“Yes, We Know Who You Are:” Airline Exec Fires Back At Complaining Pax

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

 It’s winter in Canada, and that means weather. And lots of it. For senior airline executives. it also means emails and phone calls from ‘very important’ customers, outraged that things don’t always go according to their plans.

One of those executives has had enough of employees being abused by travellers who take weather-related delays as a personal insult. To work through the anger, the exec sent an epic rant to Open Jaw. We think it’s worth printing.

Here’s how it begins:

“What is it about air travel that turns people into irrational and abusive so called “humans?” In some cases, they think they have the right to outrageous behaviour and to treat people as their own personal punching bags. There is no other business or profession that would allow this to occur. Would you allow someone to speak to your employees like that or to your family members like that?

The last time I checked airlines do not control weather. Aircraft are machines, like so many other machines they can sometimes require servicing. I don’t know about you but I would much rather have an airplane have its issues dealt with on the ground vs. 35,000 feet traveling at 800 km/h. Does that not make sense to everyone or am I the only one who likes to know that any airplane I am on is mechanically sound and ready to fly? 

Today, I had a couple of Senior Executives from some large Canadian corporation send me notes detailing how outrageous it is that they are delayed in their travel plans. How dare the airline do this to them? Do I know who they are? Do I know how important they are? They could run an operation in a snow storm better than any airline or airport. What is wrong with the airlines, how could we not know it was going to snow? Why didn't we take precautions to avoid delays? 

My first reaction is always one of empathy -- I travel more than most people on earth and have been caught in many delays as I travel around the world.

There is no airline on earth that wants to have flights delayed. What possible motive could an airline who is paying for that airplane to sit on the ground have to delay you? You think we want to have unproductive assets sitting on the ground? Would you want that in your business? Of course not, so why would you think that is what an airline wants?” 

The airline professional offered some productive ideas on the shared responsibilities of airlines and their passengers:

  1. When dealing with people let’s all agree to live by the “Golden Rule” Treat others like you want to be treated.  
  2. Airlines will do everything they can to assist you when you are travelling and are caught in weather systems.
  3.  Airlines do not control weather -- we will give it a shot but it’s unlikely we will succeed. 
  4.   Airlines have no interest in delaying you.

  5.  Yes, we know who you are and yes, we know you are more important than the other 7.5 billion people on earth. That doesn’t change the weather.
  6.  Please put away the cell phones as you taunt and harass our employees with demands that you know are not reasonable in any kind of business. 
  7.  You are responsible for knowing what travel documents you need -- how would an airline possibly know your final destination, where you born, what connecting flights, train or bus you’re going to take? 
  8.  We are not babysitters -- take responsibility for your child when travelling. Make sure you identify them as a youth if they are travelling domestically -- the airline has no idea that your child who looks 19 is actually 15. Make sure your child has a credit card and a cell phone and they know how to use them. 
  9.  Maybe plan your trip connecting to a cruise or your exchanging of vows so that you arrive more than an hour before the event. Stuff happens. Plan for it and think about ‘what ifs’ that cannot be controlled by you or even an airline employee. 
  10.  For the record, snow and ice are not a good mix for airplanes -- so yes, we do need to de-ice and we do need to clear runways. 

The rant ends this way:

“Thanks for listening and to those Senior Executives who are outraged by our inability to manage weather I really hope that your employees are given more respect by my team than you have shown mine. Happy New Year and I hope you find your ID so you too can know who you are.” 



jeff - January 15, 2018 @ 08:01
Sandra - how do you help the airlines ?

Do all of your PNR's include contact information so that the airlines can contact the traveler and avoid massive buildups at the airport - which causes the stress and frustration for the airline employees and passengers.

This would solve the vast majority of our communication issues -

When only 20% of all PNRs include traveler contact information it is impossible for the airlines to contact them.

You are part of the problem - very easy for you to complain about the airlines when you in fact are not helping

Do your job - include the contact information so that your customer can be contacted when there are issues with weather and other IROP issues.

jeff - January 10, 2018 @ 19:01
Thank you for taking the opportunity to provide nothing of value in terms of how we solve this issue together as an industry

So what backup plan do you think would work given your an expert passenger sales agent.

There is no backup when the runways are closed - we can't create other runways - maybe you know how ?

How can the travel trade assist lets talk about that.

1. Provide accurate passenger information so that when your office is closed and the airline needs to contact a passenger they can - not accurate to suggest that airlines do not communicate - 20% of PNRs created by the travel trade in the GDS include passenger contact information. Travel agents can help by providing that information so we can proactively contact passengers before they get to the airport - your finger prints are on the knife here Bob

Help us better serve our collective customer by providing real phone numbers - perhaps an IATA resolution that forces full contact information is the only way to address this since very few agencies are willingly provide this. I am really sure that you "Bob" are not one of those agencies since you are so adamant that it is 100% the airlines fault alone. would love to see the last 1000 bookings you have made and how many include the "Real" phone number of a passenger

2. I don't recall seeing one Social Media post from any travel agency during any disruption that provided any guidance to travelers to contact the airline, airport or the travel agency - nor did I see a single post by any agency providing support to airport employee's / ground handlers / de icers thanking them or recognizing them for working in artic weather conditions to ensure your customer made it to their final destination.

3. The airlines send out travel advisories are you actually sending those to your customers "Bob" so that we can mitigate the buildup in major hubs and ensure people are rebooked prior to making their way to the airport in any kind of IROP

4. Airport infrastructure is not in the control of any airline - GTAA publicly admitted that they could have done a better job with the runway resurfacing- airlines were at the mercy of the airport who controlled the number of take offs and landings.

If the runway is closed and there is no other way for the passenger to get to Pearson for a connection airport staff make suggestions on how to get there, or would you prefer Bob that they tell the customer to come back tomorrow.

So "Bob" - I am very active in following social media and I am very focused on customer service.

I like that fact that you are referring to the airlines being run by accountants - by that statement I take it that you begrudge airlines of making a profit. Yet I am sure by the tone of your note you would be the first to complain about services being cut back, about old airplanes being used to service markets. Profit "Bob" allows airlines to invest in new equipment which your customers want to fly on. It allows the airlines to compensate partners for support, it allows airlines to increase tourism, economic development, education, cultural exchange and an overall healthy travel industry

It's too bad you did not take the opportunity to provide your expertise in how we can work together vs. making assumptions about who runs the airline, focus on customer experience and how the airlines work 24/7 with little information about the customer that is provided to the airlines.

There are literally thousands of airline employee's in this country regardless of which airline they work for that want to service and support our passengers. They want every experience to be positive and that starts with the very first contact to the last of that ITIN.

We are one of those touch points, so are you "Bob"

I am looking forward to your expert suggestions on how to manage the movement of Billions of people without one service failure and or one aircraft that needs service.


Bob - January 10, 2018 @ 11:01
First of all I was a passenger agent , and it was the greatest human relations experience I ever had. Your argument falls apart on point #2. Airlines today are run by the accountants , the ops dept and not marketing or or any consideration of the customer. It takes forever to get a action plan together , communications to you customers is slow and dis-jointed.Post the events there is no one who wants to talk to you and e-mails to customer service get automated templated responses that never address the issue. The blow up at the counter is the direct attitude of "oh no here we go again" and based on experience and exceptions the customer takes it out on the only one they can talk to , the passenger agent who basically has to say " I know nothing". So Mr. Executive do some reading on social media, get a feel to what your customers think, take some "customer focused " action make us nice again.We know you can't change the weather or be responsible for an un foreseen event , because it is not the first time it has happened to the airline , and it won't be be the last .Make us think that with all these years of running an airline you have some sort of back up plan.

Sandra - January 10, 2018 @ 11:01
As a travel consultant I frequently hear the same complaints and just want to say, Hooray, your response is perfect.

Nancy - January 10, 2018 @ 10:01
Weather is understandable..but when you arrive at the airport and the gate person asks "do you want to take a taxi' from Windsor to Toronto...that is just
bad customer PR...That runway construction certainly didn't do much for those of us trying to connect from 'the outskirts of Toronto' to make our connections...and since it was not AC's fault..no compensation for parking and gas....

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