It’s Been a Heckuva Week in the Air, and It’s Only Thursday

The biggest story of course was the Emirates 777 fire in Dubai where thank goodness are passengers were evacuated safely. Sadly a first responder passed away.

Even in the worst of circumstances planes are remarkably safe, and even under the most challenging of conditions airlines throughout most of the world are remarkably safe.

    And I’d like to think that in an evacuation scenario I’d follow instructions, leave my bags behind. But I’m also not going to direct outrage at someone’s behavior under that kind of stress when everyone got out ok. The evacuation, what the planes can handle, and the airline’s response so far appear to have been exemplary. That’s where I’d rather focus.

It puts things in perspective even though I may rant about how much American’s focus on ‘D0’ departures puts passengers behind schedules while not doing much to service either.

Passengers continue to behave appallingly on a routine basis of course — usually because of alcohol, though it’s notable that British carrier Jet2 will no longer serve alcohol before 8am in a new move this week for precisely this reason.

This week a man sexually molested a woman sitting next to him on a Virgin America flight. At least this time it wasn’t minors being molested and there was no clear liquid involved and no Nivea lotion.

Yesterday United threw in a minor devaluation of MileagePlus, announcing limits on award stopovers and increased change fees.

Also this week in a move reminiscent of the economist removed from an American Airlines flight for doing math (admittedly, he was a member of the al-Gebra movement), two American Muslim women were removed from an American Airlines flight for talking to another passenger about lack of food or water during a ground delay. One of the women was watching a Pakistani show on her tablet.

American says she was kicked off for taking photos of flight crew, but the woman says she was taking the photos to identify who it was that was racially profiling her — and she deleted the photos on request.

Even if there was no racial profiling, and even if American could account for the reason the photos were being taken in the first place, that’s clearly a disproportionate reaction. And that’s viewing the facts in the best light possible for the airline.

For Starwood CEO, United and Hyatt Vice President and Pan Am executive Adam Aron argued that airline customer service is bad because they’re so focused on safety although this doesn’t account for airlines that are both safe and offer good service.

  • Ultimately we should all be grateful for modern technology that transports us hundreds and thousands of miles away – safely except for the behaviors of our fellow passengers — almost every time.

  • At the same time we shouldn’t let this be an excuse for an industry that, unlike almost every other that seeks to innovate by delivering ever greater value at consistently lower prices, seems to want to give us less but charge us more for it.

I feel like Dante asking Randal what he’s going to do for an encore (“pour sugar down my gas tank?“) in Clerks. After all, we still have Friday and Saturday left in the week! What’s next?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I,m surprised you haven’t covered the story of the Muslim couple who were yanked off a Paris to Cincinnati flight last week because the Delta flight attendant didn’t feel comfortable after watching them use a phone, even when they offered to show her their phone contents.

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