It wasn't enough that Southwest Airlines embarrassed itself when a baggage handler was caught throwing boxes marked "Live Tropical Fish." But even people willing to ignore piscatory neglect might get more upset about making fun of a five-year-old, a story that came out yesterday.

Maybe it wasn't the best week for Southwest to raise prices on another 21,000 flights.

Traci Redford and her five-year-old daughter, who has epilepsy, were preboarding a flight that was to take them home from John Wayne Airport in Southern California, according to KABC-TV in Los Angeles. The young girl has a really unusual name: Abcde, pronounced Ab-city.

There are times that employees may come across something really strange and find it funny, and that's where it should end: quietly. Apparently the gate agent enjoyed the humor on seeing the girl's boarding pass but forgot to treat the customers as she might want to be.

According to the mother, the gate agent laughed, pointing at her and the daughter while talking to other employees. In other words, making the two feel like the butt of a joke.

According to Traci Redford, the gate agent took a picture of the boarding pass with her phone and posted it on social media. Not that Redford knew at the time. Someone who saw it on Facebook let her know. And reportedly, Southwest Airlines had received a formal complaint and done nothing for two weeks.

I got in touch with Southwest and received the following statement:

We extend our sincere apology to the family. We take great pride in extending our Southwest Hospitality to all of our Customers, which includes living by the Golden Rule and treating every individual with respect, in person or online. The post is not indicative of the care, respect, and civility we expect from all of our Employees. We have followed up with the Employee involved, and while we do not disclose personnel actions publicly, we are using this as an opportunity to reinforce our policies and emphasize our expectations for all Employees.

Well, okay, but this was not the most emotionally intelligent way to handle the problem. Waiting two weeks when you have a complaint of this nature come in is ridiculously slow. The result is that it looks like Southwest only acted because the event became public. How much easier, and more private, it would have been to take care of things promptly.

Redford did show emotional intelligence in what she said to the station about using this as a lesson for her daughter: "She said 'Mom, why is she laughing at my name?' And I said not everyone is nice and not everyone is going to be nice and it's unfortunate."

I said emotional intelligence, but there's another more old-fashioned term that works even better: manners.

Published on: Nov 29, 2018
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