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July 16, 2007 / allyo

Grounded

So did you hear about the woman who got kicked off her plane because her toddler was, um, talking? Because the flight attendant claimed the mom threatened her? I’m so not surprised. I never did blog about my trip home from Boston last year because, well, because by the time I could really write about it sanely I just wanted to forget the whole thing happened. But basically, I was told by a woman at – surprise – Continental’s customer service desk that if I didn’t step back in line and wait for someone else to help me she’d call security on me and have me removed from the airport. And how did we get to this unpleasant place?

Well, let’s review. My original flight from Boston to Columbus was cancelled, and all other flights were full. So I asked for a flight to Cleveland or Cincinnati and they found one to Cleveland. So my plan was to rent a car and drive home. Then the attendant at the gate in Boston did a little looking and realized there was a flight from Cleveland to Columbus about 40 minutes after we landed in Cleveland. She booked me and I crossed my fingers. Well, of course my flight to Cleveland was late leaving Boston and I missed my flight to Columbus by minutes. As a result? I burst into tears. I wanted to go home, dammit. I wanted my baby (first trip away from him, remember) and my husband and I wanted to get the hell out of the airport where my fate was completely out of my hands. So I asked the attendant at the gate what to do, since I didn’t know where my luggage was at this point. She directed me to customer service, where I got in line behind 3 or 4 other folks who were also stranded. Blubbering quietly, I waited my turn. When I explained my situation up front – I missed my flight to Columbus, I was renting a car and driving home that night, I just needed to know what to do about my luggage since it was to have been routed all the way to Columbus – the customer service woman ignored me, took my name, and started out with, “We have you booked on a flight to Columbus tomorrow morning. Are you planning on checking into a hotel?” The fuck? Really? So I repeated myself. She asked me then if I would like to cancel my flight in the morning. I said I didn’t understand what she was talking about, and – here my voice broke – I just wanted to go home. She told me not to take a tone with her. I’m crying, I’m telling her, I told you when I walked up here I was renting a car tonight to drive to Columbus, so YES, cancel my ticket for tomorrow, I don’t care if you automatically rebook it, I’m 2 hours away from home, I’m driving home tonight, pleaseallIwantisforyoutotellmewhattodoaboutmyluggage. And that’s when she told me to get out of her line, she wasn’t going to let me talk to her that way, she wasn’t going to let me threaten her, and when I protested, saying I just had a simple question, and she was supposed to be providing customer service so who was she to talk to me that way I justwanttogohome, she said it wasn’t her problem I had a family, get out of her line NOW – picking up the phone – or I’d be explaining myself to security.

Humiliated, I did as I was told, only to wait another 10 minutes for someone else at the counter to tell me to go down and talk to Baggage Claim. The poor woman at baggage claim got the brunt of my frustration and did a good job of talking me down, gave me a claim ticket since of course they had no idea where my bag was, and sent me on my way to the car rental agency, and I drove home in the freezing November rain, crying half the way to Columbus.

No, I didn’t complain. Yes, I should have. But in the end I was grateful for the two people who did help me (in Boston and Cleveland) and so incredibly thankful that at least I was white. I’ve never felt so unsafe in what should have been a straightforward transaction, and I can’t imagine what would have happened if I wasn’t so very obviously a harmless, white, american, middle-class woman. And so no, I’m not surprised by this story. Not one bit. I’m only happy there were plenty of witnesses to corroborate this obvious abuse of power. No one was sticking up for me that night, and while I hope that security would have quickly realized the customer service rep was off her rocker, that doesn’t change how freaking terrified I was in the moment when she picked up that phone and quickly I realized it was either shut up or pay the consequences. Yes, airline and airport employees’ safety is important but holy hell, not at the expense of the innocent passenger. There’s got to be a balance.

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One Comment

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  1. karriew / Jul 17 2007 8:23 pm

    So, so sorry. 😦

    I had to cancel a connecting flight a few years ago. I flew in from Turks & Caicos, had ear trouble and irrational fear of boarding my next flight, and booked a train home. Luckily I was carrying a travel agent card, and because of that, had only carry on baggage. They were still suspicious.

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