Southwest takes a passenger under its wing

By | January 28th, 2016

Just as her flight was pulling away from the gate, Peggy Uhle received a surprise no one wants to get – and Southwest certainly did not want to give.

The plane abandoned its take-off and taxied back to its starting point, where attendants gently guided her to check in with the gate and call home immediately.

The dreaded news? Her son had fallen into a coma.

Before Uhle could react, Southwest had already re-routed her transportation all the way to his bedside with a direct flight, luggage transfer, a private waiting area, priority boarding, and a meal -– all without even asking.

Hopefully, this may be a pattern of air carrier cream rising to the top.

Not ready for this

Uhle’s holiday excursion concluded with an Easter Sunday trip home as planned. “I had an early morning flight from Raleigh-Durham, NC, on Southwest Airlines and had to change planes in Chicago to reach my final destination of Columbus, Ohio,” said Uhle.

“With less than an hour between flights and the earliness, I did not turn on my phone to check messages. I boarded my flight, the attendants closed the door, and we started to pull away from the gate.”

But then, “They pulled back to the gate, opened the door, and the flight attendant told me to come with her,” she continued. “I figured I was on the wrong plane. The gate agent told me to check in at the desk and when I did she told me to call my husband.”

Seconds can seem like hours in such an ominous setting.

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I made the call and learned my 24-year old son fell and was in a coma in a Denver, Colorado hospital,” Uhle went on.

As a parent, I can only imagine the stunned silence.

Changing air travel plans late in the game can have all kinds of fees and procedural requirements. If needing an urgent itinerary change without penalty, Southwest’s refund and change policy for illness and emergencies requires some manner of documentation and notice.

We’ve got your back

But Southwest realized this wouldn’t help Uhle in real time. “The gate attendant already knew the situation and had booked me on a direct flight to Denver that was leaving in the next 2 hours,” she said.

And they weren’t done.

Uhle added, “They offered a private waiting area, re-routed my luggage, allowed me to board first, and packed a lunch for when I got off the plane in Denver. My luggage was delivered to where I was staying, and I even received a call from Southwest asking how my son was doing.”

That definitely goes way beyond anyone’s job description. But what about her son?

“My son suffered a traumatic brain injury and continues to recover,” Uhle said. We wish him, you and his Dad our best wishes.

“Southwest never asked for payment for the Denver flight, luggage delivery or anything else,” she concluded. “The care that I was shown is second to none. We have always liked Southwest Airlines and now can’t say enough good things about them.”

Neither can we.

This story was first posted on June 15, 2015.

  • Don Spilky

    Just… wow.

  • Alan Gore

    THAT’s how customer service is done, folks.

  • JewelEyed

    I hadn’t read this one the first time. I’m really glad that things went this way for her.

  • Bill___A

    Very touching, good on Southwest and good on their employees for having their act together along with the compassion to do it. I hope the son recovers well.

  • Rebecca

    You’re so right about how many people this effort took. Sometimes we do need to remember that almost everyone is good, and has good intentions. I’m glad you pointed that out.

  • Jim

    Above and beyond does not even begin to describe this…

    Way to go Southwest.

    Hope her son recovers.

  • Judge Jury

    I shudder to think how United, Delta, American, Spirit, and West Jet would have taken advantage of her situation in a negative way. They all would have extended self- congratulatory platitudes but in reality their thinking boils down to “bitch your son be dead soon fork over the following fees”. Bravo Southwest!

  • Jim Daniel

    Sadly one story like this get’s shoved to the back while the slightest unpleasantness gets the headlines.

  • BMG4ME

    Wonderful story from Southwest, sorry about the events that led to the story..

  • Brian Janis

    Really, really still my favorite airline. Way to go Southwest!

  • John McDonald

    good on you Southwest. Great PR at probably very little real cost. All airlines should empower their employees to do same.

  • CommonSense

    Next week is my third r/t on LUV this year. They helped me with a destination issue years ago going through PHX, with no hesitation, charge or anything else: rerouted me and even managed to get my checked luggage to meet me. Every large company or airline does screw up sometimes but they have been consistently great.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    Wow. How is her son doing now?

  • judyserienagy

    Empowering your employees to make a difference in your customer’s life, what a concept. This is not the first extremely positive story we’ve heard about SW taking care of business in a most human way. Well done, Southwest!

  • Lee

    I love love love this story. They did what we as humans would love all humans to do. Good for them. Demonstrates it can be done – as it should be done. Hope their son continues his recovery speedily.

    In such moments, the confusion, fear and being alone feels overwhelming and these employees knew how best to alleviate as much of that angst and worry about logistical issues as well as possible and to make her comfortable by providing a private space.

    Well done. Would love to see more such stories.

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