Is this any way for Southwest Airlines to treat an injured passenger?

Peter Panetta almost died on a recent trip to Puerto Rico. But what Southwest Airlines did to him afterwards really killed him.

Panetta says a flight attendant on a Southwest flight “bullied and badgered” him while he was in a weakened state. He wants to know if the airline offered him enough compensation for the experience.

These are really difficult cases for our advocacy team. We can see both sides and we want everyone to be happy with the outcome. That almost never happens, of course.

Panetta was a passenger on a Southwest Airlines flight returning from Puerto Rico to Baltimore. He had, in his words, had been “seriously injured” after a near-drowning accident, in which he had been hospitalized.

I’ll let him tell the story:

I received very inappropriate treatment by a flight attendant at a time where I should have been provided extra special care. During the flight, a male flight attendant was persistently rude to the extent of bullying me.

I sat in a window seat approximately row 20, with a medical mask around my face. I was coughing persistently over several minutes early in the flight.

The husband of the couple sitting beside me got up to get water for me, because no attendants were around.

The flight attendant eventually brought me a cup of water, and as he handed it to me, said “I want you to know that this is someone else’s water, but I’m going to go ahead and give it to you anyway.”

This comment was unnecessary and inappropriate, as I hadn’t said a word to him.

I fell asleep during the middle of the flight, which helped me remain peaceful and free of coughing. However, multiple times the attendant passed by and specifically woke me up by directly asking me to hand him any garbage.

As soon as I would awaken, I would start coughing again. It was unnecessary to repeatedly disturb me, given there were 90 minutes or more remaining before descent. This was cruel and unusual punishment for someone obviously suffering.

The attendant badgered me once more during descent. He said to me, “I need all of your garbage.”

I responded, “Yes” with a smile.

He then replied in a harsh tone, “I want all of it!”

I politely responded, “I will give all of it to you.”

He then immediately retorted, “You have to lift up the tray table and seat right now!”

I said in response, “I know sir, I’m on it.”

The attendant’s condescending behavior not only disturbed me. The couple in my row had their heads down in shock and amazement.

It is unconscionable for a flight attendant to bully and badger an ill, considerably uncomfortable traveler as he did.

He never once asked what was wrong, or what he could do to make my flight more comfortable. He never once said “thank you” during the flight.

Someone with a personality like this absolutely has no business interacting with paying customers, let alone your most loyal, long-term ones. His confrontational attitude toward an obviously ill traveler is synonymous with kicking a man when he is already down.

This flight attendant deserves to be fired. At the very least, he needs to be reassigned to another position in the company with no customer interaction.

Now, this is certainly not the first unsympathetic flight attendant I’ve heard of, and I know it won’t be the last.

But bullying a sick passenger? That’s a new low, especially for Southwest.

Panetta wants 100,000 bonus points and a “personal response” which includes how Southwest will discipline the flight attendant.

Southwest apologized, sent him a $200 flight voucher and added 5,000 points to his frequent flier account. Not good enough, he said. Here’s the final word from Southwest.

Your unhappiness with the situation regarding your [flight] is very clear, and I regret that you were not satisfied with my responses to your concerns.

Admittedly, learning that a Customer has parted ways with us with anything less than a positive memory is upsetting to say the least, and I appreciate your candid feedback.

I certainly regret that you feel $200 in travel credit is commonly distributed for Customers contacting Customer Relations regarding their individual travel experiences.

It’s important to point out that each of our Passengers’ situations are examined on a case-by-case basis by our Representatives and Specialists to determine whether or not compensation is warranted, and if so, how much.

As you mention in your email, we do offer passengers compensation when volunteering to take an alternate flight in the event of an oversale; however, you completed travel as scheduled.

As you can imagine, it is impossible for us to place a dollar value on a customer’s frustration or inconvenience. Consequently, our focus is on offering our sincere apologies and correcting any service shortcomings in order to avoid future problems. I’m sorry to hear that the voucher issued didn’t have the impact we were hoping for.

While I obviously don’t want to further upset you by rehashing your experience, we truly regret that you remain disappointed with the way we’ve “netted out” on this particular situation. Any time a Customer calls into question the performance of one of our Employees, our reputation is at stake, and we most certainly could not—and would not—enjoy the success we’ve known if we approached such matters cavalierly.

Rest assured, the mere arrival of your initial letter was sufficient cause to review our Flight Attendant’s performance and learn from your comments.

While I did issue you 5,000 Rapid Rewards points in the past as an exception (we do typically compensate in travel vouchers or in the original form of payment), we will not be able to respond favorably to your request for an additional 50,000 Rapid Rewards points in this case.

I realize my response may not provide much in the way of closure for you, but it is our hope that you will consider all perspectives before drawing your final conclusions about Southwest Airlines.

Our goal is to provide our Customers with excellent service and value and we regret that we have continued to disappoint you. We hope we will someday have the opportunity to regain your confidence and goodwill.

That response didn’t go over well and Panetta asked our advocacy team to get involved. And we did, sharing his paper trail with our airline contact.

Result? According to Southwest, “the matter is closed and we have no further action.”

Here’s the thing: Panetta got some points, a voucher and a personal apology. I believe what really irritates him is not knowing the fate of the flight attendant. Maybe this will help: I’ve spent some time with the folks at Southwest and I know they’re horrified by what happened to Panetta. This employee is not Southwest material.

Did Southwest Airlines offer Peter Panetta enough compensation?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at Cavalrytravelinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend