I’ve flown Southwest Airlines for about 30 years. This is partially because it is affordable and partially because it is the only airline with non-puddle-jumping planes that flies into my hometown of Midland, Texas.
But I recently had an experience that darn near knocked my socks off and made me seriously question my loyalty (like I have a choice unless I want to walk to West Texas) to this company.
Here’s the sordid story in as short a form as I can stomach. (If anyone from Southwest Airlines happens to be reading this, you can add this as an addendum to my official complaint, #192310831.)
My toddler, who is presently 2-and-a-half, and I were on a plane in Vegas, waiting to take off, strapped into our seats and working a sticker book. In front of us arose some sort of clatter about the flight being overbooked and “lap children” needing to be on the laps of their parents.
Manny the flight attendant came up to me and asked me if my daughter was a lap child. I replied that no, she is two with her own ticket. Manny came back a few minutes later and demanded to know her name, as if he thought I was pulling a fast one. Which I suppose some people do. He stomped off to check the flight roster.
Side note: Yes, Manny (or maybe it was Mannie) is his real
name. I want you parents to be forewarned about Manny’s idiocy in case you must
ever fly from
Las Vegas to Midland
Then Manny came back a third time, for some reason angry and looking for a fight.
“She’s got to go,” he said.
“What?” I said, thinking he meant that my child was about to get kicked off the plane.
“She can’t sit in the carseat if she’s not a baby. She has to sit in the seat without the carseat if she has her own ticket.”
I’ll let all of the parents in the audience pause for a moment and ponder the multiple layers of ignorance cast upon you in that one fool sentence.
We proceeded to argue back and forth about how I’ve been traveling with children for 7 years and I know that it is the parent’s choice whether or not to put the toddler in a carseat when travelling by air.
No dice. My friend Manny made me take my toddler out of her seat and hand the offending item over to him. The whole thing terrified my girl and she immediately started screaming. She refused to be buckled into the “big girl” seat, going rigid and very nearly hyperventilating. The plane was delayed. The other passengers were annoyed, but at least sympathetic. I was embarrassed and very nearly in tears myself. It was awful.
All the while, Mr. Manny didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned that he had upset a small child (or small adult for that matter). He never offered condolences or tried to explain. He was obviously having a bad day and he decided that picking on and bullying the mom with the little kid was a lot easier than telling the two obese men who took up three seats in the front row that they needed to haul their enlarged posteriors elsewhere.
The dude probably takes candy from babies. He certainly takes carseats from babies.
Then suddenly the lead flight attendant, whose name I wish I had gotten, brought us back the carseat and apologized. I fought my kid back into her seat with bribes of chocolate and she promptly passed out. Probably from fear.
I thought the matter was over, but no. Manny the Asshat made a point of coming by two more times, not to apologize but to let me know that he was still correct.
“I looked in the book,” he said. “She has to be in an adult seat.”
Sure buddy. I know that big kids don’t ride in laps on airplanes, but I also know that FAA and Southwest Airlines recommends using an approved child safety seat for kids up to age 4 or 40 pounds. I fly a lot and, unlike Manny, I tend to pay attention to these things.
I just nodded at him and made sure I got his damn stinking name so that I could properly inform Southwest Airlines that Manny needs to get some training in FAA standards and perhaps magically ingest a dose of human empathy if he wishes to remain in the service industry.
The whole thing was one step away from those horror stories you hear about titillated flight attendants asking a breastfeeding mom to get off the plane. Not quite that bad. But horrendous nonetheless.
Yes, I filed an official complaint with Southwest and they will get back to me within 45 days. In the meantime, I am sure Manny will act like a complete heartless douchebag to yet another family.
God bless him, I hope someday he has children of his own.
--Robin Dutton-Cookston is senior editor of Mamazina and lots of other good stuff too. Check out her book at The Foggiest Idea.