Travellers usually turn to Southwest Airlines' Facebook page to ask travel questions, whine about fares and flight delays or share heartwarming customer service stories.
On Thursday, Mark Kaminski had one mission: to call out a Southwest flight attendant for shaming a passenger wearing a Trump T-shirt.
Kaminski, a 51-year-old Chicago resident, shared a screenshot of a personal Facebook post by a male Southwest flight attendant. A friend had shared it with him. Both are Trump supporters.
The flight attendant's post featured a photo of a man in an aisle seat on a Southwest flight, dressed in shorts, a camouflage hat and a navy blue T-shirt with an American flag and the words "Trump 45" and "Suck it up Buttercup."
The caption: "Someone did NOT get my most Positively Outrageous Service today on my flight ... #notgoingtosuckitup #dumpTrump #eeew." The "outrageous" line is a customer service mantra long espoused by Southwest.
Kaminski asked Southwest, "So this is how they treat passengers?"
He criticised the flight attendant for not "giving his best to a customer because he hates the man's shirt and our president."
"Wow," Kaminski added. "He should be fired because he can't do his job. Very sad employee."
A Southwest representative quickly replied to the post with one of the airline's stock social media responses: "We aim to provide outstanding service to all who travel with us and regret if we missed the mark. We appreciate you sharing your feedback."
And then the comments began pouring in, in most cases along party lines.
"Give this man a raise," one said, while another said, "This guy should be fired."
"I'm the farthest thing from a Trump supporter, but I am a 'people' supporter," one poster said. "This is clearly unacceptable. Southwest Airlines, I love a lot of Trump supporters even though I don't agree with them and frankly this kind of behaviour from your FA is what's making civil discussion in our country all but a memory. If you think it is OK for your (employee) to give lesser treatment to someone he disagrees with, I hope you'll find it OK when I take my business to an airline I agree with."
Hashtags emerged, including #boycottSouthwest. One poster handed out the number, extension included, of Southwest's customer relations team.
The number of comments was approaching 100 by the time Southwest removed the post, a large number for a post that is not easy to find. The flight attendant also scrubbed photos and other information from his Facebook page and shortened his last name. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz said Kaminski's post on the airline's Facebook page was removed "as we investigate and address the issue internally."
He also further apologised for the post many considered out of line for a service employee and an invasion of the passenger's privacy. (He was not identified in the post.)
"We aim to provide outstanding service to all who travel with us," Mainz said in a statement. "The post in question does not reflect the inclusive environment we strive to provide for our customers and employees."
The flight attendant's post is likely in violation of the airline's social media policy, but Mainz would not disclose details of the protocol.
Flight attendant unions also have social media policies, but the union for Southwest's flight attendants, Transport Workers Union Local 556, did not respond to questions on the policy or the incident.
The policy for members of another flight attendants union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, includes these tips:
"When in doubt, do not post."
"Remember, your postings online are permanent (even when subsequently deleted). Be sensitive to political issues you comment on."
Beyond a response from Southwest and a few comments from people who don't like Trump, Kaminski said he didn't expect much from the post about the flight attendant.
"I couldn't believe it," he said. "It exploded, and very quickly."
He said the fact that he's a Trump supporter shouldn't matter, though he responded to several comments on the post with his support for the president's reelection.
The flight attendant was out of bounds, he said, just as he would be if he expressed opinions about people at his job as a city employee or took photos of others against social media policies.
"My job is to do my job and go home," he said. "My job is not to be there and be ridiculing people, treating them like crap and having my opinion.
"You can't just go out and lash out at people, just because that's the way you feel, at your job. Even as a human being you shouldn't do that. You should have a little bit of compassion." ---