AirTran: Too Dumb To Be Evil?
AirTran has already done a lot of fancy footwork this year over a New Year's Day incident in which it yanked nine passengers off a flight at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and, after they were questioned, refused to rebook them on another flight.
The passengers were apparently overheard discussing the safest place to sit on an airplane, which was reported as "suspicious activity," causing the pilot to contact the TSA and have them sweep the plane. And, oh yeah, and as every news story on this incident is required to point out, the nine passengers were Muslim, and all but one were American-born. This info is kind of relevant.
AirTran committed a colossal customer-service blunder in not allowing this party to rebook immediately once they'd been questioned and released, particularly considering their visibility as an inauguration carrier. And certainly, there is no love lost between us and the budgeteers, who once tossed a whole family off a flight because their 3-year-old was crying. But the way AirTran handled things was stupid, not completely racist or Islamophobic.
If anyone deserves a label, it's the supposedly hysterical passengers who, eavesdropping, heard something they didn't like, eyed its source and jumped to conclusions. But airlines make thousands of these judgment calls every day, and you can't fault them for being jittery.
What we can fault AirTran for is treating paying passengers as guilty until proven innocent. Instead of fixing its mistake quietly, with new tickets and free upgrades for all the inconvenienced passengers, top brass apparently lost its temper and let one of its gate agents decide to turn the family away after one of them became upset (and wouldn't you be?); the carrier only half-owned up to its mistake after all the press coverage. The sad truth is, you don't even have to be religious to get screwed by your airline--though it might help to pray for that refund.
· 9 Muslims Are Pulled From Plane and Denied Re-entry; Airline Apologizes Next Day [NYT]
· AirTran Toddlergate Continues [Jaunted]
· Airline Spokesman Admits That AirTran Coach Seats Suck [Jaunted]
· AirTran coverage [Jaunted]
[Photo of an AirTran flight at Hartsfield-Jackson International: technicolorcavalry]