3 reasons you should love a customer service meltdown

Marco Prati/Shutterstock
Marco Prati/Shutterstock
Spectacular customer service failures are the grist of my consumer advocacy mill.

But some of the loudest implosions are off limits to me. Like the young blogger who was reportedly booted from a United Airlines flight. His crime? Taking pictures of his seat in apparent violation of the airline’s photography policy.

Even though colleagues urged me to come to his assistance, I couldn’t. He didn’t ask me for help, and I have a strict policy of staying away from cases where I’m not invited.

Not that I could do much, anyway. Based on his account, it appears the flight crew overreacted to his journalistic curiosity, which is a problem I’ve encountered several times. A few years ago, for instance, a wildlife photographer on a JetBlue flight took some images of an altercation between a crewmember and a passenger. The crewmember demanded she delete the photos, but the shutterbug balked. She was arrested and then released.

“Unrecoverable” service failure

Her story, and the latest photo altercation, are just two examples of what I call an unrecoverable service failure. How do you make up for something like that, even if you want to? Do you apologize? Add a few miles to the customer’s account? Refund the cost of the flight?

And there’s probably nothing a neutral mediator can say to improve the situation. It is what it is: an unfortunate and complete customer-service breakdown.

But as a student of failure, I’m here to tell you that these snafus can be a goldmine. Here’s why:

1. They’re a teachable moment for employees.

The worst service disasters often make the best learning opportunities. Assuming the United Airlines crewmember was out of line (I won’t do that, but feel free to draw your own conclusions) then this is the kind of case that gets incorporated into crewmember training. How do you stop a photog who may be taking images of your other business-class passengers without also creating a scene? You can bet this won’t be the last time a blogger will try to snap photos of your seats. So how do you handle it? It’s better to get that information out to your workforce now than to sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened.

2. They offer a brief platform to get your message out.

Maybe there’s no way to adequately say “I’m sorry” for booting a blogger off your flight, but that shouldn’t stop an airline from trying. In fact, massive meltdowns like this are a terrific opportunity to show that you do care. But time is short. In a 24-hour news cycle, United had a day or two at best to make things right, and it didn’t act. Even issuing a tepid apology would have counted for something. Instead, it returned to its time-honored tradition of hoping the problem would go away, a la United Breaks Guitars. Remember that?

3. They offer customers a clear idea about how they should expect to be treated.

The biggest beneficiaries of a complete service failure and its aftermath are customers. Not only are we offered a front-row seat to the event and its immediate aftermath, but we also get a pretty clear idea of what might happen to us if we were to give that company our business. If you’re a passenger concerned with your privacy, that might be good news. If you’re worried about authoritarian flight attendants taking a power trip at your expense, it might be bad news. Either way, the company has shown us how it might handle future altercations of this type — and that’s profoundly helpful.

A few years ago, we had a slew of scholarly articles and books that celebrated failure. In the final analysis, I thought this emerging genre of business books was stupid. No one likes to fail, and pretending it’s a good thing is just silly.

But when it comes to customer service, I’m willing to make an exception. Service failures can make a company better and they can make customers more informed.

No one should aim to fail, of course, but maybe the real failure would be if we failed to learn from it.

Do airlines learn from their customer service failures?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • Sometimes I wonder whether why these CSAs simply don’t get another opinion before acting. I would like to think asking another flight attendant, “A guy is taking a picture of the back of a seat” would get a “So what?” response and diffuse the situation. Everyone’s under stress at work, but common sense (including realizing when you’re wrong) should still prevail…

  • EdB

    Along those lines, maybe there should be a “lead” FA who is the only one with authority to do anything more serious than asking someone to stop doing something. I’m not sure what the best solution would be, but the current system doesn’t seem to be working. Unless you are selling those CSA failure books. :)

  • MarkKelling

    I was on a recent UA flight and was my first time sitting in true 1st class on a three class plane (being a CO frequent flyer, the closest I got before was Business First on a CO plane). I took pictures of the seat I was in and the flight attendant actually offered to take pictures of me holding my glass of champagne! What was wrong with the one that the blogger encountered? Wow.

    I also took numerous pictures when I flew on the UA 787 (before they got grounded ;-) and the flight attendants even posed for me.

    But, no, airlines never learn. They can twist the circumstances to fit their view of what they want to believe happened even when there is a plane full of witnesses that say otherwise. While I can see the airlines wanting to support their employees (after all do we really want disgruntled airline employees that feel the company won’t stick up for them? They are many that are already disgruntled enough.), but I feel there are airline employees that just should not be in a customer facing situation as in every industry. Those should not be supported by the company when they are clearly in the wrong.

  • dourdan

    i clicked the link and read Matthew’s article.

    it is an example of “the flight attendant is always right.” it seems like after hearing her speak to other people about the “no photos” rule Matthew really REALLY wanted to play superhero and try to educate the flight attendant.

    that means he wanted to prove that she was not 100% correct in her reading of the rule (KEEP IN MIND- I AGREE SHE WAS WRONG) so he made her look foolish— and in doing so, made himself look “entitled”.

    yes she lied, because in reality what she was thinking was “if this man wants to prove me wrong about the photo issue, what is to stop him from complaining about EVERYTHING though out the flight?!” she needed a sure fire way to get him kicked off. (which is why she disappeared from view once he was escorted off the flight.)

    my point- Matthew should have kept his mouth shut. a flight attendant is like a drill Sargent or highs school teacher –you keep your answers short and try not to draw any more attention to yourself.

  • Alan Gore

    Airlines are much too apt to throw passengers off flights for no particular reason. The FAA needs to investigate the more flagrant incidents and require carriers to provide proof – or at least, sworn testimony – that ejected pax presented an actual danger to flight safety.

    A few whompin’ big fines for cases like young Matthew’s, and the abuse of power would stop.

  • TonyA_says

    The guy is one of the mistake fare opportunists on the Myanmar fiasco.
    http://upgrd.com/matthew/swiss-intl-air-lines-cancels-rgn-tickets.html
    Sounds like this law student is a mistake fare expert http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-31/travel/sc-trav-0731-travel-mechanic-20120731_1_special-fare-frequent-flier-miles-airlines
    I wonder if there is more to this that we do not know?

  • TonyA_says

    Youtube on the incident here:

  • john4868

    Honestly, I think the blogger picked a fight, tried to pull the “I know more that you” / “I’m smarter than you” routine and got walked for it. Reading @TonyA_Says link, it seems that this blogger likes to pull stunts like this in order to get fodder for his blog (He booked one of Chris’s fat finger fares knowing that Swiss wasn’t going to honor it and tried to push it to the DOT).

    The FA staying away is a smart thing in my mind. The guest is already getting walked. Why promote an unneeded confrontation (the same advice that I would give to the blogger)?

    I also found something else interesting. He said that the GS rep came to walk him off. I can’t find anywhere on his site what his status is but lets face it that some pigs are more equal than others and if he is a GS member (or 1K) of UAs FF program, he really had to step way over the line before a Captain was going to risk the backlash.

    Having said that, I have seen FAs pull the “I am God” routine before unprovoked. It seems that some of them think its a way to vent when having a bad day. Personally, I’d rather they grab a beer and pop the emergency slide.

    Meldowns make the best stories for the site anyway!

  • EdB

    “Honestly, I think the blogger picked a fight, tried to pull the “I know more that you” / “I’m smarter than you” routine and got walked for it. ”

    But is that a violation of any rule that should get him removed from the flight? If the FA started the incident by lying about a rule, doesn’t that open them up for this type of response? Whether the blogger was right or wrong or taking advantage of a fat finger discount, being removed for a violation of a non-rule is wrong.

  • TonyA_says

    Well, he did mention the word “terrorist” and “blogger”.
    Wonder which was worst :-)

  • john4868

    @edboston:disqus I have a neighbor who is a pilot. Being a smart alec to a FA can get you walked. I have spent the last 30 minutes reading his stuff. He comes off in his writing like a caricature of an over-entitled elite. If you ever read FlyerTalk … I imagine him as one of the people on that site that love telling people how smart he is and how little they know. He also seems repeatedly to do it in real life and all with the goal of writing his blog from the angle of how “dumb” are the other people. Sometimes its not what you say but how you say it that matters the most.

  • MarkKelling

    There is the saying that “you don’t poke the 800 lb bear” because all it will do is make it mad. I agree that in this case the blogger “poked” the bear by bringing up the situation of photo taking with the flight attendant when it was already over.

  • EdB

    “I have a neighbor who is a pilot. ” Wow. What a coincidence. So do I, but I don’t use it to make my response appear more credible.

    Since when did being a smart alec become a violation of airline rules worth of being removed? If the FA tried giving incorrect information by enforcing a none rule, shouldn’t they also be removed then? What other rules may they violate during the flight?

    And how the person writes their blog was a non-issue at the time. The confrontation was not about his writing style but about a FA lying about a rule and getting caught in the lie.

  • EdB

    It sounds from the story it was the FA who escalated it after it was over. After being caught in their lie about the no picture taking rule, they compounded the issue by abusing their authority by having the person removed as retaliation for being proved wrong.

  • Red

    if a few of these personal lost their jobs or better still paid the price(in cash)for their overreach a change might happen. When the boss(airlines)just want it to go away, things will remain the same. Change requires action.

  • With all due respect, while I think the blogger/passenger was also a bit of a jackwagon and should have just let the matter drop after being reprimanded the first time, the real issue is that if we accept his version of events, the FA not only either lied or was misinformed about the rule on photos inside the cabin, she also lied to the captain and told him that the passenger continued taking photos after being told to stop. That, in my opinion, should be completely unacceptable, and the FA should be reprimanded, if not terminated, if it can be substantiated that she used false pretenses to have someone kicked off a flight.

    Frankly, I have a real problem with the idea that flights have become rights-free zones where you can be booted by an FA for pretty much any reason without recourse, but that being the case, all she really had to do was tell the captain that this guy is being a jerk and argumentative, and she didn’t feel comfortable with him being on the flight. I still think that’s wrong, but since it has been established that FAs have absolute power on board their flights, she would have been within her rights to do so. But I think we have to draw the line with lying about a passenger’s conduct to get them kicked off.

  • TonyA_says

    You really think a captain for an international flight would waste his time and go to the trouble of kicking out a blogger who has taken ONE shot of the front of his video screen? Something more happened here.

  • EdB

    I’m not really sure what you are saying here. To me, it sounds like the pilot took word of the FA without doing any investigation of the incident. I know the pilot has a lot to do getting the flight ready so really don’t fault him too much for that. To me, the real issue is if the FA abused their power by lying and no verification was made by talking to others to confirm the accusations made against the passenger.

  • EdB

    I agree. If we accept the version of the story given here and on the blog, this person suffered real financial loss because of the FA’s actions and deserves to be compensated for that. While labor laws may prevent an employer from passing these costs to the employee responsible, they would have cause to dismiss them I would think. But then, there would still be the union to deal with.

  • @MeanMeosh:disqus I don’t necessarily disagree with you and we have no idea about what the FA told the Captain other than what the blogger reported. According to my friend the airline Captain, the FAA standard for removal is obscenely low. Basically, all the captain has to say is that they don’t want to transport this person. As long as its not for a discriminatory or protected reason, off you go. This also happened outside the US so I’d love to hear the whole story. Like I said above, if the GS rep really did walk him, the Captain knew he was kicking off a high muckity muck in the FA program and still did it.

  • Michael__K

    You really read the article? Where is the part where he wanted to prove that she has not 100% correct? Seems you are just inserting your own details that aren’t supported by the article.

    I looked at the FA, smiled, but said nothing, putting my iPhone away. To be clear, I did not take any more pictures—not a single one. Meanwhile, another passenger was taking pictures behind the curtain and the FA ran over to him and demanded that he stop as well. This passenger had a lively discussion with the FA, though I did not hear the resolution.

    Naturally, the FA’s warning bothered me and I felt the need to explain myself. I signaled for her to come back and asked her to hang my coat. I then said this verbatim—

    I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you didn’t think I was a terrorist. Here is my business card [offering her one]. I write about United Airlines on an almost-daily basis and the folks at United in Chicago are even aware of my blog.

  • Michael__K

    @dourdan: Even if we take your scenario at face value for discussion purposes: Is it acceptable for a person in a position of authority to act pre-emptively and take punitive actions based on what they THINK someone else is thinking?

    With authority comes the obligation not to abuse the authority. And questioning authority is unequivocally permissible and appropriate in a free and civilized society.

    “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.” —Benjamin Franklin

  • TonyA_says

    My common sense tells me not to expect due process inside a commercial flight. Argue and get kicked out. When told not to take pictures, it is better to say sorry and keep quiet. The way I read his article he argued. Too bad.

  • emanon256

    I could not agree more. I think he would have been fine had he let it go. Then he made the terrorist comment, and then mentioned that the UA people in Chicago are aware of him. Yes the FA was a jerk, but he was the one who crossed the line.

  • EdB

    Guess my take on the story was different. In his blog, he said he did just that, stopped taking pictures. Now he should have left it at that but he wanted to let the FA know what he was doing. He probably didn’t do it in the best way, but it didn’t sound like he was being argumentative. Of course, we are only hearing his side so what may have happened could be completely different.

  • TonyA_says

    Maybe you can read this comment #197 on his own blog.

    I am a United captain.
    Interesting story and I am sure that your perspective is the only one. A couple of things come to mind that you don’t get. The captain is responsible for the safety of the the flight and ALL of the the passengers on board. He also has a responsibility to operate the plane professionally and on time ( passengers actually get angry if we aren’t on time). When a FA comes up front with an issue, I as the captain, ask this question…Are you comfortable with this situation? I don’t want to go into the air with an unresolved situation that can escalate, and I am sorry but when I say unresolved, I mean is the crew comfortable with this person. If the answer is no then they are off. Details at that point are unimportant. Couple that with it being time to close the door and get going and you have an easy solution. Remove the source.Here are also a couple of tips when traveling. Don’t use words or joke about guns bombs terrorists and the like, they will get you negative attention every time. Don’t use fowl or vulgar language when discussing why you can’t put your bag above your seat or whatever last straw is nagging you. That is a deal breaker when deciding what to do. Don’t joke about drunk pilots. You won’t get thrown off the plane but in many cases that plane will not be going while the crew get off and go get tested to prove their innocence.

  • MarkKelling

    Quote from his blog:

    “Naturally, the FA’s warning bothered me and I felt the need to
    explain myself. I signaled for her to come back and asked her to hang my coat. I then said this verbatim— ‘I want you to understand why I was taking pictures. I hope you
    didn’t think I was a terrorist. …'”

    How is this the FA escalating things? She could have taken his coat, he could have said thanks, and that was it. Instead he poked again by bringing up the picture taking once again.

    Not saying the FA was right at any point in this process, but … Would he have been thrown off the plane without these comments? Maybe, maybe not.

  • TonyA_says

    They removed the source of the conflict as the captain’s comment on his blog said :-)

  • MarkKelling

    Currently on international UA flights, the GS people (in their nice suits) handle all issues with passengers seated in 1st or Business First regardless of the customers’ actual status level in the UA FF program. They took care of my issue on a flight last summer and I’m no where near GS level.

  • TonyA_says

    Oh, he is such a credible source of information having exploited so many mistake fares found in flyertalk. Duh.
    Besides, Ben was such a drunk that if he were alive today, UA would probably kick him out, too:-)

  • TonyA_says

    It happened in Newark, New Jersey. Yes, for me that is just like being outside the USA :-)

  • Michael__K

    Actually, if he is completely up front about those exploits then it doesn’t detract from his credibility at all. You and I may disagree with him, but in his mind he is simply playing by the rules — and doing it openly.

    This tear-down-the-victim mentality is offensive. It’s the same primitive mentality that deniers use to attack rape victims based on how they dress or how they comport themselves.

  • Darn… I misread the two airport ids on his blog… I had it as an inter-Asia flight.

  • TonyA_says

    He said the FA lied to the Captain, correct? Well unless he actually heard what the FA told the Captain, then he is guessing, correct? Therefore, when one is making such as assertion (lied to Captain) then his credibility is important.

  • bodega3

    He is a law student, worked in the aviation business and as a travel agent, has earned more that 1,000,000 and is approx 26 years old. Sounds like a kid with a lot of money and time on his hands. Most law students I know aren’t flying off to Istanbul, call 3 cities home and keeping a bragging blog. Not impressed. nor was United.

  • DavidYoung2

    Perhaps United just wanted to protect the privacy of it’s customers. You want to take pictures of YOUR seat only, your food, whatever, fine. But photographing other people on a flight might make them uncomfortable. Perhaps I don’t want you photographing me on a flight away from home, then posting it on Facebook where their facial recognition software tags me as “on a flight to Syndey.” Or maybe my wife things I’m on a business trip to New York and I’m really off to see my fling in Chicago. Either way, I don’t need Matthew broadcasting to the Netizens that I’m on this flight.

    Casinos have the same rule — don’t photograph the patrons! So please, Matthew, if they ask you not to take pictures of the customers, just don’t do it. Respect the privacy of others when asked to do so.

  • TonyA_says

    United Airlines Contract of Carriage

    RULE 21
    REFUSAL TO TRANSPORT
    UA shall have the right to refuse to transport or shall have the right to remove from the aircraft at any point, any Passenger for the following reasons:
    H)Safety –
    Whenever refusal or removal of a Passenger may be necessary for the safety of such Passenger or other Passengers or members of the crew including, but not limited to:
    4)Passengers who, through and as a result of their conduct, cause a disturbance such that the captain or member of the cockpit crew must leave the cockpit in order to attend to the disturbance;

    Sayonara.

  • Michael__K

    Captain: “My FA tells me she told you to stop taking picture and you continued to take pictures.”

  • TonyA_says

    Me: Why are you threatening me? Your FA is lying—I did not disobey any crewmember instruction.

    IMO, speaking like this to a captain will get you nowhere fast.

  • Michael__K

    So what would have satisfied you? Was he supposed to say “Either you are misrepresenting what the FA told you or the FA is lying?”

    Anyway this is a worthless digression– they already decided to remove him from the flight before that conversation. And the grudge you hold against him over your philosophical disagreement with him on the ethics of exploiting mistake fares has no bearing on this incident.

  • TonyA_says

    Why are accusing me of having a GRUDGE? Who are you?

  • Michael__K

    You keep bringing it up ad nauseum and you even report the OP’s responses out of chronological order (out of some misguided judgement that it might make him look worse?)

    According to the article the exchange began like this:

    Captain: “My FA tells me she told you to stop taking picture and you continued to take pictures.”

    Me: That’s a lie, captain. She told me stop taking pictures and I stopped. I did try to explain to her why I was taking pictures—I am a travel writer [I offered him one of my business cards and he too refused to accept it].

  • CarolinaLannes

    There are many people listed on the blog (apparently, BBC covered the story) who actually testified saying that was it. Even people seated in front of said blogger. Yes, the FA was on a power trip. It shouldn’t happen, but did.

    Are there many entitled passagender, especially the “first 26 y.o. 1k” (as he calls himself)? Of course! But it doesn’t mean the FA should have carte blanche on who stays and who goes.

  • Tony and Michael, my moderators have been pinging me for the last hour about your conversation. I’ve had to pull over at a Starbucks to review your comments. I hope I don’t miss my flight home.

    You are both valued members of this community. Could you please let this one go?

  • sfflyer

    He took a picture of his SEAT. Did you read the article?

  • TonyA_says

    Let’s assume you are correct. Would you rather have the captain thinking “what else could that blogger in seat xx be up to” while flying to Istanbul? Me thinks it is better to get rid of him (the blogger).

  • TonyA_says

    It is the ACT of photographing that the FA (allegedly) warned him about. The FA could not possibly know exactly what is in the picture of an iphone (or camera) or how many pictures you are taking. If you are seen in a position that would signify that you are taking a picture, then that’s all it takes.
    Nevertheless, I don’t think he would have been thrown off for JUST taking pictures. As he said, others were doing it, too.
    It must have been the verbal exchange between him and the FA, that led the FA to talk to the captain. By that time he was doomed.

  • TonyA_says

    Sorry but I didn’t like the comparison of attacking a rape victim. To me that’s ridiculous.

  • EdB

    I would rather have the captain thinking, “what else has that FA been lying about and is it safe to keep her on board while flying to Istanbul?” since the witnesses confirmed it was not the Blogger causing the issue but the FA.

  • oldft

    So, you have 21 airline employees following today’s article…maybe THEY’LL learn something!!

  • TonyA_says

    EdB can you explain you comment “since the witnesses confirmed it was not the Blogger causing the issue but the FA” further. Were they in a position to hear the whole argument?

  • EdB

    Based on the very comment you replied to under the assumption the statement was true.

    TonyA_says Carolina Nogueira • 2 hours ago −
    Let’s assume you are correct.

    Carolina Nogueira TonyA_says • 2 hours ago −
    There are many people listed on the blog (apparently, BBC covered the story) who actually testified saying that was it. Even people seated in front of said blogger. Yes, the FA was on a power trip. It shouldn’t happen, but did.

  • TonyA_says

    Ok then please quote the witnesses (instead of Carolina).

  • EdB

    I edited my response to include your statement assuming the original statement was true. No need to quote the witnesses since your statement stipulated the witness statements were true and you based your comment on that.

  • TonyA_says

    Please read his blog again and then figure out where the rest of the flyertalk folks were sitting. Then look at the seat map of the aircraft and then ask yourself if these “witnesses” could have heard what was going between him and the FA.
    These so-called “facts” are readily available and I wonder why no one bothered to check it out.

  • EdB

    I was only responding to your question about what you would want the pilot to think based on the conditions presented being true. Based on those conditions, I presented what I would like the pilot to think.

  • TonyA_says

    Bodega, here is another story (a better one) of what supposedly happened that Valentine’s day.

    http://boardingarea.com/blogs/justanotherpointstraveler/2013/02/19/passenger-got-kicked-off-my-united-flight-for-taking-a-picture/

  • cjr001

    They don’t learn often enough, if they learn anything at all. Otherwise, we wouldn’t hear some of the same stories about the same airlines over and over again.

  • cjr001

    No, this one is actually very simple: this is nothing more than another FA having a power trip simply because they can.

    People have been thrown off of flights “JUST” for wearing the ‘wrong’ cloths, or “JUST” for looking like they belong to the ‘wrong’ religion.

    After awhile, maybe the problem isn’t the passengers, but the flight attendants? Maybe the FA should go work for TSA; all the power trips you can handle.

  • cjr001

    It’s also ridiculous to claim that the OP has no credibility because of what you accuse of him of doing in a completely unrelated situation, and that he should get thrown off a flight by a flight attendant who needs to learn her own company’s rules and stop acting like a plane is her own little fiefdom.

  • Guest

    Hey, don’t forget that the “comparison” claim was not an issue in any of his other responses until he was told to drop it and had to get the last word in.

  • cjr001

    Well, at least you seem to agree that the FAs can get somebody thrown off the plane for any reason they want. It doesn’t have to be legit; they can simply do it because they’re having a bad day.

    And hey, even if the FA is at fault? Just blame the passenger, and watch the passenger at the problem go away!

  • TonyA_says

    If it was all about just taking pictures the FA would have thrown out the person seating on 17D (on Econ Plus). But why not? What happened after the blogger talked to the FA again to explain his reason for taking pictures. Something he said must have ticked off the FA. Power Trip by the FA? Doubt it. Perhaps, maybe a reaction to DYKWIA? [I’m not some kettle traveler making a baseless loyalty claim… and have accrued nearly 950,000 lifetime flight miles with United—I’ll be a 26 year old million miler flyer later in the year.] Maybe that’s another kind of Power Trip?

  • Michael__K

    For all we know the other passenger who had a lively discussion with the FA could have been the one who kept taking pictures after being asked to stop, and the crew simply botched sorting out which passenger did what and sat where.

  • cjr001

    The “something” that ticked off a FA appears to be nothing more than a passenger who didn’t take a rules-ignorant FA at her word, and the FA then completely overreacted by having the guy thrown off the flight.

    So, I go back to the root of the problem: the FA didn’t know her own airline’s rules to begin with. That is what should be dealt with, first and foremost.

  • TonyA_says

    As I have repeatedly said, the picture taking was not the reason he was finally kicked out. From Flyertalk Angelina’s blog she mentioned how about 30-40% of the passengers were the FT type. Maybe so many of them were taking pictures and that irritated the cabin crew. However, IMO, it was what the blogger told the FA when he called her to take his jacket (the so called explanation of not being a TERRORIST) that got him the boot. Who knows what the blogger told the FA? Who really knows what the FA told the captain. The key was the statement of the Global Services Rep that the captain was not comfortable having him on the flight, period. That will get you kicked out even if you are 1k with one million miles under your belt. Sometimes, it is what you say and not necessarily what you do that gets you in trouble. And after reading his blog especially about the ones regarding mistake fares, it wouldn’t surprise me that he argued with the FA right at crunch time as they prepare to close the doors.Apparently the fiasco caused a delay. He still had to argue with the captain as he was not satisfied with the explanation of the rep.

  • Guest

    You need to go back and read the story again Tony. The decision to remove the guy was made *BEFORE* the captain or member of the cockpit crew left the cockpit. And based on the story, it doesn’t appear that his actions rose to the level to constitute a safety problem.

  • TonyA_says

    What does disturbance mean? Saying the word TERRORIST can be interpreted as a disturbance. That’s enough to make the captain give you the boot.
    Also note that a female FO was standing outside the cockpit. When did she leave the cockpit? We do not know the whole story.
    Besides, re-reading the COC, it does not say the flight crew needs to leave their seat before they can decide to boot someone out. They can make that decision sitting down and then stand up later to bid adieu.

  • Guest

    Where did you come up with the other person was in 17D? The seat was not mentioned in here and in the linked story it didn’t mention the seat either. I did see a comment about someone mentioning seat 17C, but that was a different incident. Is this just another one of your wild assumptions?

  • TonyA_says

    Read his blog about the so-called witnesses. They are FTers who posted comments. Basic research, Hal.

  • Guest

    I read the linked story. Nothing in there about the seat number. Are you saying that wasn’t his blog? So I checked the blog links on that page and went to his. Found his entry about his return trip with a link to the original one. Again, it was the same one as the link on here. So where are you reading that gives the seat number of the other passenger taking pictures?

  • TonyA_says

    My point is never argue with the crew. Never mention the word Terrorist, Bomb, Hijack… If you do not like this seemingly strict American way, then fly a foreign airline. No need for root cause analysis.

  • CarolinaLannes

    I got the information on the blogger’s post (http://upgrd.com/matthew/update-united-airlines-responds-to-photo-incident.html) Of course it could be biased. There’s somebody who seems to confirme the whole thing.

    Why do I believe it? Because FAs are out of control. Even if she didn’t lie about him taking more pictures after the first encounter, she did lie about the FAA rule of “not pictures aboard”.

  • TonyA_says

    Read the follow up he posted.

  • Guest

    The story says the FO was looking on. Doesn’t say if she was in or out of the cockpit. But if the captain was in the cockpit and it was about time to leave, it probably a safe bet that they were both in the cockpit going through the check lists.

  • TonyA_says

    That was my guess, too. They were going through the list and the call from the FA came in. I’ve jumpseated right behind the captain for many years, and I know the fastest way to get fired or banned is to disturb the captain during that time, take off or landing. I only talk when the captain or FO talks to me. We have a pissed off Captain and FO here IMO. The blogger caused it so good riddance.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Really? No context needed, just saying the word “terrorist” can cause a disturbance?

    So someone sitting quietly, causing no problems says one word, “Terrorist.” By saying that one, and only that one, word, he should be kicked off a plane?

  • Guest

    Yeah. And if you see your friend Jack on board, better not say ‘hi’ to him

  • TonyA_says

    If it causes a disturbance, yes.
    I once had to plead (successfully) for a companion who jokingly mentioned the BOMB word while we were checking in. I had just quit my airline job and the agent and I were exchanging career notes.
    You should have seen her eyes bulge and the expression on her face when she heard the B word.
    I know it ain’t a democracy inside an airplane.

  • Cam

    I find it shocking that the United pilot quoted by TonyA_says would use such fowl language.

    Oh dear.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Uh…yeah. That was funny when the movie Airplane came out. Now…not so much.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Again, context. Please reread the scenario and tell me how it caused a disturbance.

  • Guest

    Hell. That joke has was around long before the movie came out. It was presented as a counter point about no context being needed. Not as a joke. Geesh. Some people just take things out of context all the time.

  • AGuest

    It didn’t Jill. The FA was just on a power trip. Tony loves to play the devils advocate and bring up ridiculous examples.