Alaska Airlines oops... and fix

SteveCostello

My member is well-known.
Just saw this via a friend on Facebook. This is a copy and paste, so don't kill the messenger. I'm not going to fix all of the capitalization and spelling errors.


SAD STORY...

i witnessed today, what i consider to be the worst of humanity.
standing in line at an Alaska airlines ticket check in, in redmond oregon, i watched as a disabled/mentally and physically challenged couple were left standing i
n the front of a line by the ticket attendant, melissa, who didn't say a word- no "final call, redmond to seattle"-- no "if you are flying to seattle, it's too late to make this flight," etc-- nothing.
when a different agent appeared 1/2 hour later-- the flight still had not left. i asked for a quick "side bar" with the new agent-- telling her that this couple needed some leeway-- some additional help. she quickly informed me that "we treat every single customer the exact same here"-- she was annoyed by my insistence and advocacy. i tried to explain to her that her colleague had left the man and his companion alone, without saying a word to them. that they were "different" and that it would be ok for her to make exceptions for them (uttering something like, "exceptional circumstances sometimes require, exceptional responses").
melissa finally agreed to try to get the man on the flight-- but he couldn't bring his luggage (ug).
he had a hard time walking-- no one offered him a wheelchair or asked how they could be helpful. he stumbled off toward the safety inspection line.
predictably, he didn't understand/comprehend their restriction of his luggage, and got stuck in security.
while this was going on, the ticket attendant and myself were continuing to have quiet words about how they needed extra help-- she told me that "i didn't know the whole story"-- that he had the "same problem yesterday, showing up late to his first flight." i told her that i thought there was a real reason he was struggling to make it anywhere on time, and that this was cause for some compassion and some exceptions to rules, and some additional assistance. by now i was fully annoying her. she had her rules, and she was growing tired of my moral compass.
security ended up sending the man back, telling him in the confusion around his luggage that there was no longer enough time for him to make his airplane, without the plane running late.
the original attendant, melissa, returned, and lightly shamed the couple for being late for the second time in a row, telling them there was no way the man could get to bellingham before 9pm now.
the man and woman broke into tears. his "nervous system hurky/jurkyness" became profound. he begged her to help him. nothing.
i asked tiffany to go on with the kids, that i wanted to stick around and advocate for this couple for the 20 minutes i could and still make my own flight...
i asked the man for his name. "brent" he and his companion were easily 70 something. he was crying something fierce by now. i asked him what his condition was. he said he had late stage parkinsons, and that his companion had MS.
i asked to speak to the on site manager- a man named "jim cook." jim listened to me politely tell him the story about the man with parkinsons, and the woman with MS, and how none of his staff did anything to offer them additional assistance when it was clear to all 20 of us in line, how much they needed it and deserved it, and then he explained to me that the "laws don't allow alaska airlines to provide anyone, for any reason "special treatments." i wrote that comment down, word for word. he responded by saying, "so great, you are going to take me completely out of context aren't you?" i said, "what other context is there?" i asked you why your staff didn't help these people, and, in that exact context, you backed up your employee who told me that everyone is treated exactly alike. he stood by this position.
the end of this story is sad to the core. after wrapping up with mr. cooke, i talked to brent for a bit longer.
this trip- redmond to seattle/seattle to bellingham, was allowing him to see his daughter one final time, who works on the ferry system and is out on the water for most of her time-- she was scheduled to meet him in bellingham at 3pm today. he said that it was a "bucket list" item that he could no longer realize. i asked him if she could get off the ferry and wait for him tomorrow-- and he said that she was only available for this brief time today-- that he was to join her on the ferry, and that otherwise she'd be out on the water for days-- his trip was done. he couldn't re-schedule. he was simply, now, in defeat, asking for his money back.
what part of this story is "ok" in any way?
what happened to our collective sense of decency, of compassion, of our disposition to help those in need of extra help.
alaska airlines. you broke a man's heart today. you maintained your policy, and ignored an opportunity to do the right thing.
you broke my heart too.
if i knew who to contact, i would contact them and invite them to pay for this man's daughters unpaid leave, and provide her a ticket to come see her father? short of that, i know of nothing that could undo the inhumanity i witnessed today.
blech.
boo.
 

SteveCostello

My member is well-known.
And the fix:

UPDATE:
Alaska Airlines
is flying brent to be with his daughter today. thank you alaska airlines, for doing the right thing. the public statement on your facebook page, semi-blamed this man, suffering from parksinsons, by suggesting it was his fault he didn't get on the plane because he attempted to take his oversize luggage with him despite being told he should not...

here is my response to th
at thought:
alaska airlines. thank you for helping this man find his way to his daughter. that was the right thing to do. life is complicated, mistakes are made. humility and repair are always welcome responses. go-- good for you all. i would caution you about the factual parts of your statement, however... his missing his flight the day before was not a bi-product of his refusal to "not leave his luggage behind"-- he did have oversize luggage, and he was first "ignored" by an agent who decided he didn't get in line on time, and then he was "offered" the chance to get on the plane for a trip that would be an extended period of time- without his luggage-- which most likely had medicines and other essentials he could not leave behind. the agent who sent him off with his oversize luggage, to be left behind, had me speaking to her throughout his late "check in" process, urging her to "give him extra help" because he was clearly, cognitively impaired (and we were certain he wouldn't fully comprehend what was being said to him)... my wife and i predicted the events that occurred at security because of this. and if we could predict it, surely your agents could have as well? the truth is, no one stepped up to help these people, even though it was clear they needed extra help. and the person, mr. cook, who was managing these people backed their comments and behavior by telling me that there were "laws preventing him from providing special treatment to any passenger-- that his staff was right in treating this man like any other passenger." i understand that mr. cook has suggested, internally, to you all, that what he really meant by this comment, was that his staff has been trained to treat every customer "with an equal measure of respect." this is a horrible spin. for all of us who were there, we witnessed only a lack of respect, a lack of compassion, a lack of effort to assist this man. fwiw-- sensitivity training is the VERY LEAST thing that should happen for the staff in redmond, oregon.
 

SurferLucas

Southern Gentleman
Wow...in Redmond, that's a Horizon Station. I'm saddened by the actions of my co-workers. That being said, the manager at RDM has been know to be "less than friendly".

I can honestly say that this is not the spirit of my airline and the people that work here.
 

DE727UPS

Well-Known Member
I had a faceook friend post this story and got pretty pizzed at my response. Personally, I don't think you should be on a plane if you can't get yourself off in an emergency. Some people shouldn't fly. It's not a bus. I've seen everything from folks wheeled in with no legs to folks so who were mentally unaware they were on a plane. In an evac they would be helpless. My facebook friend pointed to the ADA and that the airline has a duty to accommodate disabled people. I pointed out that sometimes one side of the government doesn't talk to the other. These jets and the FAA rules came about long before the ADA. My feeling is there is no place on a jet for someone who is basically incapacitated before they board. The ADA isn't doing anyone any favors if there is an emergency evac on a plane.
 

Derg

Cap, Roci
Staff member
Short answer, pay the extra fee and have the passenger travel as an "unaccompanied minor"

I see it all the time and it assures that he will be accounted for.

But money is more money and, well, that costs money.


Sent from my TRS-80
 

deadpixel

Well-Known Member
TL;DR what's the cliff notes?
Elderly man with Parkinsons late for plane day one missed his flight, misses flight day two due to Parkinsons, large baggage, and a "fellow traveling companion with MS. Alaska refused to help him at the airport. He wanted to see his daughter before he died (bucket list item), daughter works on ferry not home often. Alaska is now flying him out to her. manager at airport told the person trying to help that
laws don't allow alaska airlines to provide anyone, for any reason "special treatments."
 

Minuteman

“Dongola”
…she quickly informed me that "we treat every single customer the exact same here"
Well what's the point of paying extra for first class, express lines and the Board Room? Beyond human and constitutional rights, butter-up the moneyhavers.
 

popaviator

Well-Known Member
I had a faceook friend post this story and got pretty pizzed at my response. Personally, I don't think you should be on a plane if you can't get yourself off in an emergency. Some people shouldn't fly. It's not a bus. I've seen everything from folks wheeled in with no legs to folks so who were mentally unaware they were on a plane. In an evac they would be helpless. My facebook friend pointed to the ADA and that the airline has a duty to accommodate disabled people. I pointed out that sometimes one side of the government doesn't talk to the other. These jets and the FAA rules came about long before the ADA. My feeling is there is no place on a jet for someone who is basically incapacitated before they board. The ADA isn't doing anyone any favors if there is an emergency evac on a plane.
I think on a bus/train/car pool etc. it's going to be the same helpless situation if they really are mentally incapacitated. Just a more severe one if you're crash landing in the ocean o_O
 

Houston

Well-Known Member
The story was also posted here:

http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/story/2012-08-05/Oregon-mans-Facebook-post-sparks-airline-backlash/56797372/1

and the first comment posted following the article is germane and something several people here should think about very seriously:
This begs the question, why do we assume just because someone posted this on their Facebook page it was true? So many rush to judge the airline and yet this story could have been completely fabricated. The lack of critical thinking....
 

SteveCostello

My member is well-known.
I only posted this here after I saw that AS had actually responded to the incident, and responded in a way that was clear that the incident actually happened. Otherwise, I would not have reposted it here.

That said... with the amount of misinformation whizzing around out there, especially during this election season since the 24/7 news cycle, it would be great if people would spend a few minutes vetting a story before sending out an email blast to everyone that they know.
 

Screaming_Emu

Great and Unmatched Wisdom
I really do think that airlines have lost slight of the big picture, especially when it comes to customer service. Especially at the regional level we are so wrapped up in performance metrics that in the grand scheme of things, don't mean a thing.

D0, A14, completion factor, etc. Those should be part of the bigger picture to show performance that really matters, do your customers come back? I recently saw a Delta commercial where they show a jetway being reattached and a door being opened to allow a man on crutches to board. My first thought was "yeah, right!"

Not sure if things like that happen at mainline, but I have never seen that happen at the regional level. And that sucks. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone on the airplane who would be against delaying departure for a reasonable amount of time to accommodate someone who needs a little extra help. But these metrics don't show up on spreadsheets so they're overlooked.
 

jrh

Well-Known Member
At my airline we have what amounts to a "customer service" delay code, no different from how we'd code a "late arriving aircraft" or "weather" or "mechanical" or "weight and balance" delay.

Is having a "customer service" delay code uncommon? Or highly discouraged for some reason?
 

Mzolga1

New Member
I had a faceook friend post this story and got pretty pizzed at my response. Personally, I don't think you should be on a plane if you can't get yourself off in an emergency. Some people shouldn't fly. It's not a bus. I've seen everything from folks wheeled in with no legs to folks so who were mentally unaware they were on a plane. In an evac they would be helpless. My facebook friend pointed to the ADA and that the airline has a duty to accommodate disabled people. I pointed out that sometimes one side of the government doesn't talk to the other. These jets and the FAA rules came about long before the ADA. My feeling is there is no place on a jet for someone who is basically incapacitated before they board. The ADA isn't doing anyone any favors if there is an emergency evac on a plane.
Oh come on. What about the folks getting on the airplane because of one thing or another (fear of flying) or proceed to get drunk while on the flight. What should happen with them with an emergency comes up. :rolleyes:
 

Houston

Well-Known Member
Oh come on. What about the folks getting on the airplane because of one thing or another (fear of flying) or proceed to get drunk while on the flight. What should happen with them with an emergency comes up. :rolleyes:
See 14 CFR 91.17(b), 14 CFR 121.575, and 14 CFR 135.121
 

Screaming_Emu

Great and Unmatched Wisdom
At my airline we have what amounts to a "customer service" delay code, no different from how we'd code a "late arriving aircraft" or "weather" or "mechanical" or "weight and balance" delay.

Is having a "customer service" delay code uncommon? Or highly discouraged for some reason?
We sort of do. Our delay codes are pre-loaded into the FMS and if you have one that isn't on the list you have to contact the dispatcher to have it coded correctly. And if I understand it correctly, while much lower than our Delta (adjusted) performance criteria, our United performance standards are non-adjusted. So if you're late, you're late. They don't care why.

In addition to that, you can be late because you don't have a jetway and they have to attach a ramp to load a wheelchair passenger. You get to your destination and see it coded as "crew late completion of checklist." There's this big game of "just make it not my fault." Instead of "lets just do the best we can for as many people as we can."
 
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