About 500 Southwest Airlines customers were stranded at Houston’s Hobby Airport last Sunday morning once the Hurricane Harvey flooding began and the FAA shut down Hobby.
What did Southwest do?Something great from a CX perspective.
Step 1: They got permission from the FAA to find a way to fly out the 500 or so passengers and work with the FAA on the security and legal nature of it.
Step 2: They took five stranded Boeing 737s, and loaded them with passengers.
Step 3: They got FAA permission, but they had to fly out before nightfall because Hobby didn’t have working lights via Harvey.
Step 4: They flew the passengers to Love Field in Dallas — 1 hour or so flight, would have been a 4-hour drive for those customers provided they could find a rental car — and let them make arrangements from Love and DFW.
Phill and Leah Chapman, who actually live in Dallas, were en route home from a vacation in Belize. After the stop at Hobby, they were initially told they could be there until Wednesday — almost half of the next week. “It all happened so fast ,” they told The Weather Channel.
And yes, while these were admittedly previous Southwest passengers (meaning they had paid for a ticket somewhere), this whole operation was done at no extra charge.
I’d guess those 500 or so passengers will remember Southwest forever, and probably be indebted to them forever too — being stranded in an airport, or an area generally under siege from Mother Nature, isn’t how you want to spend the 4-5 days after your vacation or weekend getaway.
What Southwest did was good humanity, of course, but it was also great customer experience. We talk of micro moments and small wins; this was neither. It was a macro moment and a big win. When you can deliver that for customers (and be safe and legal!), do it.
Unrelated to this story but related to Southwest in general: Episode 46 of my podcast was with Sonya LaCore, Southwest’s VP of In-Flight Operations.