March 22, 2004

Boo to American Airlines for demanding that one of my sons get off the plane going from O'Hare to Madison at 9 o'clock at night because the plane was overweight. I know there are real safety concerns about weight and removing one person may make a difference and a little weight really does matter on those small planes, but at 9 o'clock at night, with no later flight to take, couldn't you offer more freebies until you get a volunteer? Two people did volunteer, but American only needed to kick off one person and so it would only offer one of these two the measly $200 travel certificate, and the two volunteers didn't want to split up. So one of my sons had to leave, to get the next bus to Madison, at 11 pm, and arrive at the Memorial Union at 2 am--on a cold night, with no shelter open, and nothing warm to wear, because he hadn't worn a coat in Austin, and his luggage had traveled on the plane.

Many passengers on the plane witnessed how rudely my sons were treated and at least one came up afterwards to say how offended he was and how he was going to write a letter to the airline about it. What I simply cannot understand is: 1. If you are going to do something like this at least be scrupulously polite while you're doing it (instead, the method used was: if you don't leave right now, we'll still make you leave and you won't even get the $200 certificate!) and 2. Try much harder to get volunteers (for a second $200 travel certificate, the two volunteers would have left willingly, and everyone else on the plane would have kept a positive opinion about the airline; instead, many people felt really bad about the airline). By the way, I think I would have volunteered in that situation, because the idea of a small plane at its weight limit scares me. That's another reason why they should go for volunteers: pressuring someone makes everyone feel anxious and subject of the dangerous weight of the plane has got to make for some exquisitely bad feeling aboard!

It's interesting that there were seats for everyone on the plane, but the weight didn't add up right. Do you think in that situation the airline ought to pick on the heaviest passengers? Actually, I don't. Yet if I were in that situation, seeing someone being pressured off the plane because of the weight of the plane--especially someone obviously under the 185 weight airlines assume people weigh--I'd be glancing around at passengers to see who was bringing the most weight on the plane and thinking uncharitable thoughts. But that's one more reason why the airline should escalate the inducements until they get a volunteer.

UPDATE: The certificate was for $250, not $200.

AND JUST TO BE CLEAR: The airline was not singling out the heaviest passengers--my sons are way under 185. My point is that if the plane is overweight and that someone is going to have to leave, a certain common sense suggests asking the heaviest person to leave. One person is inconvenienced, either way, but the maximum weight is removed. If you see them trying to oust a thin person, don't you tend to think they ought to be going after somebody big? But they don't, for whatever reason. Fear of lawsuits? Desire not to seem mean? But they were mean!


A couple points you missed on the blog about the American Airlines thing:

1) Three or four women working the gate inside the airport knew, and told John and me, that the airplane was overloaded, and even while it was being delayed never made a single announcement that it was overloaded. They knowingly overloaded the plane because they were too lazy to make an announcement over the loadspeaker that they needed a volunteer.

2) What they should do, if they're going to FORCE someone off the plane, is single out the person who checked the heaviest bag. They have that information--they weigh every single checked bag--and they could easily do it that way, something based on weight, without insulting people for being fat. Instead, they got rid of a thin guy, left all the [heaviest people] on the plane, and even left his bag on the plane.

Also, people inside the plane yelled at the guy for not allowing the couple that volunteered to leave the plane. Plus, they were completely unapologetic and even threatening towards us from beginning to end!

No comments: