me, told me that she had some horrible experiences traveling with her children when they were small, and she even offered to watch my 4 year old for me if I needed help. She also apologized for Randy's behavior on behalf of Southwest.
I wrote Southwest asking that they make sure that Randy was counseled so he never behaves in that manner to a mother flying alone with small children again. He made an already stressful travel experience for me much more upsetting and that will certainly make me hesitate to fly Southwest with my family again. He also damaged the reputation of Southwest airlines in front of the many people who witnessed this event and the people I shared the story with following the incident.
I also asked to see Sonia commended. Her professionalism and kindness was very comforting to me and helps to remind me that not all Southwest employees behave like Randy.
I shared this with Southwest but, unfortunately, just received a form letter in return. I doubt they even spoke to Randy about the incident and I worry that other moms may experience the same embarrassment and lack of compassion that I went through. I wrote this note in the hope that we could raise some awareness that parents traveling with small children do not want to be a disruption to other passengers and that we need airline employees to help us, not threaten us. Please join me in calling for airlines to show moms and dads of small children a little love as we navigate the stressful travel experience together.