To absolutely no one’s surprise, this week’s most popular story was about the doctor and the flight attendant. Oh, you know the one I’m talking about. Yeah, that one.
This case had it all: An elite-level customer sitting in business class, a senior flight attendant, an argument over a window shade. Yelling, threats and drama.
Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. In the end, slightly more than 70 percent of readers voted to take the case, even though American Airlines had sent him a kiss-off letter that had a certain ring of finality to it.
In a minute, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do with that case. But first, I wanted to share a few more stories that might leave you speechless. We’ve had quite a few on this site over the years.
This case, now more than 15 years old, left me speechless. It involved a woman who brought too much luggage on a Delta Air Lines flight and lived to regret it. In retrospect, I wish I’d asked for the airline’s side of the story, but back then, in the early days of blogging, we just posted things for shock value. Also, the Travel Troubleshooter was not yet syndicated, so it only ran on this site. Still.
Another in-flight altercation that left readers speechless involved Marilyn Parver. Remember her? She’s the grandmother who, in 2008, was detained after videotaping an altercation on a JetBlue flight. After sending me the video, she announced she was suing JetBlue. It’s the last I heard from her. She probably settled the case out of court.
Just a few days ago, we had another story that left our advocacy team speechless. A Royal Caribbean passenger admitted to leaving a two-year-old in the cabin unsupervised. He was upset when the cruise line kicked him off the ship, claiming that it had misled him about the availability of babysitters.
The incident sparked a lively internal debate about what to do when someone admits to an illegal activity — leaving a child alone — in an open forum. To whom do we report it? (Let’s see. Maritime Law. Chinese national. Cruise to Australia. Color me clueless!)
In the end, we closed the thread and agreed that RCCL’s decision to kick him off the boat was sufficient punishment.
But situations like this are helpful, because we’re now working on a system that allows us to contact the proper authorities quickly if it happens again. Which we all hope it doesn’t.
I’ve been thinking about scenarios that leave you speechless. Grandmas kicked off flights for taking videos. Dads who walk the plank because they abandon their kids in the cabin. Doctors who are threatened by flight attendants who are accustomed to being obeyed.
They all have one thing in common: There is always another side to the story, and often a perfectly reasonable explanation for what happened. We can either ignore it (which, sadly, I’ve done in the past) or we can learn from it.
I reviewed the case of Benjamin Levine, the physician who was verbally roughed up by the flight attendant, several times. I also corresponded with him about his complaint, and specifically, about what American Airlines could do to address it.
I have no doubt that the flight attendant working in the business class cabin was having a bad day and behaved inappropriately. I’m fairly sure the good doctor wasn’t as innocent as he presented himself, although when you’re an elite-level flier and have paid for a business class ticket — and given all the messaging that promises extra-special passengers are, you know, extra special — that’s to be expected.
In the end, here are the facts that mattered:
- The airline got him to his destination, as required by its conditions of carriage.
- It addressed his complaint to the extent possible.
- Other than firing the rogue flight attendant and telling him about it — something I’ve never seen a company do — there’s no way to make him happy.
I’ve decided not to take Levine’s case. But that doesn’t mean I’m any less sympathetic to what happened to him. Maybe he needs an attitude check, but there’s no question that he had a bad flight. And there’s no question the flight attendant should be demoted to working puddle-jumpers in the hinterlands. But I don’t get to make that call.