Friday, April 14, 2017

Fly The Unfriendly Skies With United

I'm old enough to remember when people actually dressed up to get on an airplane like it was a social event. I mean, high heels, dresses, suits, ties; the whole nine yards. Now we have people showing up at airports looking, at best, like they're going to a slumber party. At worst, many patrons resemble homeless people. I'm also old enough to remember United Airlines advertising campaign slogan, "Fly the friendly skies of United." Every time I'm waiting, this is my hopeful image of who I will see when boarding:

Or this- an entire crew waiting happily to greet The Queen of The Universe!

But, that's fantasy. We all know that this is how it feels to fly these days, sadly...

Or, perhaps this image best conveys how your last flight felt?

I most certainly recall feeling like this. In fact, recently on a flight from Chicago, My Lion had to ask for a seat change because the man next to him was so large that Mike was actually turned out into the aisle which has to be against regulations, if not a crime against his aching back! Thankfully, the Flight Attendant was happy to get him another.

Sadly, that sort of help did not come for this United passenger who was dragged from a plane by airport security. Yep, dragged. A 60 something year old physician who was buckled into his seat next to his wife on their way home.

Normally I'm a rules girl. If you have the authority to tell me what to do, I'll generally do it without issue. So I could argue that the man brought on the altercation because he refused to get off the plane when told. However, as a PR professional and Human Being, I can't let this go by without commenting.

In this case, the flight was double overbooked, (Yes, that's actually a real thing, a real business practice!)  The airlines have taken to overbooking every single flight that they send down a runway. It started when the price of gas etc, was taking big bites out of their bottom lines. The airlines started coming up with all sorts of creative ways to help staunch the flow of red ink. That's when baggage handling fees went crazy and getting bumped more frequently from flights making a bad situation, worse. It changed the stressful occasion of flying into something akin to having one's head shaved with a cheese grater. It didn't simply go from bad to worse-- it went from bad to Third Circle of Hellish.

So, back to the elderly man on the plane. The airline needed four passengers to give up their seats because, ready for it, they needed seats to get some of their employees to their connecting flight. Yep, you heard me, they needed paying customers to give up their seats so their crew wouldn't be held up from getting where they needed to be, thereby causing the cascading effect of other missed flights. They offered $800 to any passenger who would give up their seat.  Perhaps that seems reasonable.

But, not to me. As far as I'm concerned, no business worth its salt passes on the pain of operating to a paying customer! And, the fact that United overbooks flights to the point that they can't get their crews around the country is certainly a problem for them. However, it should not have been that man's problem. But it became a big one!

Three passengers took the proffered $800, but the flight was still short one seat. Next they randomly selected the seat, which was occupied by the doctor. When they asked him to get off, he refused saying he had patients whom he needed to see in the morning. It would also mean that, either his wife get off with him, or she'd have to travel on alone.

The flight crew got airport security involved when Dr. Passenger refused to get up out of his PAID FOR seat. Before you could say, Buckle up, boys it's going to be a bumpy ride," the man is bloodied, dragged down the aisle by his arms, while every other passenger has out their cell phones videoing the entire nasty business. The poor man ends up in the hospital with some serious injuries. Can anyone say, "Lawsuit,"?

Post event, the horrified passengers began releasing their videos and the entire situation rightfully went viral. I could just imagine their PR Person screaming in his head, "Are you freaking kidding me?! How the hell can I even begin to spin this one?!" He gave it a really good try. In fact, the CEO of United took to the airwaves and did what you might expect, defend his crew for doing what they are supposed to do, etc. But when the backlash washed over him and United sending their stock prices into a tail spin, (see what I did there?), he was busy trying to publicly walk it all back and apologize. To no avail. Now they've refunded the tickets to all the passengers in an effort to say "Sorry you had to see that!"

As if that could even help.

Here's my point, aside from the one I stated about how stupid it is for any company to think it's right to pass off their operational problems onto a paying customer. While so many other businesses seem to have got the wake up call about how customers will not tolerate poor customer service, the air lines still act as if we are brainless cattle to be transported to slaughter.

Those who work in the industry complain about how we all act on flights these days; how we dress or don't dress to be seen in public; how fat we are; how demanding we are; how totally rude we can be. All the while making more money off of customers than they've ever made as an industry. In case you think they'd do away with those fees that may have been necessary to keep them afloat during the lean times, you'd be very wrong. Instead, the fees are still there and getting higher, and they've made the seats smaller, stripping away any form of comfort. No food is served, no in-flight entertainment, nothing at all. The Airline industry, through their choices, has turned it into an us against them scenario with you feeling like a sucker for paying to be abused. Tempers are short, memories are long, and no one is happy or satisfied. Sounds like a brewing recipe for disaster.

Now we can add physical abuse to the list of those things the unfriendly skies will provide at your full cost. How very nice of them.

From now on when I fly, instead of taking out flight insurance, I think I'm going to see if I can get a policy that offers Combat Pay. It seems like it will come in way more handy.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka She Who Still Flies But...

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Danger of The Cult of Personality

Richard M. Nixon was president when I was a senior in high school and resigned when I was a freshman in college.  He is the only president who has resigned.  It made for a very interesting era.

At 17, I was not much into politics.  I hadn't even cast my first political vote.  But, I hated this man. Absolutely. Totally.  Just despised him. If you had asked my 17 year old self who knew everything there is to know about the world, I wouldn't have been able to articulate my reasons.  The truth is, I hated him because everyone else I knew hated him and without understanding Group Think, I too, hated the guy. I grew up in Maryland which is historically Democrat in its politics and no one in Maryland liked him simply because he was a Republican!


Now as an adult, I understand that he wasn't a totally bad president.  He started the end to the Viet Nam war which should have gained him sainthood status from all of us young people. And, he was the President who began discussions and relations with China that has shaped world policy since. If I knew more about politics, I'd be able to tell you what other things he did well. But, I can't. Just like millions of other Americans who couldn't warm up to his cool, peculiar and distancing demeanor, we just hated him because.

Then along come these two beat reporters from the Washington Post who dug deep and ferreted out the story of a lifetime. Theirs is the story that brought down Nixon's White House around his ears. It's a complicated story as things like this are and too Machiavellian for me to explain in this blog. Essentially, it was all about how Nixon's senior staff and he decided to bug the Democratic National Committee headquartered in the iconic Watergate Building.

Woodstein, as they became known, caught this break of a lifetime because of their unnamed source, known far and wide as Deep Throat.  A Washington insider, this man (whose identity was a closely kept secret for over 30 years eventually revealed to be Mark Felt, the Assistant Director of the FBI,) gave them the info because Washington Elite were incensed that the Republicans would stoop so low as to break the law spying on and wiretapping the opposition party.

The resulting book of the entire affair, All The President's Men became required reading. It was all anyone talked about. And it launched thousands and thousands of students into journalism majors because of the unprecedented event and the Media's power to reveal the truth.  Bernstein and Woodward changed journalism and for a long time, we were better off because we had reporters and editors who understand that a free society must have a Media who is non-partisan and continues to day-light the truth. As a Mass Communication Major, I sat through countless hours in class discussing ethics, truth, these two reporters but with very little frame of reference to the political story. If you've never read it, maybe you should. It's thick and filled with things that I don't understand even to this day but it sure is fascinating the way watching an accident on the road is compelling!

At the start of Nixon's second term, he resigned. Seven top staffers were indicted and served jail time for their actions. Since Nixon's VP, Spiro Agnew (a Maryland Governor,) resigned prior because of fraud and tax evasion, that left Gerald Ford as the next President. Poor guy. I remember him as being nice, bumbling, and basically ineffectual. Again, I could be wrong because I was young and what did I really know? However, I clearly remember the celebratory feelings around that resignation. And just like that, a United States President became Personae Non Gratae.

Now years later, Donald J. Trump is the President. Elected despite what the best political pundits and Media reported and predicted. And, just like Nixon, he is despised by thousands and being protested at every turn. He too, is a Republican. His personality is bombastic and large. It makes him difficult to like and warm up to. He's been in office less than 100 days and daily the coverage is about what he's not done, what he's not been able to accomplish. The news is filled with political infighting, not just between the Dems and Repubs which one expects, but even within the Republican Party itself. While the Dems flat-out admit like it's a good thing, that they plan to oppose him on every thing.

How bad is it? Let me put it this way- if Trump walked on water in front of everyone, I'm afraid the media headlines would be, "Donald Trump Fails To Swim!!!"

Full disclosure, I voted for the man. For the soul purpose of not allowing Hillary Clinton to gain the seat in the Oval. Do I love the man? Not at all. Do I think he is the candidate of my lifetime? Only in how bizarre it all is that he's even the President in the first place.

But now as an adult, and a person who follows politics much closer, what concerns me is not the President so much as our reactions to this President. I am very concerned about the Cult of Personality that seems to be the driving force behind news coverage and our behavior.

Are we so shallow that we only want political leaders whose personality we like? Can the person only be considered a winner if they make us feel all warm and fuzzy? Seriously? Would you choose a surgeon that way? If I were to tell you that the only surgeon who could possibly save your life had the bedside manner of Attila The Hun, would you pass because you didn't like him? My suspicions are that you wouldn't.

So why would you hate the President because you just can't stand his personality? Why would you crow with glee when everything he and his staff attempt to do is thwarted by politics? Why would you hope that our President fail? If he fails we all fail.

Yes, he's difficult to understand and is totally unorthodox.  His communication style makes me cringe. Yes, he's a billionaire. He walks in rarefied air that most of us can't imagine. To be honest, so do most of our politicians who are, while not billionaires, certainly quite wealthy. Even President Obama who everyone loves in terms of his personality is an elite worth many millions. But, Mr. Obama has a much easier personality that's simple to like in terms of being a good family man and a loving husband and father.  Here's the thing, though, so is Mr. Trump. His children are extremely successful and well regarded. His beautiful wife is an immigrant now citizen, who was a successful model, speaks several languages, and is a fabulous mother.

Mr. Trump has many life long friends who say he is constantly supportive and loyal. So, in terms of the Cult of Personality, should we dismiss a person simply because we don't think we'd like them personally? Should that be the criterion? Or should we be making that decision based on their qualifications and accomplishments? Wouldn't those be a more accurate measure?

Interestingly enough, this story has another angle proving that everything in history comes around again. A storm is brewing; no telling where it will all end. It seems as if The Trump Presidency is in the middle of a wiretap controversy just like Nixon's. Only this time, it would be Democratic operatives who are playing fast and loose with surveillance of Trump staffers.

And, I can't help but wonder, where are the Woodwards and Bernsteins who genuinely care more about reporting the truth instead of being contemptuous of the guy who holds the office? Are they even there anymore? Maybe not, but the dangerous Cult of Personality is still very evident.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka She Who Is Older And Hopes Wiser

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Silent Sermon Sunday

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka She Who Has Homework To Do
Blog Widget by LinkWithin

My Previous Musings