By REY FLORES
Being merciful and practicing charity are both easier said than done. Anyone who travels through airports and on airplanes knows this all too well. It is one thing for passengers to be impatient, rude, and ornery, but when any professional staffers at an airport or on an airplane get heavy-handed, that’s a whole new ballgame.
You have probably already heard all about the United Airlines passenger who was asked to deplane last week because the airline needed seats for four of its employees. When the passenger refused to exit, he was literally dragged off the plane, kicking and screaming.
This whole fiasco was caught on video and of course spread virally online. In the video captured by another passenger, we see a 69-year-old man being forcefully dragged away and bloodied by Chicago Department of Aviation security officers.
You can hear the gasps and comments of other passengers who were shocked and in disbelief that something like this could happen to a fellow passenger.
While it’s easy for us to make judgments about situations we weren’t actually at, I think it goes without saying that despite what the actual circumstances were, nobody, especially if he wasn’t being physically violent or a credible threat to anyone else, deserves to be dragged off a plane like this man was.
United Airlines has taken a beating of its own in the aftermath. Not only has stock in the company plummeted by millions of dollars, but people are also making nonstop jokes on social media about the airline carrier, and some are now boycotting the airline altogether.
I think it took an incident like this for the flying public to finally say, “Enough is enough.” As someone who travels often on business, I can tell you that I hate the whole flying experience. Airlines often treat people like livestock and overcharge you for the abuse, to add insult to injury.
Like most travelers, I buy my ticket, get to the airport, do the whole TSA “song and dance” security thing, get to my gate, board my plane, sit in an uncomfortable ever-shrinking seat, and hope I won’t need to use the Lilliputian restroom during the flight.
I never read the fine print on my ticket because there is no fine print. It’s either a paper ticket I print at home or a digital ticket which I can pull up on my smartphone. The fine print is actually on the airlines’ websites when you first purchase your ticket online.
It is there in the fine print that you will find that the airline can actually throw you off a plane for whatever reason, or for no reason at all. Apparently the man whom United chose randomly to throw off that aforementioned flight did not read the fine print, either.
In this case, the flight was not technically overbooked; the airline needed to make room for four United employees who needed to get to their destination to reach their work assignments. One would think that a huge corporation like United would have its act together enough to avoid having to boot four paying customers off a flight, but not United.
Instead, United now has a public relations nightmare on its hands, which, as I already mentioned, has already hurt its bottom line, but I am glad it had happened because now industry leaders as a whole need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask themselves what they need to do to once again make customers happy.
At least I hope that is what happens, but knowing that profit always supersedes customer satisfaction, it wouldn’t surprise me if the air travel industry remains as apathetic as usual.
Not that I did much traveling before 9/11/2001, but ever since, flying has become a dreaded thing of nightmares, particularly with the TSA security lines which not only can keep us waiting, but we also risk being manhandled by the TSA minions. I would like to hear of any evidence that any of these folks have ever been known to stop a terrorist attack.
The monstrosity known as the TSA, which is the Transportation Security Administration, was unleashed on the flying American public under the George W. Bush administration after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Since then, virtually everyone is a suspect.
My impatience and my intolerance are magnified every time I travel. I try to be charitable and forbearing, but it gets harder every time. I have to remember that my fellow travelers are more than likely as frustrated as I am, so one wrong interaction can spark something ugly if we aren’t careful.
I blame the travel industry for most of these frustrations because of their amateurish security measures, their self-service kiosks, and their ever-shrinking seats and aisle space and the tiny airplane restrooms. Don’t the airline executives think that people might want to use a restroom which they can actually fit into?
Then there’s the whole germ factor. People have just used the toilet, they’ve got all sorts of germs and bacteria on their hands, and then they are handling the sink faucets which must be held down for the water to flow. What’s the point of soaping up my hands with anti-bacterial soap if I have to then hold that stupid faucet down after I wash my hands?
Also — why is it that the waste disposal compartments in these airplane restrooms are so hard to put waste into? After having attempted to wash my hands, I then try to use a paper towel to unlock the restroom door and exit the restroom, but then I can’t get rid of the paper towel because, again, the waste disposal is so difficult to operate.
Anyway, I just wanted to vent against an industry which makes it very difficult for me to be a Christian. I realize that that responsibility is solely mine, but the airlines sure make it hard.
See you at the gate next time!
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(Rey Flores is a Catholic writer and speaker. Contact Rey at email@example.com.)