A week ago Delta Air Lines had the unfortunate pleasure of being the host to a rather ugly scene. A passenger was loud, rude and crude, more or less trying to pick a fight on board. And he was allowed to fly anyways. After a video of his behavior surfaced (believed to be orchestrated by him to “go viral”) the carrier was on the hot seat, forced to react and respond. Ultimately the answer was to ban the customer for life. CEO Ed Bastian issued a statement which, in part, notes “now more than ever we must require civility on our planes and in our facilities.” And that’s great, I suppose. Personally I think the civility should extend further than that, but I get that Bastian doesn’t have as much control in those areas.
But I also believe it is PR move, not a true change in tone for the company. I believe it is a response to massive pressure given that the video did, in fact, go viral. And I’m not at all convinced that anything will really get better. Bastian acknowledged that the staff was operating with insufficient information and so chose to keep him on the flight.
This individual displayed behavior that was loud, rude and disrespectful to his fellow customers. After questioning the customer, our team members made the best decision they could given the information they had and allowed him to remain on the flight. However, if our colleagues had witnessed firsthand what was shown in the video, there is no question they would have removed him from the aircraft.
And that’s the part that really irks me. Clearly there were enough complaints that the crew chose to talk to him pre-flight. Apparently those conversations were such that the complaints were not seen as legitimate. The movie was shot by a cohort so not too surprising it wasn’t shown to the crew, but I struggle to understand what the guy must’ve said – or the other passengers didn’t say – that he was considered reasonable to fly by the staff. And how does Delta justify this level of action when compared to prior incidents where passengers were removed for simply being, not actively harassing others?
Maybe this is truly a moment where Delta is turning over a new leaf. Maybe we’ll finally see the company own up to the challenges it faces with crew training and de facto policies that engender baseless fear and bias. But the lack of similar statements when the offending party was not a white man have me thinking otherwise. Which is a shame. Because civility is absolutely missing from many facets of society right now and airlines (travel in general, really) have historically helped break down barriers, not propagate them.
This was a cheap win for Delta. Truly changing its behavior would be a great step forward. Banning one schmuck from future flights is just noise.