Tuesday, March 29, 2016

American Airlines

We demand a lot of airlines; safety is a lot. There is no margin, no 96% safe. Air travel is an all-or-nothing event.
But it is actually not, any more than surgery is. One can have a great appendectomy, survive and do well. That does not allow the surgeon to place  misery, insincerity and down right meanness in the greater context of the surgical success. But that is exactly what these airlines do.
Last weekend my wife flew in to Miami to connect to Key West. The flight left on time but landed late and the connection the airline booked was missed. That left her and several others from her flight in a quandary. They were soon joined by others from other late flights. (Included was a couple with two infants.) It was late--after ten--and there were no facilities available. No food. No drink. And no transportation. Just ten to fifteen people of various ages--infants included--trapped in front of an American Airlines desk presided over by one woman available to process the marooned victims and reschedule them for the next day's flights. What then evolved was an individual and precise explanation to each victim as to why the airline had no responsibility for anything the victims would undergo. Had they been trapped beneath border guard searchlights they would have been handled in a more charitable manner.
The coup de grĂ¢ce was delivered by the attendant when her shift was up and it was time for her to shuck the inconvenience the travelers created for her. She handed out vouchers to each victim for transportation and lodging and she left. Tellingly she looked away as she did in a surprising moment of guilt: The vouchers turned out to be dummies--there was nothing at the end of the phone line.
The survivors were left to sleep on the floor.
It is easy for the racist cabby to say, "Stop complaining. I got you here." But a civilized society demands more. It--we--demand some personal involvement, some personal responsibility for the well-being of others. That is how civilized people behave and it should be second nature in us. When it is not, when some huge aberration of total disinterest to the wellbeing of others becomes a routine element in a people or group, or becomes formally institutionalized in some legalistic checklist, the people involved deserve a lot more than disrespect in return.

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