“You should help these guys out”

By | February 23rd, 2016

Jessica Swain is paging Superman.

You know, this guy.

Here’s her tweet to me.

Oh, you already know this story, don’t you?

It involved a four-hour flight on Delta Air Lines that reportedly turned into a 30-hour “nightmare” with two flight diversions caused by bad weather. At one point, the turbulence was so bad, one passenger thought the plane was going to break in half.

Obviously, it didn’t.

Swain’s suggestion that I rush to the rescue wasn’t the first one involving this Delta incident. But I pay close attention to my Twitter feed, so I knew a lot of people were watching. What would I do?

Here’s why my advocacy team and I only get involved when we’re asked directly by the customer: Nicole White.

Remember her? Back in 2009, she alleged the TSA took her child from her at the airport. I parachuted in to help. After several days of back and forth, the TSA released footage that showed it didn’t forcibly separate her from her child.

White never asked for my assistance. Instead, readers urged me to offer my services. She wasn’t happy with the resulting story, which suggested her recollections of the incident did not line up with reality. I don’t blame her. (The original post on her site, which started this whole episode, was deleted long ago.)

Since then, I’ve jumped in, uninvited, on several other cases. They didn’t turn out well. Either the case didn’t resolve as the readers wanted it to or the story wasn’t what they’d hoped for.

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So I came up with a policy that I’ll only help when I’m asked. Directly. No exceptions.


I call it the White Rule.

Think of it in horror movie terms: You know how vampires have to be invited inside a house in order to seduce the inhabitants? I won’t advocate unless you invite me. And if you invite me in, you can’t complain about it later.

Then again, maybe I ought to call it the Vampire Rule. I digress.

But if I had gotten involved, was there anything I could have done? Well, here’s the somewhat wooden response from Delta, when asked about the flight:

Delta flight 944 from Punta Cana was unable to land at JFK due to runway conditions and inclement weather in the New York area. The flight diverted to Manchester (N.H.) where it remained overnight to comply with mandated crew rest requirements.

The flight redeparted for JFK the following day as Delta flight 9929 but diverted to Boston as a result of severe weather in New York. With improving conditions, the flight arrived at JFK before 8 p.m. EST Tuesday.

If a passenger from Delta 944 had contacted me, I would have listened sympathetically to their horror story. I might have watched one of their videos.

And then I would have given them the bad news.

Technically, Delta fulfilled its contract of carriage. Specifically, Rule 3, which states:

Delta will use its best efforts to carry the passenger and baggage with reasonable dispatch.

Times shown in timetables or elsewhere are not guaranteed and form no part of this contract.

Delta may without notice substitute alternate carriers or aircraft, and may alter or omit stopping places shown on the ticket in case of necessity. Schedules are subject to change without notice.

Delta is not responsible or liable for making connections, or for failing to operate any flight according to schedule, or for changing the schedule or any flight.

And then they’d complain about Delta’s adhesion contract, which they’d agreed to without knowing it. And I would say they’re right, it’s a ridiculous contract. (So much for being the world’s “most trusted” airline.)

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But back to Swain’s suggestion. Should I have found the closest phone booth and changed into the costume?

I kind of like the White Rule.  It keeps me out of trouble and ensures I only help people who want help.

But maybe it’s time to rethink that policy. The Delta passengers couldn’t be helped, but someday, somewhere, maybe there’ll be a consumer who needs the help of the E-Team.

Should I have a White Rule?

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