Airline Nightmare: You Can Be Right But Still Be Completely Wrong

The airline industry has really been under fire.  My 7-year old commented that the recent misstep has been the “fifth bad story” that he’s seen recently.  This latest airline nightmare had Delta kick a family off their flight because they wouldn’t give up the seat their infant was using.

Here’s the thing: They were actually right.  But then they turned into being completely wrong.

Where Delta Was Right

Delta had overbooked a flight, which seems to be the source of so many problems.  In looking things over, they found that one ticketed passenger wasn’t on the plane.  As it turns out, they had booked another ticket on another flight and already left.

But, the family still planned on using the seat.  They had an 18-month old that they wanted to have sit in the seat

Image courtesy of morguefile via dantada

(with their carrier).  Now, children that young are allowed to sit on parents laps, which I’m guessing is what they did on the way down.

This was a flight back from Hawaii.  I was on one of those once, and they’re long.  I know that I couldn’t take a child on my lap for that long.  I’m sure that the parents learned that a wiggly kid on a long flight is no fun for anyone.

So, they figured that they’d use the seat that they’d originally purchased for their oldest child.  Delta told them they’d have to give the seat up, and the argument started.  And of course it’s all caught on camera.  Everything is these days on a plane, I guess.

While the family had a point in that they paid for the seat, the airline was technically correct in trying to reclaim the seat.  The ticket was purchased under the older child’s name. That’s who was supposed to sit in the seat.  If the family planned on changing that, they needed to change the reservation.  They didn’t do that.

So the airline was technically in their rights to claim that seat back.  The entire reason they do overboarding is understanding that some people will not get on the plane.  The person whose name was on the ticket did not get on the plane.

Yet They Went Wrong….So, So Wrong

However, Delta took the situation and made it completely wrong, as anyone who has seen the video already knows.

They got angry with the family while on camera.  These days with the animosity against the airlines, that’s just crazy to do.  It’s like pouring gas on a fire.

They doubled down by telling the family that the parents could go to jail.  And if that isn’t bad enough, Delta told the parents that their kids could be placed into foster care.

Yeah, I don’t care how right they were about the ticket reservations, but they blew it.  In the court of public opinion, an airline telling parents that they could go to jail and lose their kids over a plane seat is an automatic fail.

What A Way To Blow Their Goodwill

Here’s the part that killed me.  They completely blew the goodwill that they’d earned just a few weeks back.  See, after the incident a few weeks back where a doctor was dragged kicking and screaming off a United flight, Delta came out huge winners.  They announced that they’d pay up to $10,000 to those bumped, way above the regulated maxiumum.  This was a huge PR win.

And they blew it, in spectacular fashion.

The airline industry is in a bad place right now.  It amazes me that they continue to shoot themselves in the foot over and over again.  Every time one of these incidents happen, you have people say “I’ll never fly <airline name> again.”  Assuming that people stick to their guns, there’s going to be a point where people are going to run out of airlines to boycott.

The airlines better change or the road trip will be back in vogue!

Readers, what do you think about the airline PR nightmare?  Will it blow over or will they make actual changes to curb the tide of negative publicity?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

7 thoughts on “Airline Nightmare: You Can Be Right But Still Be Completely Wrong”

  1. “Spectacular” is right. It’s not enough to be right in the first place, you have to stay right in how you handle an uncomfortable situation. There are no winners when both sides become antagonistic – and telling parents their kids will go to foster care? Over a seat on the plane they had paid for, though they should have changed the seat to their infant’s name? The airline took a case of poor judgment and blew it out of the water.

    I don’t believe the customer is always right but I also think there are so many ways the airline could have handled this better.

    I don’t know if you saw this but Southwest recently announced that they would be doing away with overbooking flights, maybe they’ll set an example for these other airlines. Southwest and Alaska have been my reliable airlines so far, my fingers are crossed that they stay as good as they have been for years.

  2. I wonder if these issues will impact people’s decisions on whether to fly Delta or not. If it doesn’t impact their bottom line, chances are it will continue to be an issue. Being vocal on social media is fine (within reason I guess) but people need to “vote with their dollars” too.

    • I totally agree. The only problem, as I mentioned, is that every airline seems to be doing something to get them on the naughty list, so eventually people might run out of options and have to give up on their boycotts.

  3. Yea, that’s a pretty poor excuse for customer service. Even if they are technically in the right, they need a serious lesson in tact and common decency. Imagine the poor kids thinking their parents could actually go to jail. Ridiculous and unacceptable.

  4. Oh wow I hadn’t heard this story. Sheesh! Makes me glad I don’t have any plans in the near term to fly anywhere. Traveling can be stressful enough by itself. Having to deal with airlines is becoming a constant problem on top of that. It’s crazy too that pretty much anything gets caught on camera these days.

    • You really have to wonder how much of this stuff is ‘normal’ but now it’s getting attention because more people have cameras and are starting to use them at the first sign of a situation.

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