Why Scrooge loves to fly — and why you won’t

I’m stunned by the reaction to two of our most popular stories of the week — my intervention in this case, which resulted in single mom and her kids finally being able to board their flight, and my efforts to secure a refund for this passenger in need.

Although many commenters understood that these acts of advocacy were not just in the spirit of this site, but also in the holiday spirit, a significant number of readers thought that helping the helpless was somehow unfair — either to the airline refunding the ticket, or to the other passengers who were stuck with a nonrefundable ticket.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines. The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

You read it here first, my friends: Scrooge loves to fly.

The rest of us? Not so much.

It’s the same old debate between the “rules are rules” and the “customer is always right” readers. And I think by now, everyone knows which side I’m on.

Commenter Lonnie Clar summed up my frustrations nicely:

How come there is so much negative feedback on this one? It’s a sad case, Chris was able to help, and American did the right thing.

Yet we see responses suggesting that “if she got something, I want it too.” What happened to feeling good about a case where things worked out?

I thought about that as our moderation team updated our FAQs on commenting this week. We had a little influx of what we call “toxic” traffic, forcing us to show a few more commenters the door.

We also took an additional, unprecedented step of blocking traffic from a handful of sites. Our moderators have tried to reason with these critics. They’ve been more than patient. Now we’re sending an unambiguous message to them that their presence is not welcome here.

You can’t hurl invectives at the good people who come to us for help every week and then insist you have an absolute right to free speech in the comments. Please find another site to vandalize.

Or, as my flight attendant friends would say, “Buh-bye.”

How should you book my next trip? Our latest FAQ page, just published this morning, is sure to provoke a discussion in the travel agency community. (Too bad the FAQs don’t have comments.) It’s our definitive knowledgebase section on booking and self-booking.

Among the questions I field:

• What’s the difference between a human travel agent and an online agency?
• How much does an agent cost?
• How do I resolve a disagreement with a travel agent?

Do you know the answer to these questions? If you don’t, please drop by and check out the answers.

Our research team kept super-busy during this holiday week, with new company contacts for Air Tahiti, Fred Olsen Cruises and Megabus, among others.

Make no mistake, we’re here to help you. We’re not here to support the Scrooges of the world and we don’t care about the profits of the airlines they fly on. We care about you, and if you want a site that supports you, the consumer, then you’ve come to the right place.

23 thoughts on “Why Scrooge loves to fly — and why you won’t

  1. Just a cautious suggestion about the image – I love the composite images that your son creates under the moniker “ACE.” They’re creative, cheeky, fun and have an intelligent commentary all their own. That said, a character that obviously belongs to Disney is there and there might be licensing issues with appropriating such an character and incorporating it in a composite form…

    1. Actually the Character in the image is George C. Scott as Ebeneezer Scrooge in “The Christmas Carroll” a movie by 20th century fox based on a story by Charles Dickens, the story and characters are considered PUBLIC domain since the original story is out of copy right, that is why there are so many different versions of this story, including the one Disney did using Scrooge Mc Duck.

  2. Chris, it seems like the ones who don’t like advocating for exceptions are the hyper-competitive. I am reminded of a story told by my wife’s Filipino Pastor one Sunday about ‘Filipino crabs’: A fisherman was standing on the dock fishing for crabs and putting his catch in an open bucket. Another fisherman came along and told the guy fishing for crabs that the crabs would climb out of the open bucket. The first fisherman replied, “Nah, if one of these Filipino crabs tries to climb out, the others will pull him back down.” Sound familiar?

    1. I have come down own all sides of this “rules versus compassion” debate. I cannot speak for any other commenter, but for my self, I strongly resent the attempt to describe a large group of people with a single chauvinistic comment.

      I suggest all of the comments on this site be read individually and not lumped into one of two buckets. Then, actually try to understand the writer’s point of view, starting with what they seem to think are the facts.

      First off, you’d be surprised how many commenters make strong statements based on assumptions rather that the facts from the article. This is on “both” sides.

      Then, try to understand what is being expressed, without judging it. You’d be surprised how you suddenly get a range of ideas, not just a monolithic bunch of aligned nay-sayers. Better yet, after reading some of these, so-called, negative comments, you might actually learn something.

      A mind is like a parachute, it doesn’t function well unless opened.

    1. Please don’t encourage him. Have you seen those GEICO “Peter Pan” TV ads? That’s Aren. I hate it when he comes to the office, cuz I know it’s gonna be, “Graaaant.” Followed by a punch in the stomach, or “You don’t look a day over 70! Am I right; am I right?” And what can I do? He’s the boss’ son. When I see him coming, I sound just like the guy in the commercial, “Ohhhh, Aren.” 🙂

  3. I have said this before, but there are a lot of new people on here: I for one welcome the nastiness from people I assume are travel industry employees. They exemplify precisely the Airline Attitude we as passengers complain about. Those toady posts show the world that we’re not just being oversensitive.

    I also keep seeing the argument that any concession a plebeian wrings from a company means that those who pride themselves on playing by the rules lose. Not so! It means the rules themselves lose, and with enough passengers complaining and getting refunds and concessions, all of us win at the same time if we can get the rules modified. Travel companies don’t even lose either, in the long run, if by being more compassionate they increase market share. Because Southwest Airlnes allows itinerary changes without penalties, it commands slightly higher fares than the unfriendly airlines.

  4. I am generally a “rules are rules” type, combined with a healthy portion of “you can’t win ’em all”. That said, there’s nothing wrong with adding in some compassion, and I’d ask the hard-core folks, have you never in your life asked someone for a “favor”, i.e. “could you bend the rules for me?”.

    That said, my holiday scrooge-like present to the hard-core is that I hope you enjoy you next encounter with a travel-industry employee, where they make up their own rule, or interpretation thereof, and are unyielding.


  5. I agree that Elliott and AA did the right thing. But the wide exposure of peoples’ minds the web provides shows us how many people do not or cannot think and behave rationally and intelligently. For example, many people do not read terms and conditions before agreeing to them. If they don’t understand what they are agreeing to, they should get help, from Chris, Google, and many other sources. To those who don’t, I say “You can’t fix stupid.” Chris has limited bandwidth, and I appreciate that he does realize he should allocate that bandwidth to the most deserving cases–e.g., companies deceiving or taking unfair advantage of people who were cognizant of what they were getting into, not people who are (however fairly or unfairly) disadvantaged primarily by their own lack of due diligence and attention to details.

  6. What I dislike is the idea that companies are shameful or wrong for not doing the “right thing” when in fact they are doing the “right thing” when someone has not abided by stated rules and policies because the “right thing” is to abide by policies and procedures as a way to treat every one fairly. I would prefer a statement along the lines of: “I know I am asking you to waive requirements, but please consider doing so in this case because it would be going above and beyond the ordinary” Companies can and do waive requirements at times, so they should be recognized for that and not made to look as if that was the very least they could do in the name of “right”.

  7. The only issue with I have is the implication that circumstances that are not actually part of the incident in question are somehow deserving of extra consideration as opposed to someone else in a bad situation. I don’t think compassion should be doled out primarily based on who supposedly has the most pitiable day-to-day life circumstances.

  8. I am definitely a follow the rules kind of person in my own life, but there is nothing wrong with a company bending the rules in a kind of “compassionate use” type of exception, and i don’t think it “cheats” anyone else. I do tire of comments from people who suggest that someone should have bought a refundable ticket (at 3-4 times the price) if you are going to ask for a refund. And while I have learned to buy travel insurance, it doesn’t cover everything, such as the person you are scheduled to visit getting sick or your grandmother dying. Sometimes it’s just nice to know there are kind, decent people (and corporations) left in this world. If we had more of them, I think there wouldn’t be as great a need for advocacy sites.

  9. Mr. Elliott: Thanks for the updated FAQs. I’m definitely not a Ms-know-it-all, and you’ve addressed quite a few Qs of mine. :=)

  10. I have commented on occasion, generally coming down on Chris’ side about trying to find some empathy and not a “one size fits all”, and “read the 30 pages of fine print” consumer approach, and had been fairly often attacked by some industry apologists. I am frankly thrilled to think of a return to a more civil approach, where people can disagree without being disagreeable! I wouldn’t ban anyone because of their opinion, but I would if they express it in a nasty or insulting way.

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