Man Says Southwest Airlines Kicked Him Off Plane Over Tweet Complaint

A Minnesota man said he and his family were kicked off of a Southwest Airlines flight on Wednesday because of a tweet he sent.

Duff Watson said he and his children were removed from a flight for sending a tweet to the airlines complaining about the customer service of one of their agents. Watson told CBS affiliate WCCO the agent treated him rudely during a disagreement over early boarding before a flight from Denver to Minneapolis. Watson is an "A-List" passenger with Southwest, which allows him to board early. However, Watson said the gate agent refused to allow his 6-year-old and 9-year-old to board early with him. Not wanting to leave his kids behind and not wanting to wait to board later, Watson argued with the gate agent. Via ABC:

When the gate agent told Watson she can't let his children board with him, Watson said he asked the agent: "Is this a new policy?"

Watson said the agent didn't answer his question directly, but told him: "I am not going to change my mind."

The gate agent allegedly asked Watson and his two children to step aside and wait until the rest of the A-list members board.

"We waited, which was fine," Watson said. "I thought she was very rude and wanted to complain to customer service, so I asked her: 'Can I get your last name?'"

"She told me: 'You don't need my last name for anything,'" Watson said.

"I said, you know, 'Real nice way to treat an A-list. I'll be sure to tweet about it,'" he told CBS. He followed up on that promise as soon as he got on the plane. Watson's original tweet is not accessible now (he has since made his account private).

"[The tweet was] something to the effect of, 'Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA,'" he said.

After he sent the tweet, the family was told to leave the plane, according to ABC. When they exited the aircraft, Watson encountered the agent he had tweeted about. Watson said she told him he was a security threat and made him delete his tweet before being allowed to continue his travel:

Watson said the agent threatened to call the cops if he didn't delete the tweet that included her first name and initial of last name.

"I was taken aback by the situation. My two kids were crying," Watson said. "She watched me as I deleted the tweet."

"There was no use of profanity, there were no threats made," Watson told CBS. "There was nothing other than, you know, a terse exchange between a customer service agent and a customer."

Singling out someone by name is probably not a good idea especially considering how sensitive airlines are to issues of security. It's also worthwhile to note that we really have no idea what he actually tweeted since it's been deleted. We only have Watson's word to go by that he did not use any threats or language that could have been construed as threatening.

According to CBS, Southwest did respond to the incident:

Southwest Airlines sent a statement which confirmed that a customer was removed for a short time and continued on to Minneapolis. They also said the incident is under review. In an email to Watson, Southwest apologized for the incident. Because of confidentiality concerns, they could not disclose any disciplinary actions taken.

The airline reportedly called Watson shortly after the incident, according to ABC:

[A Southwest representative ]informed him that A-list members' priority treatment doesn't apply to family members. "I looked on their website and I didn't find any explicit rule," Watson said.

Southwest has offered Watson a $50 voucher as a good-will gesture, he said, but he plans to donate it to charity.

"I'm not going to fly them again," he said. "I wish I didn't back down, I wish I didn't delete the tweet. But under that quid pro quo situation, I did it."


Image via Duff Watson Twitter.