Southwest reservation systems hard to work with

I have a flight tomorrow on Southwest booked through my corporate travel department. I have an A-List membership which, again, was granted by my corporate travel department’s contract with Southwest. It is a fairly simple flight from MAF-DAL-AUS. I acknowledge that my problems are fairly small in the scheme of things. Still, it seems like Southwest has missed several easy chances to get things right on this reservation:

  • Our travel people correctly entered my name and frequent flyer number. My known traveler number (used for TSA pre-check status) is associated with that account. On American and United, giving the frequent flyer number automatically results in having the known traveler number connected to the account. Apparently, that is something you must explicitly connect on Southwest. That seems like a fairly easy technological fix.
  • When I checked in, I noticed two problems. One is that I had boarding position B1. That’s odd, because one of the stated benefits of A-List membership is an A boarding position. Second, my TSA Pre-Check status was not listed. That resulted in me calling in, which resulted in…
  • Me being given boarding position B30. I called reservations and then called customer service, and neither of them could fix it. This is a problem both for not honoring published benefits and for changing the boarding position on an existing reservation that was already checked in.

I always fly economy class when traveling for work,. Southwest probably has the best economy class product out there, particularly for short haul flights. The seats are comfortable, the personnel are pleasant, and I understand the pricing structure. However, I am frustrated by their technology. Do what other airlines do and let applying my frequent flyer number also apply my known traveler number. Honor your own posted benefits. Don’t change boarding position because I have to fix the first problem. If you do that, then have someone I can call on the phone who is empowered to fix it. Your airline offers too good of a product to get lost in poor technology for business travelers.

Update (about an hour later)– I asked on Twitter @Southwestair how I wound up with the B30 boarding position, and they responded that apparently I can simply walk on to the after the A group. Kudos to them both for the response and for a reasonable policy. That still doesn’t address the other points (why the position changed, why it was wrong in the first place, why neither person on the phone could solve it, why both people on the phone said I would need to get the attention of the gate agent and ask permission to do this, why the frequent flyer number didn’t automatically attach, etc), but it is a decent policy to allow for service recovery, and it is good to know you can use Twitter to get basic and fairly fast information.

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