What’s got you talking? Honest mistakes, emotional support snakes and unconscionable profits

It’s a kinder, gentler world, thanks to our common sense code of conduct. And in that world, it’s unusual for any post to exceed 100 comments.

So when two of last month’s stories soared past the century mark, I had to check the calendar. Was this 2012, a dark time when the mob ruled below the fold and this site was often confused with one of those loyalty program blogs?

It was not.

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Turns out we published several engagement-worthy posts that you just couldn’t stop talking about. And that’s good, because who am I to stop you from talking? I just run this asylum.

Before I get into the offending posts, a quick word of thanks to our friends at Disqus, our commenting platform, who have offered us expanded metrics in the last few months. This has helped us make our comments even better by creating more comment-worthy stories.

An honest mistake keeps my sister from flying United (130 comments)

Did United Airlines double-dip when it forced Vache Mikaelian’s sister to pay twice for her ticket? This one triggered a discussion about security and the value of the airline industry’s strict ticket change policies.

Here’s a sample comment from one of our more consumer-focused commenters:

Here’s one of the more industry-friendly comments. (I’m not suggesting this commenter always makes industry-friendly comments, by the way.)

The poll tilted in the consumer’s favor, with 70 percent of the respondents saying it was wrong to ask a passenger to pay twice for a ticket.

Should United Airlines have refunded Vache Mikaelian's sister's first ticket?

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And in case you are wondering, that is also the correct answer.

Let’s ban emotional support animals from the sky (126)

This is a perennial favorite. Airlines are petitioning the Transportation Department to adopt stricter rules on emotional-support animals, which are often nothing more than pets flying for free. And the fur flew on this one!

Actually, I was surprised by the overall tone of this discussion. It was really civil, considering the incendiary subject matter. When commenters disagreed, they generally did so politely. Color me impressed.

And this time, the poll showed a little more than three-quarters of the respondents favored declassifying comfort pets as legitimate service animals.

Should emotional-support animals be designated as service animals for the purposes of flying?

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Again, correct answer.

Is it ethical for a tour operator to make such a high profit? (72)

If someone cancels a tour, should the operator refund it, especially if they can resell the package? Another fascinating debate. Here’s a sample comment:

In the end, the poll suggested people sided with the consumer by about a 3-to-1 ratio.

When a customer cancels a vacation and a tour operator resells the package, should the tour operator offer a full refund?

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And since we’re a consumer advocacy site, that is also the right answer. Nothing complicated about it.

We love a good discussion, even when many of the participants are here to defend the very industry we criticize. That’s what makes this place great — that we can have a quiet and civilized discussion without name-calling and slinging toxic mud. It is what sets us apart from those other sites.

The Disqus information is extremely helpful, but in the context of these high-comment posts, it would be great to also know how many comments were deleted by our moderators and which ones were simply not approved. As I’ve said many times, it’s rare for our moderation team to delete anything, but we want to know which posts are triggering the deletions and what they said. Maybe Disqus can add that to the final product.

Here’s to a continued vibrant and polite comments section. Thank you for your participation.


9 thoughts on “What’s got you talking? Honest mistakes, emotional support snakes and unconscionable profits

  1. I’m curious about one recent case that we never got to see: that headline in the Daily Newsletter referring to Allianz not paying out for a tour customer whose tour was cancelled before the start date due to lack of participation. This happens a lot, and the claim was apparently for air expenses the customer had paid to get to a tour that was now no longer going to depart. Unfortunately, the link in that headline was broken and led to some totally different story.

    Since we never did get to see the story or how it was resolved, did Allianz eventually come through on this one? This kind of case is not that rare, and we need to know how to protect ourselves against it.

  2. I’m still bothered by the poll on emotional support animals. While there may be those who skirt the law, there are those with legitimate emotional issues, meaning mental illness. For example, PTSD, a person in the early stages of a terminal disease who is physically stable, but an emotional wreck, etc. These are the types of things that are not visible, thus to many, they appear totally well and the animal is nothing more than a freeloader taking their pet for free. Mental illness is so misunderstood in this country, but it’s as legitimate as any other disease. I’m all for certification of emotional support animals, if that is what it takes. But polls on emotional support/mental illness, just seem wrong. It’s a disease.

    1. The problem is the ease with which people can claim a pet as an emotional support animal and the resulting abuse of that privilege. I certainly have no problem with a genuinely mentally fragile person traveling with such a comfort. We do need a mechanism for proper certification.

      1. I understand that passengers now only have to state it is an emotional support animal and do not have tp provide proof that it really is. If that is indeed true, more and more people will start bringing their pets on board flights because they just have to claim it is an emotional support animal and the airlines and passengers have to accept it. Legitimate, I accept; otherwise no and without some real certification, it will just continue to get out of hand.

  3. What is even more interesting is that the “industry-friendly” comment received more up votes (12) than the “consumer-friendly” one (4). That is somewhat a contradiction…

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