Many years ago in some of my speeches I told a story about a flight from JFK to Boston (the Pan Am Shuttle) that had landed in Hartford due to weather in Boston and been delayed four hours. The passengers were not allowed off the plane to get alternate transportation to Boston. A passenger complained to Pan Am and got the standard “we are not responsible for delays caused by the weather” response. Because that passenger was a writer for the New York Times, he published a story about his experience entitled “Hijacked to Hartford.” Immediately following the story’s publication, Pan Am sent him a new letter including a refund and a bunch of other stuff. He noted that all he really wanted was an apology.
As I noted when I told the story, we are not all writers for major publications so getting attention can be very difficult. But easier today than previously.
Dave Carrol, a member of the music group Sons of Maxwell, recently traveled on United Airlines from Chicago to Omaha. He states that United Airlines mishandled his Taylor guitar (as viewed by several passengers) resulting in its destruction costing over $1500 to repair. He then spent one year trying to get United to make it right. They refused with all the usual excuses.
While not a writer for the New York Times, Dave does have access to YouTube, as we all do. He created a video and posted it on YouTube. After getting 50,000 hits (he now has over 2.5 million views and a mention on CNN and Fox News) he got a call from United with an offer to “make it right.” They also noted that his “… excellent video provides United with a unique learning opportunity that we would also like to use for training purposes…”
I wish it were that easy for United to fix the root cause problem. Unfortunately, given one year and the countless people that Dave talked to, it is unlikely that United will fix this with training. I believe they think this was a just a PR problem and they looked for cover. Until they stop believing that passengers are an inconvenience to the efficient movement of airplanes, the root cause issue is likely to remain.