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Removed from flight w/out just cause

Discussion in 'Airlines' started by Danya Arguedas, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. Danya Arguedas

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    Hello forum readers!

    Unfortunately, my fiancé and I had a rather bizarre encounter a SouthWest Airlines employee, Mark Story at PHX airport. I would love to hear any honest feedback on the encounter described below. We truly feel like we were discriminated against and we are still not sure why. We did drink prior to trying to board our flight at PHX but, we were not drunk or even buzzed. As a woman, if either of us were to be drunk it would have been myself as I have a lower tolerance as a woman yet, I was not removed from the flight. We are the type of people that if we were in the wrong, we would admit it and take our punishment, which is why this whole incident is so incredibly bizarre to us. Thank you!



    On Sunday, September 10, 2017 Adam Ward and Danya Arguedas, an engaged couple, were traveling on SouthWest Airlines from Wichita, KS to Portland, OR with a layover in Phoenix, AZ.

    Flight 3541 from ICT to PHX

    Flight 3520 from PHX to PDX

    Adam and Danya were both born in Wisconsin and are avid Green Bay Packer fans. Sunday, September 10th was a big football game with the Green Bay Packers playing the Seattle Seahawks during Adam and Danya’s flight. They supported their team by wearing Packer shirts, sweatshirts, and Adam wore a hat. Upon arriving at the Phoenix airport, Adam and Danya found Barrio Cafe to eat, drink, play cards, and watch the football game while they waited for their flight home to Portland, OR. Adam and Danya were at Barrio Cafe for approximately 90 minutes where they ate and casually drank. The Packers defeated the Seahawks, Adam and Danya joyfully made it to their gate for the trip home. The gate area was crowded so, they found a spot against the window to wait until it was time to board. Both Adam and Danya were in boarding group A; Danya had a lower number than Adam and she carried their small carry on roller, both carried personal backpacks. Adam was approximately twenty persons behind Danya standing in the A boarding line, with his attention on his phone. Adam had been texting with both his Packer and Seahawk fan friends about the game when he was approached by Mark Story a SouthWest Airlines employee. Mark told Adam that he needed to discuss his flight with him, they left the boarding line, and Mark said that Adam was not able to board because he seemed intoxicated.


    Danya received a text message from Adam after they had been in the boarding line for just a few minutes that said; they aren’t going to let me on. Danya walked towards Adam and found him talking to Mark Story. Mark looked at Danya and correctly assumed that we were traveling together because of our Packer clothing. He explained to Adam and Danya that Adam was not allowed to board the flight. Adam and Danya were very confused and asked why he was not allowed to board the flight. Mark Story said that Adam appeared to be intoxicated and simply could not fly as such. Adam and Danya were completely bewildered. Mark Story told Adam and Danya that Adam was the only one restricted from flying and Danya could board. Danya asked Mark Story why she was able to board and that Adam couldn’t, Mark said that Adam couldn’t fly today and that he would rebook him on a flight the following day, September 11th. There were more flights to PDX from PHX that day but, Mark Story said that Adam was not able to fly at all that day due to his intoxication. Danya stated that there was no way she was going to leave her fiancé behind, alone, and overnight in such a hostile environment. Danya asked Mark Story how he made his determination as to Adam’s intoxication and Mark Story refused to answer. Danya asked Mark Story if he had performed any sobriety tests on Adam and he said no. Danya stated to Mark Story that was unacceptable. Danya asked Mark Story if Adam could take a breathalyzer test, Mark Story said no. Danya stated to Mark Story that was unacceptable. Danya asked Mark Story if she could speak to his supervisor and Mark Story replied that he was the supervisor. Danya stated to Mark Story that was unacceptable. Danya asked Mark Story if she could speak to his boss, he said his boss would be working the next day, Monday, and that there was absolutely nobody at the airport today in a position higher than himself. Danya stated to Mark Story that was unacceptable.


    At this time Mark Story took both Adam and Danya’s boarding passes for flight 3520 and tore them up. Danya asked Mark Story to rebook them on a later flight, he said there was no way that we were going to fly today. Danya stated to Mark Story that was unacceptable. Mark Story had the ladies at the counter print boarding passes for Monday morning, September 11th. Mark Story handed those to Danya and called TSA for an escort. Danya stated to Mark Story that it was completely unacceptable to delay travel an entire day for two working professionals, he didn’t care.


    Two TSA ladies came over to us and Mark Story asked them to take us out of the boarding area. Danya explained to TSA that Adam was unjustly removed from flight 3520 for intoxication and TSA could see that Adam was not intoxicated. Danya asked TSA how this determination could be made without any sobriety or even a breathalyzer test, and that there were absolutely no check or balance systems in place. TSA told Adam and Danya that their job was only to escort us and it was obvious that TSA had sympathy for Adam and Danya as they gave the obligatory escort. Outside the boarding area, Danya phoned SouthWest and explained what had just happened. The lady on the phone was sympathetic and tried to rebook Adam and Danya on a flight later that day. Unfortunately, since it was a same day booking, the SouthWest agent explained that she couldn’t book a flight by phone but, we could book it from the ticket counter at the airport. Adam and Danya walked to the SouthWest ticket counter and tried to book a later flight home to PDX. The person at the SouthWest ticket counter told Adam and Danya that they were blocked from rebooking a flight that day and that Adam and Danya were responsible for their room and board for the evening. Danya was quite upset by this as she had to be at work by 6:30am Monday morning, for a very important meeting, and the flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8:30 am Monday morning from Phoenix. Adam and Danya were still very confused as to why Adam was removed from the flight in the first place and why Mark Story felt the need to discriminate against Adam.


    Adam got online and was able to book two flights from PHX to PDX at 8:10 pm that evening from southwest.com for $935.96. Adam and Danya needed to make it home Sunday evening and didn’t want to be recognized when in the gate area by Mark Story. Adam and Danya visited their respective restrooms and changed into completely new clothing, removing all Packers clothing, before heading back through security. Adam and Danya printed their new boarding passes which came with two coupons for complimentary adult beverages on the plane. Adam and Danya proceeded to security very nervously and made it through without any issues whatsoever. Adam and Danya stayed far away from their gate until it was close to boarding time. When it was time to line up and board, Adam made his way to the gate and Danya followed a few minutes later as to not look like we were traveling together. Adam and Danya made it home around midnight after landing around 11:10 pm on September 10th.


    Adam, A-list SouthWest member, contacted SouthWest the following day and let them know the facts of the situation and that he wanted to be fully reimbursed for $935.96 and not given flight credit. SouthWest agreed to reimburse Adam, because of his A-list status, the amount of $492.46 and said it would take 30 days for the credit to appear. The credit did take 30 days to appear but, it was received. Now, Adam would like to be reimbursed the remaining $443.50. Adam and Danya would also like to inquire with SouthWest management as to any disciplinary actions taken towards Mark Story for his blatant and unjust discrimination in this situation so that it doesn’t happen again. It is also unnerving that as restricted passengers, Adam and Danya were able to easily able to rebook their flight. Please advise if this should also be brought to the attention of SouthWest management or the TSA.


    Original flight cost: $827.92

    Flight from PHX - PDX: $935.96

    Reimbursement: $492.46

    Would like to be reimbursed the remaining $443.50
     
    #1
  2. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    This is way too long to read. Can you simplify this with facts only on what happened? You are writing in the third person which is distracting as well.

    If you send this to SW, they won't read the whole thing either.
     
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  3. sas80

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    Gate agent thought one of the two was too intoxicated to fly so he denied the one boarding and the other one stayed behind as well because they are a couple. the Gate agent refused to rebook them until the next day.

    The couple asked repeatedly why they were being denied boarding a whole 24 hours, instead of on the next flight, or a flight a few hours later, and asked to be given sobriety tests, etc. but an explanation was never given and tests were never administered.

    Apparently the gate agent had witness something/behavior that led him to make this call.

    The did rebook to fly home later that day and want to be reimbursed the cost of those tickets. they were able to get a credit in the amount of the original tickets, but want the excess last minute fair 'overage' refunded as well.

    It's tough situation because, even if you had only one beer, the gate agent or flight attendant can boot you at their sole discretion. I've been an intoxicated southwest passenger before - but I know to not say anything, smile and breathe thru my nose, if I don't want trouble.

    Is it possible, while you were waiting in line for the A group to board, while you were in front and he was 20 people behind you, that something occurred that was reported to the gate agent? Perhaps he accidentally fell against someone, brushed a females rear, said something inappropriate, kept cussing, and someone reported him for being intoxicated and inappropriate?

    You can bring your reimbursement request up the chain to southwest and see what they might do. It's a tough situation because you admit you were in the bar before the flight.

    Your letter needs to be shortened greatly. The GBP mentions are unnecessary, etc.

    You sure nothing occurred in the line? he didn't piss someone off?
     
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  4. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    From their Contract of Carriage:

    RefusaltoTransport
    General. Carrier may, in its sole discretion, refuse to transport, or may remove from an aircraft at any point, any Passenger in any of the circumstances listed below. The fare of any Passenger denied transportation or removed from Carrier’s aircraft en route under the provisions of this Section will be refunded in accordance with Section 9. The sole recourse of any Passenger refused transportation or removed en route will be the recovery of the refund value of the unused portion of his Ticket. Under no circumstances shall Carrier be liable to any Passenger for any type of special, incidental, or consequential damages.

    1. (1) Safety. Whenever such action is necessary, with or without notice, for reasons of aviation safety.

    2. (2) Force Majeure Event: Whenever advisable due to Force Majeure Events outside of Carrier’s control, including, without limitation acts of God, meteorological events, such as storms, rain, wind, fire, fog, flooding, earthquakes, haze, or volcanic eruption. It also includes, without limitation, government action, disturbances or potentially volatile international conditions, civil commotions, riots, embargoes, wars, or hostilities, whether actual, threatened, or reported, strikes, work stoppage, slowdown, lockout or any other labor related dispute involving or affecting Carrier’s service, mechanical difficulties by entities other than Carrier, Air Traffic Control, the inability to obtain fuel, airport gates, labor, or landing facilities for the flight in question or any fact not reasonably foreseen, anticipated or predicted by Carrier.

    3. (3) Government Request or Regulation. Whenever such action is necessary to comply with any Federal Aviation Regulation or other applicable government regulation, or to comply with any governmental request for emergency transportation in connection with the national defense.

    4. (4) Interference with Flight Crew. Passengers who interfere or attempt to interfere with any member of the flight crew in carrying out its duties.

    5. (5) Search of Passenger or Property. Any Passenger who refuses to permit the search of his person or property by Carrier or an authorized government agency for explosives, hazardous materials, contraband, or concealed, deadly, or dangerous weapons or articles.

    6. (6) Proof of Identity. Any Passenger who refuses upon request to produce positive identification acceptable to the Carrier. For international travel, any Passenger that has not obtained and completed all documentation required for entry into and exit from each country, as well as compliance with the laws, requirements or procedures of each country listed on such itinerary.

    7. (7) Incompatible Medical Requirements. Carrier will refuse to transport persons requiring the following medical equipment or services, which either are not authorized or cannot be accommodated on Carrier’s aircraft: medical oxygen for use onboard the aircraft except FAA-approved and Carrier accepted Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POCs), incubators, medical devices requiring electrical power from the aircraft, or travel on a stretcher.
      (8)

      Comfort and Safety. Carrier may refuse to transport, or remove from the aircraft at any point, any Passenger in any of the circumstances listed below as may be necessary for the comfort or safety of such Passenger or other Passengers and crew members:

      Persons whose conduct is or has been known to be disorderly, abusive, offensive, threatening, intimidating, violent, or whose clothing is lewd, obscene, or patently offensive.

      (9)
      1. (ii) Persons who are barefoot and older than five years of age, unless required due to a disability.

      2. (iii) Personswhoareunabletooccupyaseatwiththeseatbeltfastened.

      3. (iv) Persons who appear to the Carrier to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

      4. (v) Persons who are known by the Carrier to have a communicable disease or infection and whose condition poses a direct threat as defined in 14 CFR § 382.3 to the health or safety of others.

      5. (vi) Persons who have an offensive odor, unless caused by a disability.


        Basically they leave themselves open to refuse transport for just about any reason.

        Are you sure another passenger didn't complain to this guy about your fiancé? The airline has the right to make you wait 24 hours if they believe you are intoxicated.

        Your fiancé needs to use our company contacts - start at customer service and ask why he was refused boarding. He was the one who was refused so he needs to be the one to contact them- they will not release the info to you.

        He should ask what in the Contract if Carriage he violated. They had to make a report to remove you so they must have the story from "Marks" side.

        He needs to give them a week to respond. If they don't, or they give him the run around, he should contact the first executive when the week is up. He can repeat weekly if required going up the chain.

        Let us know how this turns out. But HE needs to be the one to write due to privacy issues.
     
    #4
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  5. Danya Arguedas

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    Thank you for the responses and insight. We know we are at the mercy of the airlines when we fly and are aware of the following;
    (iv) Persons who appear to the Carrier to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.

    Can one person be the judge, jury, and executioner? That is my problem, there isn't system available for someone to object to a discretionary ruling made, on the fly, by a low level airline employee. That is why we repeatedly asked for sobriety/breathalyzer tests, I would think that would be common practice in determining if someone is too intoxicated to fly. Perhaps anyone with a 0.03 blood alcohol content is too intoxicated, that is well below the legal limit in Oregon to drive. If there was a standard, we could follow the rules, it wouldn't be arbitrary he said/she said situation.

    Yes, my fiancé can write up everything to SouthWest, he already has, which is how he received a partial refund. He was just simply standing in line, not interacting with anyone, texting on his phone. We do not believe that he bumped anyone or pissed anyone off while in line but, you can look at someone weird today and be offensive. When Adam was talking to SouthWest by phone after the incident, they didn't mention any customer complaints against him. We are respectful people and didn't swear or try to make the situation worse than it already was as we could see Mark Story wasn't going to change his unfounded conclusions.

    I was so bewildered by the whole situation that I didn't think to get witnesses but, I assume there is a report at SouthWest. Do you know how we could obtain a copy of this? Perhaps we can find the name of the TSA agents that escorted us out because, they would be able to verify our behavior when they were called to the gate.
     
    #5
  6. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    There used to be a show on tv I think called "Airport" or "Airline" and it was all behind the scenes stories at Southwest.

    Yes, one person can be the judge and jury. They usually did confer with others though if I recalled on the show.

    HE can write to SW using our contacts. They will have information on what occurred and he can ask what he did wrong.

    Since you were already on the plane you really don't know what happened after you got on the plane, you don't know if another passenger made a complaint and perhaps Adam doesn't know either or remember. You don't know what the conversation was between your fiancé and the agent.

    He should either reply to whoever gave him the refund for his ticket and ask why only his ticket was reimbursed.

    If the refuse again to refund, then he needs to start at the bottom of our Company Contacts and write. Give them a week to reply, if they don't or say no, he then writes to the first executive shown. Wait a week and repeat if necessary weekly going up the executive chain.
     
    #6
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  7. krisseye

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    This is such a tough one and I can see both sides. There was a case recently where a drunk passenger threw up on the letter write who was unfortunate enough to be seated next to him/her http://forum.elliott.org/threads/drunk-and-way-hungover-on-a-plane.6966/#post-70415. I bet everyone on that flight wished he was denied boarding.

    Judging by these 2 cases only, it looks like Southwest takes a more conservative approach than American. Neither is right or wrong. Assuming this standard is applied uniformly, Southwest gets a lot of pissed off passengers because they deny boarding to borderline intoxicated people, and American gets a lot of pissed off passengers who have to sit next to drunk people. I don't envy the front-line employees who have to make these decisions.
     
    #7
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  8. jsn55

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    What a strange situation. I don't think the agent would have done this for no reason but 'discrimination' ... what? he doesn't like the Packers? I suspect the boyfriend did something out of line and isn't admitting it. You have a good chance for some miles or vouchers, tho. He needs to be the letter-writer here. Have him follow my colleagues' guidance.

    I've never had an issue of any kind at an airport except a couple of occasions of less-than-friendly TSA people but I never take anyone for granted ... I look at them as if they might be on a power trip so I am super-polite. These people take a great deal of guff every single day at work and you just never know when one will just fall off the cliff at an otherwise-innocent remark or act.

    He should couch his letter jn matter-of-fact terms that he did nothing wrong but the agent booted him, just a simple misunderstanding ... but you both deserve some compensation for being treated badly and inconvenienced.
     
    #8
  9. George M

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    @Danya Arguedas, was Adam wearing a Green Bay Packers "Cheese Head" hat? That might have made Mark Story (who was probably a Chicago Bears or Minnesota Vikings fan) think that Adam was a little over the inebriation line.

    Follow @Neil's advice and commence emailing the SW person who sent the refund and then move on to the contacts. In writing to Southwest Adam should be factual but try to use a little bit of humor. Make the person reading his email see his side of the story and maybe even chuckle a little. Tell them that he really wasn't intoxicated - - everyone from Wisconsin smells like beer! Suggest that the gate attendant hated the Packers and became upset when you told him that Aaron Rodgers is the Greatest of All Time, not Tom Brady. If Adam was really not drunk then don't give up.
     
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  10. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    But you must cut it shorter and not talk in the third person. Adam should be speaking for himself, not as if it's a newspaper story.
     
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  11. Danya Arguedas

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    Okay @Neil I’ll advise Adam to follow your advise. The person from SouthWest that gave him a partial refund, Meghan Kahlig, used the email;
    no-reply@customercommunications.southwest.com

    I attached a screenshot of the message. How can we find her email? Or should we just escalate to this to your company contacts?

    Thanks for your help!
     

    Attached Files:

    #11
  12. Danya Arguedas

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    That is disgusting! We are model passengers on our flights. We did enjoy our free drink tickets when we finally were able to fly home. Lol
     
    #12
  13. Christina H

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    What an unpleasant situation. Now comes my analysis with a bit of tough love.

    Unfortunately SW and other airlines have had serious problems with drunk and unruly passengers in the past year and numerous incidents have been reported in the news. These incidences are costly.

    There is a possibility that another passenger complained -- someone that mistook vocal enthusiasm for a game as a sign of intoxication.

    And now for the tough part-- when a gate agent questions if someone is intoxicated is not a good strategy to start asking if a sobriety test was done like a breathalyzer and then claim that the answer no is "not acceptable". That sounds belligerent.

    I was questioned about fitness to fly -- I looked pale and jittery-- flight canceled, had a two hour wait in line to rebook, got a hotel voucher, ended up with 2 hours of sleep no dinner but a lot of coffee before boarding. I did not say what I thought --" of course I look like crap on 2 hours sleep, I waited in line for 3 hours for rebooking ..no dinner and a gallon of coffee to get me moving" I quietly said I had not slept but looked forward to sleeping through the flight. I got on.

    Skip the talk about discrimination -- you admit to have been drinking so you lose the argument right there--

    Do not talk about what the TSA thought you have no idea what they thought. Shorten the letter and do not write in the third person.

    And now for the tough part on the airline -- did they even bother to read -- the letter says "you ultimately chose to purchase a ticket on a different carrier". But you wrote that you flew later on Southwest. If you flew Southwest later they got your money and should not be doing the partial reimbursement.

    Be polite and concise and professional. I think the agent was overly cautious but it is understandable given what has been in the news.

    I often have a glass of wine before a flight so no judgement there.
     
    #13
  14. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Dayna, they only have their online form to use. Here are the executive contacts- start with
    Jim Ruppel.

    Executive Contacts
    Primary Contact
    Jim Ruppel
    Vice President of Customer Relations & Rapid Rewards
    2702 Love Field Drive
    Dallas, TX 75235
    Jim.Ruppel@wnco.com

    Secondary Contact
    Michelle Benham
    Director Customer Advocacy
    2702 Love Field Drive
    Dallas, TX 75235
    Michelle.Benham@wnco.com

    Chief Executive
    Gary Kelly
    Chief Executive Officer
    2702 Love Field Drive
    Dallas, TX 75235
    (214) 792-4000
    gary.kelly@wnco.com
     
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  15. Neil

    Neil Moderator
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    Actually if you do a google search of "Southwest Refusal to Board" you'll find many news stories on other incidents with them. They don't kid around if they think there is someone who is going to disrupt a flight.
     
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  16. SKroot

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    If SW has that many "intoxicated-appearing" passengers, perhaps they should have a breathalyzer available. If other airlines are experiencing the same issue, than all airlines should have one. No one can determine if someone is drunk. Maybe they were just happy!
     
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  17. George M

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    I will admit that there are times in my life I've been "happy" and a couple of times (many years ago, of course) I've ingested too many adult beverages. At the times I've been happy I could still walk a straight line, speak coherently and understand instructions. Not so when drunk!
     
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