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Airline Passenger Incidents: A New Trend or a Spotlight on Old Practices?

Airline Passenger Incidents: A New Trend or a Spotlight on Old Practices?

Are the recent incidents involving airline passengers a new trend? Or is it rather a new spotlight on old practices, which careless airline employees engage in frequently? The months of April and May 2017 have been full of repeated instances where airlines have made the news, but essentially for the wrong reasons. Each time, there was a passenger or a group of passengers who appeared to have been mistreated.

Indeed on April 11, the general public was outraged by a video showing a passenger being brutally removed from his seat and dragged down the aisle off an airplane. This was Dr. David Dao, a paying customer onboard United flight 3411 going from Chicago, IL to Louisville, KY.

Just a few days later, another report about United Airlines suggested that a U.S. Marshall kicked off a bride and groom traveling to Costa Rica for their wedding. Apparently, these paying customers were trying to sit in non-assigned empty seats, because they found someone sleeping in one of their booked seats. And perhaps their attempt to show courtesy to that fellow resulted in them being kicked off the flight, while on their way to probably the most important moment in life.

In less than two weeks after the first United incident went viral on social media, another video went viral. This time it was American Airlines onboard flight 591 from SFO to Dallas. The video posted on Facebook did not show the full incident, but a mother crying and carrying a baby. Then followed another fellow passenger threatening a flight attendant. The American Airlines flight attendant allegedly took away a stroller from the woman with force, which accidentally hit her and could have in turn made her baby fall.

Then follow another video-taped discussion with a passenger who was being asked to deplane a Delta flight, because he allegedly used the lavatories when he was not supposed to do so. As if that was not enough there was yet another incident with Delta employees who reportedly kicked off a family over a child seat in addition to threatening husband and wife to go to jail, if they did not give up their child’s seat. And that is not to mention the video in which apparently a Delta pilot voluntarily hit a passenger while trying to break up a fight between two passengers.

A much recent case, which occurred in May was about a family, which was allegedly kicked off a JetBlue flight following an incident around a birthday cake, a story which the airline refuted.

No matter how you look at these different cases, they are outrageous and that for a reason. One cannot condone nor even think such unacceptable behaviors are actually occurring. One can simply not think it possible to mistreat paying customers especially by airlines, which somewhat consider themselves to be in the hospitality business.

It is utterly disheartening to think that the relationship between passengers and flight crew members are worsening to such an alarming level. Especially when every other industry is trying to improve on service delivery and customer satisfaction.

While considering these extremely disturbing cases of customer relationship, one important question does come to mind. Is mistreating customers a new trend in the airline industry? Or else is it the widespread use of social media empowering customers to bring such bad customer experiences into the spotlight?

Either way, far from minimizing the implications of such misbehaviors and treat them as just some isolated cases, airline CEOs should make sure appropriate measures are taken to restore humanity into the airline business. The recent cases are enough, we do not need nor want more of these nor repeated apologies from the airline industry. What is needed is strong and effective actions to transform the airline business for the better. Enough is enough.

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Copyright 2017 Airline Profits
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Kofi Sonokpon

Kofi Sonokpon

Managing Editor of Airline Profits, the first aviation magazine devoted to improving airline effectiveness and profitability, Kofi Sonokpon has more than 20 years of international experience in aviation. Kofi holds an IATA sponsored Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Air Transport Management from the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal. Kofi Sonokpon is a speaker, an airline business thought-leader, and author an innovative book series intended for the 21st century airline, namely Airlines for Business and Airlines for Technology.