This week, there have been two isolated incidences where passengers have been filming their interactions with airline personnel, both at airports, over common misunderstandings about luggage policies or denied boardings. While seemingly frustrating for both parties, the interactions often appear to escalate to a degree that is entirely unnecessary. But, the problem doesn’t stop when it comes to figuring out who is in the right vs. who is in the wrong. Rather, the situation gets extremely ugly when the “victim” in the situation feels compelled to post a video of the interaction on the internet.
It is time to put a stop to this madness.
The media-fueled frenzy of needing to document every piece of the customer journey should be limited to one of two scenarios: (1) for the sake of writing a trip report, where the sole intention is to critique and review an airline, within acceptable limitations that respect the privacy of others, or (2) in extremely rare situations where clear, candid examples of abuse and mistreatment are taking place.
Of course, the latter is very subjective but based on the videos that have surfaced the past few weeks, it has become apparent that customers have lost total control over using rational, discretionary intuition. If you have a misunderstanding with someone of authority, there are ways in which you can express your frustration and negotiate for answers (and superior treatment) by learning effective ways to communicate.
Some examples of where it is completely unnecessary to blow your lid and then start filming:
- Squabbling with a passenger service agent for a denied boarding, since you presumably were not paying attention when they called your name at the podium and subsequently forfeited your seat to a standby customer when you no-showed.
- Duking it out with a roaming agent at the check-in areas because you’re at odds over whether your bag fits into the size bin.
- Filming two Baggage Service Office employees because you’re angry about where your mishandled bags have been delivered, which results in one of them swearing and then possibly losing his job.
I am not defending the actions nor responses of some of the airline personnel, as some of them were egregious as well. In the first example, the American Airlines representative was calm and level-headed with the customer who filmed the video over the denied boarding. In the second example, the United agent was able to come to an understanding with the customer, although the first agent she interacted with was being overly pedantic. In the third example, the swearing of the Delta agent was totally uncalled for, but shouldn’t the customer be more concerned about how to find his lost luggage over getting a few social media likes?
The underlying reason for such childish antics comes from the toxic mix that is travel anxiety fused with growing social media narcissism. Short-term pains and frustrations are treated with short-term gains of doing a live-stream that makes a splash on the world wide web, at the expense of someone’s career or livelihood, and the dopamine effect of likes and attention wears off within seconds and the customer winds up just as worse off than they would have been had they taken the higher road.
If you really have a gripe with the airline, write to them. I can guarantee you that you’ll get the answers you want and the compensation you deserve without creating a scene. Airlines are extremely responsive through customer relations feedback, and if you don’t like the answer you receive, you can always write again.
If an agent is giving you grief over the size of your bag at the check-in counters, well, you’re smart enough to realize that these individuals are not the TSA and won’t be enforcing airline-specific rules at security. In the case of the United passenger, it is unlikely that at the gate, the Ops agent would enforce the rules and force her to check it in if it was compliant. Worse comes to worst? They’ll gate check it to you for free. Or, if you are charged, you can write a complaint to the airline asking for a refund, or call your credit card company and dispute the charge.
THINK People. THINK.
Of course, I know that the counterpoint to this is that people complain about how policies and procedures at airlines are inconsistent, depending on the agent or the person you’re interacting with, but guess what? That’s human life.
While I will never deny that airline front-line personnel have to make every effort to ensure that their Customers are treated well and that they keep calm and collected in the event of a distressed passenger, the last thing they should have to be prepared for, much less be worried about, is being filmed by said customer.
Remember, these are human beings. We make mistakes. And to whip out your phone and start recording someone you don’t even know? Let’s stop with the sense of entitlement, folks. Enough with creating soap operas on your iPhone X and opening up pandora’s box. Wasting your energy on filming a conversation is futile and inane.
Furthermore, there are lessons to be learned when things can backfire against you. Susan Peirez, a New York state government worker, was filmed by a passenger on a recent Delta flight after Peirez complained about being seated next to the passenger and her baby. Along with using several curse words, Peirez asked to be re-seated, then afterward, threatened to have the flight attendant fired, in an effort to chest-beat. The passenger victim recorded much of this, and Peirez was subsequently removed from the flight after threatening the flight attendant. Then, the passenger posted the video online, which made its way to Peirez’ employer, and Peirez has been suspended.
The passenger now feels extremely remorseful about what happened, because posting the video cost Peirez her job. Now, again, nothing justifies Peirez’ behavior, at all, as she was out of line with her commentary and use of obscenities. But what remains is now two people feel terrible about what happened and will carry that sense of guilt around, whereas the situation could have easily been de-escalated through so many other means.
The key takeaway here: think twice before recording something, and think ten times before posting it for the public to view.