Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Airline Bashing

Hey, I'm the first guy to hammer an airline for arrogance and bad service, but this silly item, which is linked to on the Web site of that sad Matt Drudge (who seems to think it's an outrage) -- is a pretty good example of kneejerk media bashing of an airline for no good reason.

Sounds a bit like it came off The Onion, but it's a breathless report on some local TV news outlet in Rochester, N.Y.

"A local family is grieving the death of their father. But what they say has made it even worse is what an airline was forcing one of their brothers to do to be here for the burial. ...," it begins. (And what a sentence that is!)

What the airline "forced" the brother to do was pay the regular change fees and, evidently, the new fares, when said brother and his girlfriend decided to switch flights so they could attend the funeral of the man's father, whose death they were evidently on hand for.Since they were on the scene, it isn't clear from the TV report why the two weren't aware of when the funeral was.

"The only thing this family was looking for was a little compassion," the TV report says.

Boo-hoo. And all I'm looking for is a little journalistic common sense and honesty, and I'll get compassion from an airline a lot sooner than I'll get common sense and honesty from whoever cooked this phony story up.

The aggrieved passenger and his girlfriend decided they were owed "compassion" by Continental Airlines (actually, it's United now) when they tried to change their plans to stay for the funeral. That is, Continental, the family decided, had no right to charge the passengers the usual change fee plus the usual difference in fares when the tickets were re-booked on short notice.

I'm sorry, I disagree. If airlines were required to waive change fees and adjust fares for everyone who claimed a family situation, they'd never be able to get the planes off the ground. And this was not a dire emergency, where someone at an airline might have reasonably cut a passenger some slack. This was a routine schedule change on a nonrefundable fare.

People get buried every day. Usually with advance notice.

Airlines do a lot of dumb things in customer service, but I don't see that in this case. What I see is a local TV station taking a cheap shot, and some customers who have an exaggerated notion of victimhood.


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