Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Torturing Airline Passengers is Seasonal Tradition

A lot of us are taking planes to see the family this holiday season, my husband included, so that means it's time for the national game to begin: Torturing airline passengers!

It started early this year with this news. About a week ago, Delta Airlines employees thought the perfect target for a holiday torture would be to focus on a Marine that had been badly wounded and disabled in Afghanistan, according to the Washington Post.
Delta Airlines is accused of mistreating
a disabled Marine in a wheelchair

Lance Cpl. Christian Brown is a double amputee, and Delta employees thought such a person belonged in back of the plane, and clumsily bumped and pushed and jarred his wheelchair down the narrow plane aisle in full view of everybody.

There were plenty of chances to give him a far more dignified ride. Several passengers in First Class in the front of the plane offered to give up their seats for Brown, but the employees refused, saying the plane had to take off immediately.

Turns out the plane was actually running early. And besides, how long would it take for somebody in First Class to move to Coach and give Brown the seat?

The Washington Post quoted retired Army Lt. Col. Keith Gafford, who witnessed the incident thusly:

“I have been flying with Delta for a gazillion years and this crew treated Chris worse than you’d treat any thing, not even any body. I did 27 years in the military. I have seen a lot of things and have seen a lot of guys die, but I have never seen a Marine cry,” said Gafford, who served two tours in Iraq. “What the kid said was, ‘I have given everything that I can give and this is the way I am being treated? This is how I will be treated for the rest of my life?’” 
A Delta spokesperson gave the usual corporate apology, and said the company would take the additional necessary next steps, but didn't say what those steps are. Firing? Retraining? Or is Delta just going to let the whole thing blow over?
Apparently, the TSA agents detected what was believed to be bomb residue on the girl's hand and/or wheelchair. False positives happen sometimes, so OK, so far, not so bad.
TSA is also accused of abusing somebody
in a wheelchair, this time a 12 year old girl
But in this case, they kept the girl out in the public eye, not letting her mother near her, and not explaining what was going on. This lasted for nearly an hour, during which the girl was clearly upset, and occasionally cried.  They finally let her go without an apology.
How about a little compassion until or unless it was proven the kid was some nasty little terrorist, or something?  And maybe investigate the situation out of the view of all those passersby?
Yes, I know the TSA has a tough job and yes, I know we all want them to stop anybody from making terrorist mischief on our planes, and yes, some people are going to be subject to false alarms. Deal with it. But do you really have to be this insensitive?
TSA, in response to the publicity, like Delta, sent out the usual bland statement:
"TSAs mission is to safely, efficiently and respectfully screen nearly two million passengers each day at airports nationwide. We are sensitive to the concerns of passengers who were not satisfied with their screen experience and we invite those individuals to provide feedback to TSA through a variety of channels." 
Which leads me to my big point here. It' is INFURIATING that every time some company or some agency gets called on the carpet with some real or alleged misdeed, they resort to these same bland statements, that was probably written by one guy 20 years ago and just recycled by everybody.
These bland PR statements arguably anger people more than the original problem, because they don't address specifics, and don't say what will be done to fix the problem. The message in these statements. "Go away and quit bothering us. We'll do what we damn well please."
And notice how the TSA statement implicit blames the girl and her mother for the PR mess. They wanted them to provide feedback in their channels. So that unpleasant publicity not happen and the TSA can just bury the problem without doing anything.

More people ought to stand up and make a public stink if treated horribly. That doesn't mean complaining at every slight, or going into hystrionics. But really. let's hold people and companies just a tiny bit accountable, shall we?

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