Southwest Airlines called police on passengers stranded by their meltdown at Nashville International Airport (BNA). In a shocking turn of events, Southwest employees called police to threaten stranded passengers with arrest for “trespassing” if they did not leave the gate area where they were waiting for a Southwest agent.
Amani Robinson was one of the passengers affected by the delays and cancellations. She recorded the incident with the police and posted it to TikTok. In the video, the police officer can be heard telling Robinson and her family that they have to leave the gate area and return to the ticket counter for rebooking, or they will be arrested for trespassing.
The officer claimed that since their flight was cancelled, they no longer have a valid ticket and are therefore trespassing. That’s not actually true: a ticket is still valid even if a flight is cancelled. When asked by a lawyer to explain what statute he was threatening passengers under, he didn’t have an answer.
The police department issued a statement about the incident clarifying that Southwest Airlines personnel had called the Airport Communications Center and asked for a police officer to be dispatched to the gate area to escort passengers to the pre-security ticketing counters.
“The Department of Public Safety at Nashville International Airport works to ensure the safety of all passengers throughout the airport. Unfortunately, the recent winter weather disruptions have brought operational challenges to airlines and airports across the country leading to flight delays and cancellations. With the high number of flights impacted at BNA on Sunday evening, travelers were asked to visit the pre-security ticketing counters for help to rebook flights. Southwest Airlines personnel contacted the Airport Communications Center asking that a police officer be dispatched to C-concourse, Gate C-7/9, to escort passengers to the pre-security ticketing counters. We understand and appreciate the frustrations travelers may have, and we are working to provide the best passenger experience for all.”Nashville International Airport on Twitter
It’s absurd for Southwest to call the police on its own customers when they are trying to rebook their flights or seek clarification about their travel plans. It is the responsibility of the airline to handle these situations and provide information and assistance to its passengers.
Gary Leff commented at View From The Wing on the bad look for Southwest to call the police on its customers when they were overwhelmed. As he notes, airline customer service is usually located after security, and it is more efficient for stranded passengers to seek help there rather than the ticket counter.
Southwest has had a rough holiday season with its massive meltdown. Instead of helping rebook the the passengers they’ve failed, some employees decided the best approach was calling the police to threaten their own customers with arrest. Southwest has not returned requests for comment.