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Southwest Airlines - Southwest Airlines reckless infliction of emotional distress
Posted on Monday, August 31st, 2009 at 7:20pm CDT by 78e04e4f
Company: Southwest Airlines
Based on my research this is not an isolated issue. Using a basic Google search I have found that there is someone else who has had a very similar experience with the same person at the LAS airport.
This incident happened on August 12, 2009. I flew from SWA Portland, Oregon to Las Vegas on 8/9/09. For my return trips I was booked on flight 1325, confirmation number NPRXIX from Las Vegas to Portland, Oregon on 8/12/09. Disabled with a back injury and mental disability (Recognized by the ADA) I was discriminated against and humiliated without regard to factual evidence. Had this happened in Oregon before flying to Vegas I would have had the choice to go home and not take the flight. Instead this happened where I would be stranded in Las Vegas with no idea of how I would get home to my underage daughter which caused extreme anxiety for me.
An attendant supervisor came up to me while I was seated in my wheelchair at the gate waiting for my flight with people on each side of me and across from me. I was not able to remember her name, but this happened at gate C5. She had short Dark hair and was thin. She asked if I had 2 tickets for my flight. I responded that yes, I had one for myself and my husband. She then said I needed to have 2 tickets for myself for the flight to Portland. I was baffled because I had never experienced this before. I didn't know what she was talking about. She said that it is the policy of Southwest that I purchase another seat. No explanation why, so I had to assume it had to do with my size. Of note, I was approached immediately after my husband had left my side to go purchase food at the airport. I explained that I fit in the seat just fine as I had flown from Portland, where I live, to Las Vegas without incident. She said that she was sorry I wasn't told before, but that I
would not be allowed on the plane without the purchase of an additional seat. At this point I started having trouble breathing and having an anxiety/panic attack. I called my advocate, a close family relative, to speak for me because I became unable to speak or breathe freely. My advocate explained to the supervisor that I have a mental disability and that she was advocating for me. The supervisor gave the same stonewalling to my advocate and returned the phone to me. As soon as I was off the phone the supervisor came back....even after being told that I had a mental disability she insisted on pushing me further. I informed her that she needed to stop and leave as I was having an anxiety/panic attack brought on by her judgments of me that were unfounded in fact. She persisted and I explained that she needed to leave again. All of this took place, not in a discreet and compassionate way as described on the SWA website, but rather with reckless abandon. She had no regard what so ever to my mental disability that she had been informed of by my advocate or that this was being handled in a very public manner. Finally after asking for the third time for her to leave she did. My husband returned after getting food to find me in tears unable to catch my breath. He went to talk to the supervisor who gave him the same rude and uncaring attitude. My husband asked to speak to her supervisor to which she replied she does not have a supervisor and there is no one above her. My advocate was on the phone with SWA customer service during this time explaining the issue and reiterating my mental disability and anxiety/panic attack. On the phone the agent stated that since my husband was sitting next to me this should not be an issue. They agreed to call the supervisor. They got back on the phone and agreed to have a different supervisor come over, but said that the persons name was Scott.
Razzy T arrived and with an expressionless face and a tone to his speech refused to listen to me at all. We again called my advocate to talk to him explaining that I needed him to talk to her instead of me. My advocate needed to speak for me due to the severity of my panic attack at this point. Razzy refused to talk to my advocate. Razzy refused to let me have the phone near him so that my advocate could hear what he was saying. Razzy repeated over and over that it was a judgment call that based their opinion that I needed a second seat. I again explained that I did not require a seat as the arm rest goes up and down just fine. Razzy continued on with no regard to the fact that I was having trouble breathing and in a full blown anxiety attack that is clear to everyone near me. I told him that I could not talk to him anymore due to my anxiety/panic attack. He continued on and still refused to talk to my advocate who I needed to speak for me due to my attack. I could
not breathe, I could not speak and I was falling apart in the middle of the airport, again with people all around me. Razzy would not leave. I repeated that I was done talking to him because he would not listen to me. My husband asked him to leave. In his same tone and expressionless face he repeated that I needed to purchase an additional seat. I informed him that he was discriminating against me based on disability. Especially when it was clear that he would not look at the evidence and refused to talk to my advocate. My advocate was necessary and on the phone with me during the entire conversation and heard everything Razzy T said. I simply had the phone up to my ear so that she could hear. Therefore, we do have a witness to the treatment I received. I kept telling Razzy to please talk to my advocate, he continued to refuse. It seemed to me that he did not want to resolve this matter in any way other than to force me to buy the 2nd seat. My husband repeated that Razzy needed to talk to my advocate. He didn't seem to want a witness to the mistreatment, but my advocate was able to hear the entire conversation and will attest to what she heard. The way I was treated was unlawful and unacceptable treatment in regards to my disability. I was in a wheelchair and clearly having an anxiety/panic attack. Not only the disregard for my mental disability, the fact that it was CLEAR that I was having an anxiety/panic attack, but also the humiliation of this being done in front of the entire waiting area. Nothing discreet about that at all. Finally he left me alone....in full hysterics and I couldn't breathe. This was now the worst anxiety/panic attack I have ever experienced in my life. I felt like I was going to die.
By the policy stated on the Southwest Airlines website, if the arm rest can go up and down it is NOT required to purchase a second seat. If SWA is going to have that as the definitive gauge then there needs to be a way to show that, not left up to the "judgment" of others. When it is left up to the judgment of others it creates a precarious situation allowing for discrimination and bias judgments. Especially when it turns out to only be manufactured in the agents head, as was this case and the previous case involving Razzy T and another passenger. Fitting between the armrests was not an issue. I got from PDX to Vegas without incident. I needed to get home to my underage daughter.
The plane started boarding and we had our preboarding slip and were escorted onto the plane. Razzy and the other supervisor were not around. I had hoped that the issue had been dropped and I could finally just return home. Once seated we took numerous pictures of me seated in the seat with the armrest down. Furthermore we took video of me seated moving the arm rest up and down without issue. Razzy told the gate attendant to then take me OFF the plane. The gate attendant, who was very nice explained Razzy had requested to speak with me and have me removed from the plane. We cooperated. I get to the ticket desk and Razzy does not say anything. I try to show him the pictures proving I fit in the seat. He refused to look at it. My husband tried to show him the picture. Razzy does everything NOT to look at the evidence. He refused to look at it always diverting his eyes. He made it clear that he made a decision and no matter what he was not going to listen or cooperate with us. How is this compassionate? Razzy then said again that I had to buy the 2nd seat. Razzy was clearly discriminating against me based on his own personal opinion, which was inaccurate based on the policy set forth by SWA of which we had proof.
Even after I had proof that I fit in the seat fine...the arm rest going up and down without issue. Razzy REFUSED to look at the evidence.....People were getting on the plane at least as big as me with NO extra seat. This one man who was larger than me got off the flight that had just arrived...I talked to him and his wife. He was not required to buy an extra seat either. I was targeted and it was clear I was targeted. We have pictures of other "customers of size" with their permission who were NOT required to buy that extra seat. More and more evidence we had the less Razzy paid attention. Razzy REFUSED to look at the video and photo proof. Razzy refused to listen at all to me, my advocate or my husband. So I spent 7 hours in panic mode unable to remain calm....because of someone's opinion. 7 hours that turned into many more hours. Razzy admitted several times that it was based on a JUDGMENT call on his part. This was a judgment of discrimination. Razzy and the other supervisor pushed me over the edge with no regards to the fact that they were further contributing to a disabling panic attack. These anxiety/panic attacks are real and cause pronounced physical issues.
What happened to me was wrong, discriminatory and offensive. It was discrimination based on the personal opinion of 2 people who had no intention of listening to me. Not to mention that I was in a wheelchair....standard wheelchair and I fit in it just fine.....they harassed me over and over even after I told them they needed to stop due to my having an anxiety/panic attack in the middle of an airport....This was the most traumatic experience of my life.....and it was completely unnecessary. I was constantly harassed and with reckless abandon pushed into a disabling anxiety/panic attack that I was admitted to the hospital upon my return to Portland. Is this the kind of service that one should expect from SWA and it's employees?
We booked a later flight out of a different gate at LAS. I spent the entire time at the airport and the plane ride home in a full anxiety/panic attack and uncomfortable. I have never been so humiliated or treated with such blatant disrespect and disregard of my disabilities by ANYONE in my entire life. This was a clear reckless infliction of emotional distress and harassment that was completely uncalled for and not within the policies of SWA listed on the website.
This isn't about being asked to buy a second seat.....if I didn't fit in one seat I would have understood. But I DID fit, exactly according to the guidelines on the SWA website. This isn't about whether or not they were right to approach me. Although I would say it is hard for SWA enforce a policy some of the time and expect people to accept it. Based on my research others have had this same experience with Razzy T. Clearly this is not an isolated issue. This is about the complete and utter disregard for my disabilities as they continued to harass and intimidate me in the middle of the airport and the lack of discretion and compassion in which this was handled. The blatant disregard for the unnecessary emotional distress caused by these 2 SWA supervisors. Not to mention the fact that they refused over and over to look at the factual evidence that would have resolved this matter. The fact that I fit in the seat. But instead I was removed from the plane to be further
humiliated and pushed further in my anxiety/panic attack to the point it was disabling. The thought of being stranded in Las Vegas and being unable to get home to my underage daughter was so overwhelming. I am a plus size women and I do take up ALL of the seat, but I do not need the room of more than one seat. My body STOPS at the area in between the 2 seats, thereby only needing ONE seat by your own policy. My bottom half is smaller than my upper half. But SWA policy clearly states that it doesn't matter if my shoulders take up 3 seats only if my hips do. When the issue escalated and we were given no options for going above the supervisor and their insistence on pushing the issue to the point of a disabling anxiety/panic attack it became a more serious issue. This never should have escalated to the level it did.
The way this was handled from start to finish was not within the "discreet" nature described on SWA's website. The mission statement on the SWA website states, "The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit." This is far from what I experienced with the supervisors on August 12, 2009. Furthermore, the constant harassment and humiliation over several hours by Razzy T and the other supervisor pushing me to the disabling point of a panic attack is not showing that SWA cares about it's customers.
On August 28, 2009 I received a response from John in customer service. No apology for the mistreatment I received, only stating that they were sorry with the inconsistency of the enforcement of the policy in Portland. Again, SWA can't "sometimes" enforce a policy and expect people to just accept it. I appreciate that my 2nd seat is being refunded, but this matter goes way beyond the 2nd seat purchase as you can see by the information above. (Note: I am still waiting for the credit to my account for this 2nd seat). The refund of the 2nd seat is not sufficient in this case. As a direct result of the behavior exhibited by these supervisors there is now a hospital bill, the prolonged reoccurring anxiety and psychological effects this has had and the suffering as a result of this experience.