(USA TODAY) - A Minnesota man says he and his two children were asked to get off a Southwest Airlines flight they had just boarded after the man tweeted about a boarding disagreement he had with a Southwest gate agent.
Duff Watson of New Hope, Minn., tells KARE 11 TV of Minneapolis he's an elite "A-List" member of Southwest's Rapid Rewards frequent-flier program. A-List customers are entitled to early boarding because of their status, and Watson assumed that would include his children – ages 9 and 6 – who were traveling with him on a flight from Denver to Minneapolis.
A gate agent informed Watson that was not the case, and they'd have to wait until after priority boarding to get on the aircraft. But Watson, who tells KARE 11 that he has been able to board early with his kids on previous trips, claims the gate agent "rudely and dismissively" told him they'd have to wait.
"I said, 'is this a new policy? I'm not clear,'" Watson explains to KARE 11.
He claims the gate agent replied: "No, that's the policy and we can stand here and argue about it all day, but I'm not going to change my mind."
Watson says he responded with: "Real nice way to treat an A-List. I'll be sure to tweet about it."
And he followed through.
"I said in caps: RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPPY @SWA," Watson tells KARE 11.
Then, after Watson and his family were seated, they were paged on the plane's PA system and told to gather their belongings and get off the plane.
Watson says he encountered the same agent. He claims she said she felt threatened that Watson used her name and location in his social media complaint. The woman, according to Watson, said she was going to call the police and that the family would not be allowed on the plane unless he deleted his tweet.
A supervisor was called, and the family was allowed to get back on the plane – but only after Watson deleted the tweet.
Watson tells KARE 11 that he didn't think he should have to do so, but complied because "I frankly was so shaken and so upset, I just want to kind of get home."
Southwest acknowledged the incident, saying in a statement:
On Sunday, July 20, a Southwest Airlines Employee and Customer were having a conversation that escalated about the airline's family boarding procedures. The Customer was briefly removed from flight #2347 from Denver to Minneapolis/St. Paul to resolve the conversation outside of the aircraft and away from the other Passengers. Our decision was not based solely on a Customer's tweet. Following a successful resolution, the Customer and his family were able to continue on the flight to Minneapolis. We are thoroughly investigating the situation. We have reached out to the Customer and offered vouchers as a gesture of goodwill. Still, Watson tells KARE 11 that he's not satisfied with the response, telling the station that he does not intend to fly the airline again.