The airline that doesn’t offer first-class and doesn’t pre-assign seats, has shown me why their service is the best in the sky, and on the ground. Granted I’m primarily a Delta Air Lines customer, but that’s because they offer the most non-stops to the most destinations from its Minneapolis/St. Paul hub, where I happen to live. And when I travel for business, the length of time en-route is a top priority.
So why the sudden love affair with Southwest Airlines? Well, it isn’t really sudden, but it certainly did blossom in the last week with a trip that my daughter took to Florida from the Twin Cities. Sarah, 23, is a great kid who was born with a severe allergy to legumes, which includes beans, peas, beets, sprouts and yep, you guessed it, peanuts. And, while she certainly can and does travel by air, the way she was accommodated by Southwest on four flights, two in each direction, was beyond incredible.
Southwest’s website makes informing the carrier about her peanut allergy, or any other disability, a cinch. With a few clicks of the mouse the airline was made aware that she preferred that peanuts not be served in her row, and hopefully not in the rows in front or behind her, as well. So what did Southwest do? They took peanuts off of her flights altogether, choosing instead to offer other snacks to passengers on her flights.
Additionally, the airport gate staff at MSP were aware of her situation from the online information provided and allowed her to board the first flight at Terminal 2/Humphrey during the pre-board process. They told her that this way she could wipe down the area where she would be seated to be comfortable that no peanut residue would endanger her. Now that is going far beyond the call of duty!
In St. Louis, where Sarah and her boyfriend Nick connected to Ft. Myers, Florida, while they weren’t pre-boarded, the flight again didn’t carry peanuts. While this may not seem like a big deal to many, it is to someone with a food allergy. And more than 4 million Americans are allergic to peanuts.
Not only was this getaway a long-awaited escape from Minnesota, it was the first time that Sarah has been able to travel since being diagnosed with a rare bone cancer (Ewings Sarcoma) during the summer of 2011. Her treatment has been long and arduous including more than 60 days in the hospital for chemotherapy, followed by 31 radiation treatments and then, after 10 days of high-dose chemo, a stem-cell transplant. She has been a trooper throughout with a great attitude, and her cancer has disappeared in the process, hopefully to never return again.
If you’re wondering about the trip home from Fort Myers to Chicago, and onward to the Twin Cities, it proved to be identical to the southbound flights. No nuts, no way. Southwest chose to accommodate a traveler, and not an elite one either, on each and every flight by not serving nuts to anyone aboard the flight. What an incredible gesture by an incredible airline. It will also have me trying to return to its Rapid Rewards A-List, which allows frequent customers early boarding on every flight, plus other perks.
To the MSP, STL, RSW and MDW ground staff for Southwest, and to the cabin crew on each of Sarah’s flights, thank you for going above and beyond what was expected. Each of you enhanced her long-awaited return to the skies, and at the same time guaranteed a customer for life.