My experience, revisited

Earlier this week, Judy Putnam wrote a follow up article in the Lansing State Journal, revisiting my story and explaining how it fit into the larger landscape of passenger experiences. Since my trip on PSA/American Airlines, I have flown again (on Delta) for work without issue.

As I mentioned elsewhere, when I first spoke up about the experience, I was contacted by many people who shared their own flying-related horror stories. Some were sad, many were infuriating, and all of them made me understand how my experience (being picked on for no clear reasoning by airline staff) was surprisingly common. Colleagues and people I know personally have shared their funny/tragic/ridiculous stories. For some folks, telling me was the first time they really talked about it, because they were too embarrassed by what happened (picked on for no reason, or treated terribly for innocent requests), while for others, the experience is a well-worn story told at cocktail parties during the “what’s your worst travel experience?” round of storytelling.

This new article prompted a new set of commentators, and you can see that some of the feedback and insight is critical and questioning. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of some of your comments, especially those of you who have written to explain better how the airlines work and what motivates them. If nothing else, that additional information is interesting and helpful. I have nothing to gain by making this up, I would love nothing more than for the airline to interview everyone else at the back of that plane (seriously: don’t take my word for it. As the strangers on the plane, including the one quoted in the article who corroborated my story), and I am not seeking some big payout.

I have even been entertained by some of the emails I got from people who took the time to tell me that I was “dumb,” a “liar,” “ugly,” or otherwise dirtying up the internet with my face and/or having the nerve to write about my experience and/or daring to exist in this realm. And some folks seem genuinely irritated that I had the nerve to be upset by what happened, that I had the gall to say it was not acceptable, or that I had the audacity to turn down their voucher. Bless your heart, those of you who cared enough to send your very best. I’ve also read the comments posted on the articles themselves.

I know that some people want a neater resolution: maybe a better apology, or something. I know that’s not going to happen. American has nothing more to say to me, and PSA Airlines is treating this as an “internal matter” about which I am entitled to no information.  The FAA, though it operates a website to gather consumer complaints, is not really interested in consumer complaints.  I do not expect to hear from any of them again, and they know/hope that I’ll go on my way, returning to my work and my family and my community responsibilities. What did the airlines suffer? A moment of embarrassment, if that.

The only recourse I have is to continue to avoid American Airlines.

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4 comments

  1. It is a free country. You can vote with your wallet. You can express your opinions publicly (as long at such speech is not akin to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater, or libel).

    One question though: is it truly American Airlines you want to avoid? Or is it PSA? How do you feel about Envoy Air Inc. & Piedmont Airlines Inc. ? How about Air Wisconsin, Compass, ExpressJet, Mesa, Republic, SkyWest and Trans States?

    Remember, when you choose United Airlines, or Delta Airlines and depending on the route you fly, your flight may be operated by one of their regional partners as well.

    AA’s own web site contains information on their regional carriers. You can also research each company individually.

    https://www.aa.com/i18n/aboutUs/american-eagle.jsp

    By the way, US Federal legislation & programs related to “Essential Air Service’ (EAS routes) is the only reason that smaller communities/airports have flights anymore. After all, the airlines are a business, and operate according to the usual market/capitalist principles of profit & loss, etc. The railroad lobby hates that airlines have gotten such financial assistance from the government.

    P.S. Please excuse accidental typos in some of my previous posts on this blog, which address the conclusions you have come to above. I must have been having a bad day to make such mistakes.

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  2. And about voting with your wallet:
    If each passenger was willing to pay $1 more on the price of their ticket, and the airline was willing to post that extra revenue to crew pay, the flight crew could afford more to eat than just ramen & peanut butter & jelly.

    Also consider that the training costs to become qualified to interview for an airline pilot position are about the same as it costs to become a doctor. Yet most doctors I know make more than US $20K-$30K to start.

    But flight crew are not the only low paying roles at an airline, so maybe we have to add $2 to the price of each ticket and then all staff could earn a living wage.

    Think about that the next time you buy an airline ticket. Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any travel web sites that enable you search schedules and purchase an air ticket based on how well the company treats their employees, including compensation.

    However in the age of market competition & price comparison shopping, and the availability of ultra low cost fares of $19 & even $9 one way in some cases, I have no illusion that price won’t be the major factor in customers’ purchase habits.

    Let’s hope in this age of financial competition, a particular airline does not feel compelled to take shortcuts in maintenance or operational procedures. Maintenance, ground crew, and flight crew functioning correctly and in concert together are key elements for safety in an air carrier operation.

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  3. I work for one of the legacy airlines (**NOT** American) as an “MFA” with almost 20 years of service. The inexcusable mistreatment you received from the other MFA and Robin shines a deeply unflattering light on those of us who appreciate our passengers. As I’m sure you’re aware, the treatment you received is the exception and not the rule. I am personally embarrassed by the treatment you received and I have shared your story with my co-workers so we can learn from your experience.

    I can say with absolute certainty that the captain of the flight was not aware of your situation AT ALL. If he had, someone from the flight deck would have approached you as soon as practical to gather facts and make a decision. Your mention of the captain’s confused look when you introduced yourself is the dead giveaway. The captain has the final say on what passengers can stay or go in any irregular situation. Allegations of being unruly is a very serious matter as it can affect safety and security and always has a negative impact on passenger comfort.

    You can contact the U.S. Department of Transportation Division of Aviation Consumer Protection (www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/) and lodge an Airline Civil Rights complaint. The US DOT takes these complaints seriously and they investigate every one. If the complaint has merit it’s charged against the airline and is included in their various reports.

    On behalf of all of us who understand that we are here for you, our passengers, and not the other way around, please accept our most sincere apologies. If I can assist you in any way, please don’t hesitate to press the call button.

    And This American Life is freaking AMAZING! Have you tried A Prairie Home Companion?

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    • You are so kind to share these comments, Jim! I have flown since, and paid so much attention to the FAs on the Delta flight I was on: how deftly they handled crabby passengers, their professional and good demeanor. Your work is not easy–anyone who has ever flown knows that–and I agree that so many of you do great work. I’m grateful for professionals like you, for sure!

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