Contacting Southwest Airlines

imageSouthwest Airlines has a little application called Ding! which offers special limited time (hours) fares. I have relatives that love this program. But, maybe predictably, this blog entry has nothing to do with the concept of the application itself. 

It turns out that the application has an annoying bug where the programmers left in code that prints debugging statements (via NSLog?) to the system log on Mac OS X (Leopard).

The big problem is that the application prints a huge number of messages. Coupled with the fact that users run this application non-stop to get the most benefit from it, this floods the system log and forces quicker log rotation, removing the chances to find important events in the system log.

While dealing with Apple on a few of my (several hundred) bug reports I've submitted to them on various issues, bug reports filed from systems running Ding! have made everybody's life difficult because the system events Apple is looking for are flushed out by all the Ding! traffic.

So the proper thing to do is to contact Southwest Airlines and alert them to this bug so they can fix it. Well, guess what? They lack an online method of contacting them. Considering that they promote online reservations, printing tickets, and have a dedicated computer application to promote fares, I would expect to have at least an online way of contacting them, for at the very least, technical problems. But they do not. Even a simple online form to submit technical problems (and not general issues) would be sufficient.

After procrastinating on this for several months, I finally got around to writing a traditional letter (yes, on actual paper) and mailing it to Southwest (yes, with an actual stamp). I can't believe I had to resort to non-electronic means to file a bug report on a computer app.

I mailed the letter 11 days ago. Today, I received a phone call from Southwest Airlines. The representative (Eli) was very kind and friendly and wanted to acknowledge my letter directly. I believe Southwest tries to do this with all their letters which is also why they claim to not have an online way to communicate with them as they have not decided how to give the 'personal touch' (their description) through it. He said he would forward my letter to IT which would be able to better address the problem (no surprises here). And he acknowledged many customers have been requesting an online way to contact Southwest (no surprise here either).

I wasn't expecting any reply from my letter, but I guess it was nice that they did that. I can understand why they don't have electronic means of contacting them if they plan on calling every person. Still, I find it is absolutely amazing that in this day and age, I would ever have to do something like this. And ultimately, my happiness is predicated on them fixing the bug, not my correspondence with them. But I give Southwest credit for trying to give the 'personal touch' to everything.

Finally, one other thing I suggested in my letter was that for Mac OS X, they should offer a Dashboard Widget version of their application. Since this application just sits in the background and periodically polls, I think it is better suited for Dashboard. I personally don't like it eating up main window space and taking up space on the Dock. If you agree, I encourage you to write a physical letter to:

Southwest Airlines
P.O. Box 36647 - 1CR
Dallas, Texas 75235-1647

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