07/24/2014 02:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Family Asked To Deboard Plane After Dad Sends Tweet Criticizing Gate Agent

A Minnesota dad isn't exactly feeling the "LUV" after he and his two kids were removed from a Southwest Airlines flight last weekend following confusion over the airlines' boarding process for children.

Duff Watson was traveling with his two kids, ages 6 and 9, from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, when he says the agent at the gate prevented him from boarding early with his children. As an "A-List" passenger, Watson told CBS Minnesota he's entitled to priority boarding. The gate agent let Watson through but wouldn't let his children board the plane with him.

“I am not trying to game the system,” Watson told ABC News in an interview Wednesday. “I’m not going to leave my kids alone to board. That doesn’t make sense.”

With no other option, Watson says he and his family waited to board the plane later, with Watson promising to alert Southwest customer service to the agent's conduct.

“I thought she was very rude and wanted to complain to customer service, so I asked her: ‘Can I get your last name?’” he recalled to ABC News. “She told me: ‘You don’t need my last name for anything,’... [and] I told her: ‘Real nice way to treat an A-list member.’”

As promised, he shot off a complaint to Southwest's Twitter account, which, Watson told KARE 11, read in all caps, "RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPPY @SWA.”

After sending the tweet, the family, which had since boarded the flight, was called out via the plane's loudspeaker and asked to gather their belongings and leave the aircraft.

The agent he'd disagreed with earlier had called them off the plane, says Watson, because she felt "threatened because he used her name on social media." He says he was told "that unless he deleted his post, she was calling the cops and the family would not be allowed back on the plane."

Watson says he ultimately deleted the tweet as the agent looked on, and the family was allowed back onto the flight with his children, who by that point he says were in tears over the incident.

In a statement published Thursday morning, Southwest Airlines apologized for the incident and said they've discussed the matter with Watson:

Southwest Airlines appreciates and is active in social media, and it is not our intent to stifle Customer feedback. Social media is a very valuable avenue for engaging with our Customers. 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.

WATCH the full CBS Minnesota segment, below:



Best Airports For Kids