Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Southwest Flight 812: Confessions

In light of recent media and Twitter attention, I feel compelled to confess a few things:

1. I am not a social media maven. Look at my flubs on Twitter for evidence.
2. I am not a "citizen journalist." With my then-50 Twitter followers, I wasn't aiming to "break" the news on Friday. I'm just a regular person--a woman who wanted to tell her husband and fam and friends the story in case it had a sad ending.
3. I do not and have not worked for Southwest, nor do they sponsor me in any way.

On point three, I'd like to expand. People ask if I'm afraid to fly. Nope, not really (as I explained briefly in a recent post). Am I afraid to fly Southwest? Not at all. I'll be headed to L.A. on a flight this coming Sunday. And then to Phoenix Tuesday. And back to Sacramento the following week. And a hundred flights after that. A really nice op/ed piece from CNN explains some safety stats that are comforting (see here). Sixteen million Southwest flights without a passenger fatality is impeccable and I hope it stays that way.

So why am I so damn positive about Southwest even after the terrifying events of Flight 812? Because "Southwest" is people, not some monolithic inhuman machine. Up until this incident, they've offered consistently great service that enables me to travel back and forth between my doctoral program at Arizona State University and my husband in Sacramento. Even though Friday's flight scared me more than anything else I've experienced in my entire life (and anything I hope to experience again!), I still know there are people behind the brand.

Did I hope for a verbal apology before now? Yep. We were told that someone from headquarters would call on Saturday. But I get it. I've worked in corporate communication and I can only imagine what those folks are dealing with right now especially in light of cancelling so many flights and working with many (presumably) upset customers. To have so much attention from media, investigators, and bloggers like me on top of it has got to be exhausting. So we'll see.

Lest you think I am a corporate stooge, however, I study organizations for a living and I'm working on a doctorate in organizational communication. I'm trained to think critically about business practices and policies. I teach my students to be critical as well, to examine organizations, to see how they treat employees, customers, and the environment. But you know what? Southwest has consistently emphasized a positive mission, won awards for service and employment practices, and seems to really care about its people. I hope that my perceptions are accurate. But again: I don't work for them. I've just observed them over time in my 100+ flights over the last couple years.

I will admit though that I would love to work with Southwest for my dissertation study. (Or an airport or TSA.) As mentioned in a Phoenix Fox 10 interview (see here), I study interactions in airports, and I would love to help improve communication between airline/airports and customers.

We shall see!

xoxo,
shawna

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