MINNEAPOLIS - A New Hope man and his two children were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight in Denver after he tweeted about a boarding disagreement.
Duff Watson says he has priority boarding because of his "A-List" customer status. But a gate agent didn't allow his two children, ages 6 and 9, to board with him Sunday on a flight to Minneapolis.
Watson said he was told this was because they had different boarding priorities, though this is something that hadn't been a problem in the past. He says the agent "rudely and dismissively" told him he couldn't do that because it was against policy and they would all have to wait.
"I said, 'is this a new policy? I'm not clear,'" said Watson. He says the gate agent replied, "No, that's the policy and we can stand here and argue about it all day, but I'm not going to change my mind."
Watson says he said in parting, "Real nice way to treat an A-List. I'll be sure to tweet about it." And that's what he did.
"I said in caps: RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPPY @SWA."
Once Watson and his children boarded the plane and had taken their seats, they heard an announcement on the loudspeaker asking the Watson family to gather their belongings and exit the aircraft.
Watson said that was when the same ticket agent approached and said "she owns the boarding process for the plane and feels threatened because he used her name on social media, and that unless he deleted his post, she was calling the cops and the family would not be allowed back on the plane."
Watson said his children were in hysterics because they thought they were going to be arrested. A supervisor was called, and the family was allowed back on the plane, but only after Watson agreed to delete his tweet.
"We get bounced off the plane, and it turns into a completely different situation and escalated for reasons that are quite honestly silly," said Watson. "There was not threat made, I didn't use profanity on the tweet or in my personal exchange. I was doing my best to be respectful."
Watson said he tweeted about his less than positive experience because he thought it would be an efficient way to address a customer service issue.
Not long before the incident, Watson said he sent a tweet praising a Southwest employee for her help at baggage check-in. It read in part: "Who rocks in Denver? Cindy rocks @SWA."
Watson said Southwest was quick to respond to the complimentary tweet, and thanked him for the "LUV."
He said he doesn't believe the airline had a right to demand he delete his tweet, but he did so because "I frankly was so shaken and so upset, I just want to kind of get home."
When asked about the situation Southwest Airlines spokesperson released a statement. "On Sunday, July 20, a Southwest Airlines employee and customer were having a conversation about the airline's family boarding procedures that escalated. The customer was removed from Flight #2347 from DEN to MSP for a period of time to resolve the conversation outside of the aircraft and away from the other passengers. The customer and his family later continued on the same flight to Minneapolis. We are thoroughly researching the event and, if necessary, will counsel those employees involved. For the customer's inconvenience we offered vouchers as a gesture of goodwill."
Watson says he won't be using those vouchers, as he will never fly Southwest again.