NO LONGER REWARDED FOR PUTTIING CUSTOMERS FIRST
More and more members are asking, “Are they treating agents this badly in other stations?” Sadly I have to confirm that indeed, in the stations I’m aware of, the company seems determined to abuse and exploit the employees. Granted, there is no direct physical abuse; Southwest Airlines is not a 1930s chain gang – yet. There are many stations where mandatory overtime is the norm and not the exception. Yet for some reason the company thinks that we need more managers to tell our ever dwindling workforce that we are notproductive enough. Lest you think that I am merely lambasting and taking cheap shots, I have nearly 30years with this company and it saddens me to see what I consider its rapidly approaching demise. We agents built this company by providing superior service to our customers. This was celebrated in Love Lines with stories about fellow agents who went above and beyond their job description in the Winning Spirit award section. It was common to see stories about agents who drove two hours after their shift without compensation to deliver a bag or stopped a push to allow a late arrival on the flight.
Our members still are a credit to the airline where it is more and more common for the employees to care about the customers while the corporation does not. One of the many examples of this is where an agent was told by a manager not to get the local bags to baggage claim so quickly. “It is better if the customers are waiting for their bags or else we may have to hire people to watch the bags,” this agent was told. It wasn’t that long ago that the herculean task of getting the bags to baggage claim in ten minutes or less was the expected norm. While I cannot fault our members’ attention to the customers, who after all ultimately pay our salaries and keep the company in business, please remember that you shouldn’t sacrifice yourself. You only have one back. If you hurt it, Southwest Airlines will not hesitate to avail itself of the contractual provision to drop you from employment after three years and you will forfeit all of your seniority rights. This of course is a euphemism to terminate you. If you cut corners and make a mistake on your paperwork, the company will discipline you. If you rush to get to that next galley because staffing has been further cut and get in an accident, the company will discipline you. This leaves the customer-care-oriented member in a dilemma. Do you load the rear bin of an 800 by yourself in a vain attempt to get the flight out on time or do you do everything you can by yourself and keep calling for help? Do you put off rechecking your paperwork as one plane pushes so you can work another one or do you follow the Ground Ops Manual and finish the first flight’s paperwork before beginning the next flight?
So what is the answer? I wish I knew. Ultimately, this is not our airline. We are merely employees, parts in a machine. We can point out the useless policies, the pointless rules, the nonsensical regulations imposed by the people who run the company. They can continue to lead us like lemmings to the edge of the abyss because they are in charge. If you see a fellow agent rushing without completing their first flight, remind them of the likely consequences of their actions. If you see someone stacking bags three high on a belt to load the rear of an 800 by themselves, help them if you can but at least remind them that they only have one back. Ultimately, we must look out for each other.