So, let me start by saying I was utterly unprepared for how much this story would spread. All I can say is that it must have touched a nerve: it inspired my aunt and uncle to send me an email. An old friend I haven’t seen in 20 years recognized my face and wrote me. A colleague stopped me to tell me how sorry he was that it happened.
And of course, the random woman who stopped me the other morning and told me she read the story and doesn’t believe me. Okay, then.
But by and large I have been heartened, although also broken-hearted, by the response: The comments, the emails, the stories people have reached out to tell me. If there is one thing I can say it is this: far too many people are being treated terribly by airlines, threatened in ways that may or may not exist, and are left feeling embarrassed, humiliated, and frustrated. Those are feelings I understand.
Some people have endured much, much, worse. It’s unconscionable. And I don’t understand it.
But there are people trying to make sense of it. I was contacted by a consumer advocate, Jessica Monsell from ConsumerSense.org, and I learned that she is one of many people trying to make sense of what it means to be a passenger on an airplane in 2016. What rights do people have? What about these mysterious “lists” that keep getting used as a threat against passengers? I don’t know. But there are people–people smarter than me, with more resources than me, and more expertise than me, trying to find out.
Jessica graciously offered to call American Airlines to see if she could get an answer to my lingering question: What is this list? And am I on it?
Ross Feinstein responded to her that I would be welcome to fly American Airlines anytime in the future. Given their offer of a voucher, and their letter indicating they are would like to restore my confidence in them, I am interpreting that as their assurance that this incident is not one that will haunt my travel plans in the future. I, personally, am supposed to take solace in this. I suppose a small part of me does. All of me will never fly American again.
The other part of me is heartbroken by the stories you have shared with me, and the lingering questions about what power an overworked/frustrated flight attendant can do to a person’s ability to travel by air. Even if my issue is, as far as American is concerned, resolved, we as consumers still have questions that deserve to be answered.
This is what I know, after this surreal experiens: the FAA is not going to answer them. Our elected officials are not going to answer them. Private companies–like American Airlines or PSA Airlines–do not need to answer them (and won’t). But if enough of us demand answers, eventually American (and international, I suppose) laws will have to meet up with the realities of modern air travel to force some answers.
I can hope.
I will continue to ask.