Sunday, April 24, 2011

Southwest Airlines and Their Lack of Customer Service

I went out of town for my birthday this past week. I flew Southwest. I was impressed with their ability to be on time and their decent customer service. However, when I returned to PDX, my boyfriend asked "did you realize you're missing a wheel?" I said that I hadn't and that we needed to go talk to Southwest. It just so happens that a Southwest employee was right behind us and he walked us over to their desk.

The Southwest employee, Josh, said that it isn't likely I will get anything from Southwest. Exterior damage isn't covered by their policies. He got my information and handed me a Damage Report Receipt form that essentially said that they have no intention of covering my damaged bag.
Josh even went as far to claim that if they covered all damaged bags that Southwest would be broke and I stated "well that isn't true". He admitted it was an exaggeration. I pointed out that the cost of losing a customer is a lot more than the cost of covering damaged luggage. Nothing I said swayed him and he made it clear that it is a policy that he has no control over. The Damage Report Receipt begins with:

Southwest airlines would first like to apologize for the inconvenience that this situation may have caused you. Based on the information you have provided, and in accordance with Southwest Airlines' Contract of Carriage and Company policy, it appears that Southwest Airlines is not liable for your loss. You may view Southwest Airlines' Contract of Carriage by visiting

Searching for "Contract of Carriage" on Southwest Airlines' websites led me to this pdf:

On this document, it states under Limitations of Liability (I edited it for wordiness and removed details that aren't relevant to my situation):
The liability, if any, of Carrier for damage to Checked Baggage and/or its contents, is limited to the proven amount of damage or loss, but in no event shall be greater than $3,300.00 per fare-paying Passenger...
Carrier will compensate the Passenger for reasonable, documented damages incurred as a direct result of the damage to Baggage up to the limit of liability, provided the Passenger has exercised reasonable efforts and good judgment to minimize the amount of damage. Actual value for reimbursement of damaged property shall be determined by the documented original purchase price less depreciation for prior usage.

However, if you continue reading, it states:

Normal Wear. Carrier assumes no responsibility and will not be liable for loss of or damage to protruding parts of luggage and other articles of Checked Baggage, including, but not limited to, wheels, feet, pockets, hanger hooks, pull handles, straps, zippers, locks, and security straps. Furthermore, Carrier assumes no liability for defects in Baggage manufacture or for minor damage arising from normal wear and tear, such as cuts, scratches, scuffs, stains, dents, punctures, marks, and dirt.

Does the damage look minor to? The damage isn't just to the protruding parts. The wheel isn't just gone, there is a good-sized hole where the wheel once was. I am very fortunate that no small items were in the bottom of my bag.

I've completed the first step that passengers must complete for a damage luggage claim. Josh did attach my baggage claim check to the document he printed for me. The rest of this is wordy but includes the steps that I have to take (I only edited it to shorten the document to relevant info):
(i) Passenger must notify Carrier of the claim and receive a Baggage report number not later than four hours after either: the arrival of the flight on which damage is alleged to have occurred or receipt of the Baggage; and,
(ii) In all cases, Passenger must submit  a written correspondence that includes the Baggage report number to the Carrier not later than 21 days after the occurrence of the event giving rise to the claim...
The Damage Receipt mentions that if I believe that the local office (i.e. Josh) made a mistake then I have 21 days to appeal it. I need to mail the Damage Receipt document, baggage claim check (Southwest attaches it to the envelope that holds your ticket), airline ticket receipt, and any other information I want to include.

On Monday, I intend to make a copy of the Damage Report Receipt, print photos of the damage, and mail it with delivery confirmation.

Part 2 Southwest Airlines: My Letter

Part 3 Southwest Airlines: Their Reply