“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.” 


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