Man kicked off Southwest flight after tweeting about rude gate agent

Public relations aren't the strong point of most airlines, but Southwest took it to an entirely new level recently after a tense incident between a passenger and a rude Southwest gate agent -- which led to hostilities, thinly veiled threats, and forcibly deleted tweets.

A Minnesota man and his two children, ages six and 9, were preparing to board a return flight from Denver to Minneapolis when a gate agent stopped him. The man was in A-class priority boarding, which would allow him to get on the plane before other passengers, but his two small children didn't -- so when they attempted to board the plane with their father, a gate attendant stopped them.

According to Duff Watson, the father involved in the incident, the gate agent accosted him and informed him that since his two children didn't have priority boarding, they'd all have to board together later. Details are sparse about how exactly the incident transpired, but Watson says there were "no threats made and no profanity used." Following the incident, Watson took to Twitter to complain about his experience with Southwest.

“In leaving I said, you know, ‘Real nice way to treat an A-list. I’ll be sure to tweet about it,’” Watson said in an interview with a reporter from WCCO Minneapolis. “Something to the effect of, ‘Wow, rudest agent in Denver. Kimberly S, gate C39, not happy @SWA.’” Watson boarded later with his children as per the agent's request, but soon after getting to his seat he was approached and asked to leave the plane. The gate agent reportedly said that her "safety felt threatened" by the tweet and "threatened to call the cops," and that the family would not be allowed to fly on the plane unless Watson deleted the tweet -- which he did.

Soon after, he reached out to Southwest Airlines again via Twitter, and they emailed him an apology and $150 in flight vouchers -- which isn't enough to cover even a single ticket on Southwest from Denver to Minneapolis, let alone three. And while his initial tweet was forcibly deleted, Watson was sure to express his displeasure via further tweets.

There's no word on whether Southwest will take action against the gate attendant who forced him to delete the tweet, but Watson says he will never fly the airline again regardless.

Update: Moments after posting this story, Duff Watson has set his Twitter account to 'protected', meaning that only approved followers can see his tweets and user profile

Source: WCCO Minnesota | Image via Twitter

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Typical whining American. "I'm A-list I must have better treatment, and my family too".
When I worked in the service-line of work, visiting Americans always told me they would be tipping me, usually the first thing they said, the tips always where in the 1-10$ range. While tips from other nationalities where in the 10-100$ range, from people not thinking, or expecting to be treated as kings.

I can see her point about safety, when he went as far as to mention her name and last name initial and then the exact place ("gate C39") that she works. And if the guy wanted to board early, he should have purchased "priority" for them too. I haven't even heard the other side of the story, and I think the guy was totally wrong here.

What?!
Like people haven't been named on Twitter before with exact locations?

Perhaps the name badge had the last initial. If so, then I assume the airline is happy to give the last initial.

Stopping him from flying "unless he deleted the tweet" was a dumb course of action - he should have made them call the police. Delaying the plane would have cost the airline much more than what it was worth.

As I said before, the point became irrelevant - the gate person probably just wanted to show the customer who was boss.... in a stupid way, instead of just letting it go.

I think the alleged "forcing him to delete it" may have been overkill, but doesn't change the fact that he complained in the first place because he didn't purchase priority tickets. Did he think he'd save some money by getting himself priority tickets and then claim that the kids should get to go with him "because they're kids"?

Nice way to circumvent the system and moan about it when he purchased an A-list for him and expects that will automatically grant the same level of service for his kids. Screw logic or rules!

Guy just sounds like a spoiled whiner with absolutely no life, that needed to cry on Twitter.

Guess he looking for his 15 minutes of fame, or is that shame?

This Twitter and Facebook stuff has gotten even more nauseating that even I could have ever thought it would be! :x

My parents had to sign a wavier to leave a resort in Cuba, stating that they couldn't publicize the problems they experienced at the resort with local media outlets. MANY people signed these waivers appearently, as witnessed by my parents, so I have absolutely no faith in the reviews posted on tripcentral or any other review site.

There was no running water for 4 of the 7 days of their vacation. They actually ran out of ice as well as beer, more than once. Things were also stolen from their room.. I mean, thats huge problems for a tropical resort to be covering up with a wavier and naive tourists. I don't think its legally binding, in addition I don't think the resort has any legal avenues to exercise if they did go to the media - They are never going to that resort chain again, anywhere.

Anyway I pretended to be 3 different people and posted negative reviews of the resort out of spite, detailing their problems just because of this. I also had a terrible experience in Cuba at a different resort when I last visited, which I negatively reviewed as well. Needless to say I'm fed up with Cuba's style of conducting business, and I'm happy to read that southwest seems to have taken lessons in customer appreciation from their Cuban coutnerparts. One less option when I travel.

Why did your parents go to Cuba in the first place? There are plenty of other islands in the Caribbean that are saver and prettier than Cuba.

Gungel said,
Why did your parents go to Cuba in the first place? There are plenty of other islands in the Caribbean that are saver and prettier than Cuba.

Nah, Cuba is a great place to visit. Just make sure your vaccinations are up to date.

Gungel said,
Why did your parents go to Cuba in the first place? There are plenty of other islands in the Caribbean that are saver and prettier than Cuba.

Safer? Which islands? A guy pulled a machete on my friends in Jamaica when they went to a tiny corner store, locking the door and asking again, "Are you sure there's nothing you want to buy?" extorting them of $20. Theres armed guards all around the resorts I went to in Puerto Plata, DR. I had 0 issues with safety in Cuba, I felt like as a white anglophone I could walk anywhere and not find violence or trouble. Hell, a resort worker even took us to his cramped apartment where his parents and wife lived for a delicious lobster meal and a fun night of karaoke. Plus its quite cheap and theres no chance of running into Americans which can be nice.

Very one sided story so far. Not saying that what happened to this guy is right, but I'm almost betting he said something rude enough back to get him off the plane.

wv@gt said,
Very one sided story so far. Not saying that what happened to this guy is right, but I'm almost betting he said something rude enough back to get him off the plane.

Yup, but in typical Neowin style, everyone is jumping on the story not caring that there is probably more to it.

Just because you are A-list does not make your family special I swear some people they think they are all Celebs. I take Southwest and it least I understand how policy works if he really wanted his kids with him he would have gotten them the same priority ticket, I swear some people just love to complain because they are just too stupid to comprehend.

TsMkLg068426 said,
Just because you are A-list does not make your family special I swear some people they think they are all Celebs. I take Southwest and it least I understand how policy works if he really wanted his kids with him he would have gotten them the same priority ticket, I swear some people just love to complain because they are just too stupid to comprehend.

Actually, with just about every other Airline, Train, Ferry, etc in the world.. it does. As long as they are minors.

TsMkLg068426 said,
Just because you are A-list does not make your family special I swear some people they think they are all Celebs. I take Southwest and it least I understand how policy works if he really wanted his kids with him he would have gotten them the same priority ticket, I swear some people just love to complain because they are just too stupid to comprehend.

If, for example, you fly business and your kids in economy they are entitled to board ahead of other passengers with you. In other words being minors your privileges are extended to them.

It's called Duty of Care... in the UK, no transport business can leave anyone alone, let alone a minor as you have a duty of care towards that person.

If you get a drunk person, you can't just tip them off your bus and leave because if that person dies, YOU are liable as YOU were the last person to interact with them.

So if the parent decided to board the plane, the kids welfare would have become the airlines responsibility as they are forcing the party to splt. While the parent has the choice to board or not, the airline should have used the not-so-common sense and let them all board together.

Sounds like the gate assistant had a bit of PMT that day.

Sir Topham Hatt said,
If you get a drunk person, you can't just tip them off your bus and leave because if that person dies, YOU are liable as YOU were the last person to interact with them.

Not true at all. How do you think kids get home from school if they were never allowed to be alone and there is no duty of care to look after drunk people, you only have a duty of care if you have put yourself in a position to owe a duty of care.

Which in my job role, we have a duty of care.
Imagine the headlines if a Train Manager chucked off a 15 year old for having no ticket. The fact they had no ticket will be lost in the fact they are a "minor".

Most job roles (including the one in this article and the one I mentioned) have some sort of duty of care responsibility.
IT workers, probably not.

no if parents stupid enough to buy a line ticket but not for his kids , it is his fault. no one as to leave there seats for someone else kid. Seat are limited and the price is very high compare to regular seats. cheap man he his

seafirex said,
no if parents stupid enough to buy a line ticket but not for his kids , it is his fault. no one as to leave there seats for someone else kid. Seat are limited and the price is very high compare to regular seats. cheap man he his

Perhaps re-read? The kids had tickets, just not priority tickets like he did and most airlines let the kids board with their parents in the priority line even if the parent is the only one with a priority pass.

Martog said,

Perhaps re-read? The kids had tickets, just not priority tickets like he did and most airlines let the kids board with their parents in the priority line even if the parent is the only one with a priority pass.


Like you said "Most airlines" and even if the gate agent was wrong at doing his job what is his point of tweeting about it? Maybe the agent should start tweeting how airline customers fail at following rules and see how that goes for him.

Martog said,

Perhaps re-read? The kids had tickets, just not priority tickets like he did and most airlines let the kids board with their parents in the priority line even if the parent is the only one with a priority pass.

So it's Southwest's fault that he didn't know their policy? Sorry, things go a lot smoother in life if you know the rules and adibe by them. What "most airlines" do is beside the point.

COKid said,

So it's Southwest's fault that he didn't know their policy? Sorry, things go a lot smoother in life if you know the rules and adibe by them. What "most airlines" do is beside the point.

TsMkLg068426 said,


Like you said "Most airlines" and even if the gate agent was wrong at doing his job what is his point of tweeting about it? Maybe the agent should start tweeting how airline customers fail at following rules and see how that goes for him.

I never really said he was in the right or wrong, but just clarifying for someone who did not fully understand the article that the dad had indeed purchased tickets. Weather or not he was in the right for complaining, is a whole another story.

TsMkLg068426 said,


Like you said "Most airlines" and even if the gate agent was wrong at doing his job what is his point of tweeting about it? Maybe the agent should start tweeting how airline customers fail at following rules and see how that goes for him.

That's exactly the point, airlines could tweet about customers, just like customers should have a right of tweeting about their experience. You don't want bad press about you, just act correctly.

threatened by a tweet srsly? what happened to Freedom of speech?

btw lets those kids also be in the A line if parent has an A ticket stupid agent, maybe he hates kids who knows at least say something like sorry sir but your kids don't have A ticket but if you go last in A line they can come on board with you, at least for kids under 10/12y

Dj_baby said,
threatened by a tweet srsly? what happened to Freedom of speech?

btw lets those kids also be in the A line if parent has an A ticket stupid agent, maybe he hates kids who knows at least say something like sorry sir but your kids don't have A ticket but if you go last in A line they can come on board with you, at least for kids under 10/12y


Yeah, he can find the time to make a Tweet but can not make time time to get correct airline tickets for his kids, oh wait his freedom of speech is more important than his kids talk about lazy parent syndrome.

Freedom of speech is completely irrelevant, it prohibits the government from limiting your speech, it doesn't prohibit reactions by private entities.

TsMkLg068426 said,


Yeah, he can find the time to make a Tweet but can not make time time to get correct airline tickets for his kids, oh wait his freedom of speech is more important than his kids talk about lazy parent syndrome.

It has nothing to do with tickets.

Dj_baby said,
threatened by a tweet srsly? what happened to Freedom of speech?

btw lets those kids also be in the A line if parent has an A ticket stupid agent, maybe he hates kids who knows at least say something like sorry sir but your kids don't have A ticket but if you go last in A line they can come on board with you, at least for kids under 10/12y

Its what happens when women are raised to believe they are victims.

There has to be more to this story. I find it hard to believe that an agent felt threatened over a simple tweet. The customer is alright right..........in reality many aren't.

JHBrown said,
There has to be more to this story. I find it hard to believe that an agent felt threatened over a simple tweet. The customer is alright right..........in reality many aren't.
Southwest has a very LONG history of PR nightmares by their employees. Most of which have been self inflicted.

JHBrown said,
There has to be more to this story. I find it hard to believe that an agent felt threatened over a simple tweet. The customer is alright right..........in reality many aren't.

It is easier to believe one side without hearing the full story.

Ryoken said,
Southwest has a very LONG history of PR nightmares by their employees. Most of which have been self inflicted.

So does every other airline, as well.

I would have thought it was no longer a matter of what is right or wrong, rather that the Gate Agent just wanted to "show what they can do"... to make the passenger/customer feel like an idiot.

You see this all the time in business.

So, he has priority to board the plane, his kids don't. He gets told as much. He then complains about it instead of just accepting that the rules was different than he expected. And then he even feels the need to tweet about bad service? Looks to be like he was wrong and he wouldn't have had any problems if he would admit his fault and just say "oh my bad, I'll wait with my kids then".

Unless there's some rules about kids and pri A parents that weren't mentioned this seems pretty straight forward to ne.

The whole asked to leave cause of a tweeted complaint however, seems fishy and one sided to me.

Flatval said,
So, he has priority to board the plane, his kids don't. He gets told as much. He then complains about it instead of just accepting that the rules was different than he expected. And then he even feels the need to tweet about bad service? Looks to be like he was wrong and he wouldn't have had any problems if he would admit his fault and just say "oh my bad, I'll wait with my kids then".

Unless there's some rules about kids and pri A parents that weren't mentioned this seems pretty straight forward to ne.

The whole asked to leave cause of a tweeted complaint however, seems fishy and one sided to me.

The bigger issue is that he had an issue, tweeted about it, and because he tweeted about it they were gonna kick him and his family off the plan.

He didn't make threats, he just expressed his displeasure at the way he was treated. Justified displeasure or not, you shouldn't be kicking people off planes over it.

Flatval said,
So, he has priority to board the plane, his kids don't. He gets told as much. He then complains about it instead of just accepting that the rules was different than he expected. And then he even feels the need to tweet about bad service? Looks to be like he was wrong and he wouldn't have had any problems if he would admit his fault and just say "oh my bad, I'll wait with my kids then".

Unless there's some rules about kids and pri A parents that weren't mentioned this seems pretty straight forward to ne.

The whole asked to leave cause of a tweeted complaint however, seems fishy and one sided to me.


Yes there are, and the children are allowed to board with the parents in case they have priorities access to the flight.

Ryoken said,

The bigger issue is that he had an issue, tweeted about it, and because he tweeted about it they were gonna kick him and his family off the plan.

He didn't make threats, he just expressed his displeasure at the way he was treated. Justified displeasure or not, you shouldn't be kicking people off planes over it.

How do you know whether he made threats in the original tweet? It's gone. It's not quoted in the article above, or the source article. All we have are the tweets he made after deleting the original, and a quote from *him* describing the original tweet.

And even in his description, he says he named the flight attendant in the tweet, which is enough to have the tweet deleted. And considering people tend to bend details in their favor when they tell a story, who knows how bad it might have actually been worded.

I'm not flat out siding against him, but I'm not taking his word as fact, either. I'm not the kind of idiot who always sides with a customer telling a story about a bad experience just because I think certain types of companies are "always the bad guy". Though there sure are plenty of people like that, eager to find any excuse possible to rage about some corporation.

It's not like we haven't all seen someone make a fool of themselves by blowing up over something that was blatantly their own fault.

Cosmocronos said,

Yes there are, and the children are allowed to board with the parents in case they have priorities access to the flight.

Nope, with SouthWest at least (other airlines have different rules), the A group goes first, which includes those who paid extra for business select, anyone with A-List status, who paid extra for priority boarding and then those who printed their boarding pass 24 hours ahead of time until the A group is full. The A group can have no more than 60 people in it, but the first 15 slots are reserved for business select, so it often has as few as 45 because most people don't pay for BS (pun intended). After the A group is boarded but before B group boards, then families are able to board.

For those who do not know, SouthWest does not do assigned seating, so your boarding order plays a HUGE part is what seat you are able to pick.

The 737s they use have 24 rows on each side with 3 seats each. At the time of family boarding, there is a max of 1.25 people per row. In reality, you never have 15 business select, there are always no-shows and people flying together who choose to share a row. At the time of family boarding there are normally a fair number of totally unocupied rows to choose from. You really can't say families would not be able to find seats together.

My brother had his connecting flight from Baltimore cancelled today by Southwest so they put him on standby for a flight 8 hours later in the day. Then they send him an email that his standby flight is going to be delayed. On 2 hours of sleep, an entire day trapped in an airport; the joys of Southwest.

I've had enough bad experiences with Southwest and the people who fly an airline like that to say never again.

Avatar Roku said,
My brother had his connecting flight from Baltimore cancelled today by Southwest so they put him on standby for a flight 8 hours later in the day. Then they send him an email that his standby flight is going to be delayed. On 2 hours of sleep, an entire day trapped in an airport; the joys of Southwest.

I've had enough bad experiences with Southwest and the people who fly an airline like that to say never again.

I flew to Vietnam last month, i was supposed to leave from Cleveland at 6am, 5 minutes before boarding the flight was cancelled, got rescheduled for another flight at 9am, 20 minutes before boarding it was also cancelled, I finally got to leave Cleveland around 1pm.
The worst part about it was when i got to Tokyo I arrived way too late to catch my connecting flight to Ho Chi Minh city and had to be shuttled from Norita to Haneda which was 1 hour drive on the other side of Tokyo and then 4 hours later I was on my way to Vietnam finally.

United airlines, what a total mess.

My wife and I have flown Southwest for several years and have never had a single issue. Just lucky, I guess. I always check in exactly 24 hours before departure and usually get the A group. For those who don't know, Southwest doesn't have assigned seating. Anyway, seems like both sides got their undies in a bundle.

Southwest didn't just put him on standby for the hell of it. You only get on standby if you try to buy a ticket or change a flight and the plane is already booked. Standby means you don't have a seat, but is someone else doesn't show you will get their spot. Anyone who who gets upset they could not get on a standby flight needs to pay more attention when they book their flight.

I once had a situation where my flight was over 2 hours late, but the next flight heading to the same city was on time, I asked if I could be moved to that flight and they warned me it would be standby, I took the risk and made the change, figuring I could still get on my original flight if it didn't work out. I didn't get the standby seat, when I tried to change back my original flight was booked so standby was all I could get, didn't make that flight either. Ended up having to rent a car and driving back, but totally my fault, SouthWest did warn me that could happen and I chose to take the risk.

Did he tweet an apology to all the other passengers on the flight for his blatant, antisocial attempt to jump the queue?

spc1972 said,
Did he tweet an apology to all the other passengers on the flight for his blatant, antisocial attempt to jump the queue?
Actually in most airlines and such that have priority seating, If the Parent has the pass, the Kids go with.

spc1972 said,
Did he tweet an apology to all the other passengers on the flight for his blatant, antisocial attempt to jump the queue?

What blatant attempt? Frequent flyers, Business class passengers always have priority access.

Cosmocronos said,

What blatant attempt? Frequent flyers, Business class passengers always have priority access.

His children weren't either. He obviously didn't check this airlines rules and should have just accepted that he was going to have to wait his turn when told.

Ryoken said,
Actually in most airlines and such that have priority seating, If the Parent has the pass, the Kids go with.

That is not how SouthWest does it, I fly them a lot. They have family boarding after everyone who paid extra or has a spacial status allowing them to get on first. After that, then family boarding, then everyone else boards in the order they printed their boarding pass. They already allow families to get on at a time when the plane will have more than enough seats together. This person was just expected something he was not entitled to and making a fuss when he didn't get his way.

recursive said,
Right, because women can do no wrong and its always the man who must be at fault.

I'm going to assume that you pay extra for A class priority boarding and this man tried to steal this service for his children. While the response might have been disproportionate it looks like both parties were in the wrong.

recursive said,
Right, because women can do no wrong and its always the man who must be at fault.

What on earth has their gender got to do with it? You might want to be careful because your misogyny is showing.

I call BS. Lets hear the OTHER side of this story.

Like there are twitter police out there for Southwest Airlines that just happened to be at the same terminal and know exactly who he is.

vcfan said,
he told the agent he was going to tweet. not hard for an agent to pull that up on their smartphone.

Of course, because the TSA agent or whoever it was knew his twitter to follow him. /s

"Guys, lets scour the Interwebz looking for this guy before he takes off!"

@SWA is not Southwest Airlines twitter.

His follow up tweet shows the correct handle, so my bet is the person saying @SWA, literally just "said" At-SWA, not implying that he sent it to @SWA.

In short, the reported recorded what he said, verbally, not the tweet as it was sent..


adrynalyne said,
I call BS. Lets hear the OTHER side of this story.

Like there are twitter police out there for Southwest Airlines that just happened to be at the same terminal and know exactly who he is.

southwest is notorious for being a ###### airline that you only use when you absolutely have to or don't know any better.

Ryoken said,
His follow up tweet shows the correct handle, so my bet is the person saying @SWA, literally just "said" At-SWA, not implying that he sent it to @SWA.

In short, the reported recorded what he said, verbally, not the tweet as it was sent..

Again, let's hear the other side so we can really get a picture of what happened.

seta-san said,
southwest is notorious for being a ###### airline that you only use when you absolutely have to or don't know any better.

Like all the times they have told women they are wearing stuff too revealing.. when it's really fairly standard casual.

adrynalyne said,

Of course, because the TSA agent or whoever it was knew his twitter to follow him. /s

"Guys, lets scour the Interwebz looking for this guy before he takes off!"

@SWA is not Southwest Airlines twitter.

his twitter handle is his full name. anyone could have found him in seconds.

1.go to twitter.
2.search for duff Watson under people
3. first result with his mug

vcfan said,

his twitter handle is his full name. anyone could have found him in seconds.

I'm sure the rep was that keen and found it in seconds. So silly for people to listen to one side without hearing the other. I've no doubt he was kicked off or whatever, but there was probably more to it.

adrynalyne said,

Of course, because the TSA agent or whoever it was knew his twitter to follow him. /s

"Guys, lets scour the Interwebz looking for this guy before he takes off!"

@SWA is not Southwest Airlines twitter.


Boarding passes show names...

adrynalyne said,
I'm sure the rep was that keen and found it in seconds. So silly for people to listen to one side without hearing the other. I've no doubt he was kicked off or whatever, but there was probably more to it.
You mean like the times they have kicked women off the plane for being too "revealing".. Or women kissing their girlfriends? Or how about the time they kicked off someone for wearing a shirt that insulted President Bush? Then there was the time they kicked off Kevin Smith.. Oh and the time they kicked off the Muslim because the crew was "Uncomfortable having her on the plane" even when searched by the TSA..

adrynalyne said,

I'm sure the rep was that keen and found it in seconds. So silly for people to listen to one side without hearing the other. I've no doubt he was kicked off or whatever, but there was probably more to it.


Indeed... and the Airline offering a voucher is a clear indication of which side was overreacting...

Cosmocronos said,

Indeed... and the Airline offering a voucher is a clear indication of which side was overreacting...

Bad publicity is worse whether customer was right or wrong...oof course tcheobey offered a voucher.

Apologies for last post, my phone decided to stop letting me backspace words.

Anyway, I am curious: Do you have a phobia of hearing both sides before making a decision?

Exactly!! I fly SouthWest a lot. Those are the rules. Unless you pay for priority boarding for your entire family, then you board with your family. They have "family boarding" between group A and group B, to ensure families are still able to find seats together. The old trick of bringing a kid and your entire family gets on first is long gone. Sounds like the man expected something unreasonable and got upset when they didn't break the rules to give it to him. I have little patience for people like that.

Edited by sphbecker, Jul 24 2014, 4:13pm :