Abuse of authorityBack to Forum
Anonymous18 May 2011
I travelled from Geneva to Dublin, with Aer Lingus on EI689, on Saturday, 5th. March with my two children, aged 12 and 9. We had enjoyed an excellent week skiing in Courmayeur but now we were tired and looking forward to our beds that night in Dublin.
The flight was called and we were among the first to head up the jetway. About 15 metres from the entrance to the aircraft there was a barrier. We stopped here, along with everybody else behind us in a long queue, and we remained here for 25 minutes, with no clue as to the reason for being kept here.
It was late (10pm), cold and the lights were intermittently powering on and off and there were families with children much younger than mine. I became increasingly annoyed at being left waiting without the benefit of any information. When we eventually boarded the aircraft I demanded an explanation from the Cabin Services Director, and I raised my voice to indicate my extreme annoyance. We were seated in row 1.
The female CSD became annoyed with me and reprimanded me for approaching her in that fashion. She also stated that she did not appreciate being verbally abused and that it was against the law to verbally abuse a member of crew on an aircraft.
At no time did I use offensive language; at no time did I encroach on her personal space and, after the initial raising of my voice for approximately 3-5 seconds, I was calm but persistent in my demand for an explanation. I therefore told her that I did not consider my behavior to constitute verbal abuse. She said it would be up to her, and her alone, to make that decision.
The CSD pointed out repeatedly that I should have asked ground staff for an explanation. I pointed out that the delay was obviously with the aircraft, I had paid my money to them to fly me and they should be able to furnish me with an explanation. There had been nobody from ground staff present when we were waiting within sight and earshot of the aircraft door. This banter went backwards and forwards with neither of us very happy but, again, I was civil in my approach but very persistent. At one stage she asked me if I thought that the way I was behaving was a good example for my children!! This was a completely inappropriate comment for her to make in front of everybody seated in the aircraft.
Then a ground staff member came on board and I asked the two crew members who were in the vicinity if I could request an explanation from him. They ignored me so I directed my question at this person, who replied, very conveniently, that he had just then taken over from another colleague and could not answer my question.
The CSD then called me round from my seat to the galley area and threatened me with being offloaded from the aircraft because she did not know if I would constitute a physical threat to her and her crew and she was also unsure if my state of mind meant I was fit to fly. She pointed out that she was the one to make that decision and that if I did not cease demanding an explanation, for which she claimed not to have an answer, she would have to ask me to disembark and be denied the right to fly.
This was a clear over reaction to the situation, a flagrant abuse of authority and I was amazed when she made this threat. I am a Star Alliance Gold member and I fly more than 150,000 miles a year. I have never been subjected to such an abuse of authority. I know how to behave myself on aircraft and I have seen people being removed from aircraft, but for being drunk, threatening, or so afraid of the prospect of flying that they became uncontrollable, but never for persistence in demanding an explanation.
Apart from the initial few seconds of raising my voice (for which I later apologized) I was calm.
I felt we, the passengers, were being kept in the dark about the reason for the delay. Subsequently, a lady in row 3, who had required assistance to board the aircraft and had been left sitting in a wheelchair on the tarmac for almost the same length of time that we were kept waiting, told me that she had been offered an explanation by the ground crew attending to her – the cabin crew had been taking a tea break………….!! Perhaps this was the reason an explanation had not been offered, which would not surprise me.
I would be very pleased to see if Aer Lingus are willing to offer an explanation at this stage. I have no doubt that my “threatening stance and verbal abuse” towards the CSD will have been included in the flight report (that every CSD is obliged to submit), but I bet you there will be no mention of the reason for the 25 minute delay.
Your excellent magazine, and the website forum, provides a vehicle through which the flying passengers’ voices can be heard and for this I am grateful. Aer Lingus’s Customer Service is terrible and I doubt that I would even receive a reply to a letter if I had bothered to communicate my dissatisfaction directly to them.
James Moloney18 May 2011
Very fair point, many service providers, especially in the travel industry play a long game and ignore complaints expecting the majority of complainants give up.
Best try going viral – it gets results. Blog or use wider forums too.
Hope you get a positive outcome.18 May 2011
James, I can appreciate that your family and yourself were tired and ready to get home. At the same time, I suspect that you approached this situation (whatever the rights and wrongs) in a manner that was bound to end in tears. Nobody reacts well to a raised voice as a starting point and that then sets the tone for the way in which the conversation develops.
Had you approached this issue rather more gently, I suspect you’d have got a lot more by way of explanation and sympathy. By the sound of things, this was a ground staff problem in that they boarded you early, before the crew were ready. After all, all of us, including air crew, are entitled to a break during a working shift.
Maybe you should also think about the example you are setting for your 12 and 9 year olds who may now see raised voices and agressive behavour as the norm when relating to service staff in the future.
Sorry to be so blunt but its difficult to have too much sympathy for you in the circumstances you describe.18 May 2011
I wasn’t happy with myself when I raised my voice, but quickly apologised and made sure my kids were aware that I was not happy with my own behaviour.
The point of the posting is not to elicit sympathy, but to question the CSD’s abuse of her authority by threatening to have me off-loaded from the aircraft when my behaviour and approach had moderated to normal behaviour within minutes – polite, but firm nonetheless.
I felt threatened and I believed this to be a complete over-reaction to the situation.18 May 2011
With a few exceptions, the “viral” approach has little on effect on airlines’ policies.
The travelling public is largely fickle, with leisure travellers driven largely by price and business travellers driven by convenience, familiarity and loyalty schemes. There is an element at which poor service and bad on board products reach a critical threshold, but in my personal opinion these levels are relatively low.
You can go online and find any amount of rants against a huge range of aspects of every airlines service.
Millions of people fly every year. We all have different expectations of what is normal, and indeed it is *more* likely, not less likely, that a frequent flyers like ourselves will be disappointed when something deviates from the norm (most passengers probably won’t even notice or care).
There are innumerable opportunities for passengers to be put out, disappointed or made plain angry during their interactions with the services/staff or products offered by airlines.
The opportunities to delight passengers are growing ever fewer and far between, and especially so as we demand lower and lower prices for airline travel.
There’s nothing at all wrong with the demand for more efficient pricing for what is a commoditised industry. But we should also moderate our expectations accordingly.
Lower prices shouldn’t *always* mean lower service levels, and it’s very much down to the attitude of the individual with whom you interact on the day.
As passengers, especially those fortunately as many reading this are, to be accustomed to premium airlines and business/first cabins, we should have some sympathy with those who work in the lower end of the airline industry.
After a long day on their feet, and also delayed by whatever issue was at hand, I can understand the crew members focus on getting passengers boarding rather than spending time to find out the reason behind the delay, which was probably unavoidable, and maybe was genuinely not something she or her immediate support team knew the reason for.
It’s not acceptable for her to have become aggressive and threatening towards you, and especially so in front of your children.
It was probably an issue which it would have been better to “let lie”, and especially so at such a late hour when frustrations were running high on all sides.18 May 2011
Viral does work, as evidenced in the recent bug bites on BA. It is monitored by service industries as this is the medium most people under 60 use to share information enabling them to be market aware and make better decisions
The power and influence of blogging, leverging social networking for services and providing online review/feedback is neither fully understood nor appreciated by the more antediluvian.18 May 2011
If a passenger kicks up a fuss on a social networking site (and gets noticed) then from a PR perspective an airline can’t be seen to ignore it.
But just because someone has the know how to make a fuss online it doesn’t mean that their grievances should be given higher priority over other business/customer issues. Indeed, I would wager that the views of those that just quietly walk away to the competition could be more valuable than Mr Angry in front of his keyboard.
I would hope airlines have a far more structured and rigorous approach to customer insight and feedback rather than simply jumping every time something murmurs online, as though it’s scared of its own shadow.18 May 2011
One person merely kicking-off in a blog seldom works. It is when the contents of the blog resonates with others, previously ignored others, frustrated others, disenchanted others, that the blog gets shared, referenced, endorsed – becoming viral.
In the vast majority of cases viral works when the “normal channels” have failed as the response, or indeed lack of it, by the supplier adds substance/grist to the angst. Grist that resonates.18 May 2011
And in a somewhat obscure and tentative case such as this, involving highly subjective perception and no hard evidence as to what actually occurred, no amount of “viral” publicity is going to engage the public, let alone the airline in question to change its policy.
The fact a cabin crew member couldn’t tell the poster why his aircraft was delayed would not in any way dissuade me from flying Cunnilingus.18 May 2011
VintageKrug, I find the last word of your post at 12:08 offensive and unsuitable for this type of forum. In no way am I a prude but you have really lowered the tone of this particular discussion.18 May 2011
I wish viral worked. One of Thomson’s brands abused me on my snowboarding holiday. Got a small refund of accom charges, but nothing that reflects the hurt caused by the room flooding and the damage caused to my equipment.
They’ve brushed my issue aside, Thomson head office havent even replied and the sub-brand dared me to go to ABTA. I have and we’re now arbitrating.18 May 2011