Bits ‘n Pieces for April 13, 2013

News and Notes from Around the Interweb:

  • Some of the best vacations — and best values — can be had in the off-season and shoulder seasons.

  • After the US Airways and American Airlines CEOs sat down with the New York Times to pitch their merger, the resulting piece contained reactions from only tw people — yours truly and also Pizza in Motion. He reports that he has subsequently received package with wine from US Airways along with a note arguing that the airline has been improving its inflight service. I understand there’s a box waiting for me as well, and I’ll report on the contents when I’m back in my office to open it.

  • Two African American passengers are suing US Airways because they were forced to change clothes before being allowed to travel first class on buddy passes, while other passengers (white and Filipino, presumably not on buddy passes) were allowed to dress far more casually. (Video report) The passengers say it was race, US Airways says it’s policy that has nothing to do with race. I think I have to score this one for US Airways. (HT: kellio on Milepoint)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. what’s the reasoning behind not allowing jeans and baseball caps when traveling on buddy passes? I don’t get it.

  2. @David – AFAIK, it usually has to do with “representing a professional image for the company.” If one travels on industry passes, one is expected to maintain a look and demeanor that reflects well upon the company’s brand. Not sure of the exact details in this case, but this would be my best guess.

  3. if you get first class tickets at a guest pass rate: yes , the rules say very clearly that you would need to follow the dress code.
    if you purchase the first class ticket as normal customer: no, you can do whatever you want because you paid the full price.

    I’ve used those passes and I read the rules. I am surprised that these people are not appreciative but instead sue the company.

  4. Even ehow has this on buddy passes.

    “Dress in the appropriate attire specified on your buddy pass. You’re representing the airline and they can decide not to seat you if you’re too casually dressed.”

    The employee that gave them the pass should have informed them of any dress policy. Friends suing your employee isn’t great for your career.

  5. You have to be nuts if you think airlines are regularly turning back people on buddy passes for not wearing collared shirts and dress shoes. That this was race related seems totally plausible to me.

  6. I have used buddy passes in the past. The rules for attire are very clear. What no one has stated here is that the employee who is your “buddy” can be disciplined for your inappropriate behavior.

  7. Likely a misunderstanding, but everything falls on two employees and not US Airways. First, the friend — should have been clear about the stipulation, esp. if it’s ever enforced; second, the gate check — does s/he regularly enforce this or not? That said, it’s 100% understandable how these gentleman could feel wronged when seeing others not complying with the dress code. But, how they feel isn’t very relevant if this rule isn’t actually being selectively enforced. No jeans and ball caps is a little bit bullshit, but not at all unreasonable as a stipulation of freebies, or reduced cost first. I feel for them, but this feels like a case of insecurity, not injustice.

  8. Not sure if it’s changed much in the decade or so since I worked as an aviation consultant, but back then the dress code for freebie air travel was basically designed to “class up the joint.” It does make some sense; if you were flying coach, you were allowed to dress more casually. First class freeloaders were supposed to look like professionals. Kind of the same idea as restaurants that have dress codes. You want the place to look classy. And when you’re not paying, it’s completely reasonable to be required to abide by the “house rules.”

  9. No surprise that NBC didn’t “quote” the buddy pass rule in their little news story, but rather made it sound like all of first class has this standard, and they didn’t make the “casual” dressing Caucasian or Filipino follow the same rule:
    “Dress in the appropriate attire specified on your buddy pass. You’re representing the airline and they can decide not to seat you if you’re too casually dressed.”

  10. Um, a buddy of mine is a white guy, and he has a buddy pass via his mom. He travels a lot in first class, and he dresses like a vagabond. If you saw him, you’d think he was homeless. Yet, he has never had any trouble gaining access, from what I understand.

    Sorry to break it to everyone, but this was racial.

  11. sorry this not racial-anyone compares the cases can tell. we’ve got this (black) one on record, where are the counter examples of white/asian getting away with it. “i remember…i saw…i heard…” does not count.

  12. I have traveled on buddy passes, and was denied boarding once when I didn’t have a shirt with a collar (for coach, the rules have been relaxed since then). Fortunately I had one in my carry on. And I’m white.

  13. Is it possible that racism was involved (specifically, enforcing the dress code for African Americans, but not enforcing it for other ethnicities who may also have been traveling on buddy passes)? Of course it’s possible. If in fact there were others on that flight in F on passes who were not well-coifed (which is a subjective evaluation), then certainly the lawsuit may have merit.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that there are policies that stipulate that appropriate attire – which upholds the brand image – is required. And if what is deemed appropriate is left to the GAs, then I’m not sure where this legal action by the plaintiffs has merit.

  14. The facts don’t really matter. For PR and legal cost reasons there will be a private settlement. Then they’ll have a lot more than a flight for free.

  15. As a former AA employee, the responsibility was on ME to inform anyone on my buddy passes to conform to the airline rules, one of which was a dress code for F travel. Heck, whenever I traveled on F, I was required to be “presentable” and was, in fact, not put in front on a couple of occasions because I was not dressed appropriately. As for PR — I don’t think it would be wise for USAir to settle for anything but a dropped case. Furthermore, I imagine the employee that sponsored these two might even be disciplined via suspension of buddy pass privileges.

  16. It’s been over 20 years for me, but I was advised I would not be allowed to board coach on American on a buddy pass. I was in nice shorts and a collared shirt, but kept more respectible attire in my carry-on as a backup. I changed quickly and was allowed to board. I am white. (And I did not sue)

  17. I’m tired of people playing the race card.

    This isn’t because you’re black.
    It’s because you’re stupid.

    Oh and “it’s not about the money”? Yeah right.

    P.S- I’m not white.

  18. Or, maybe they weren’t informed by their friend of this requirement beforehand. If they didn’t know ahead of time, I could see them being pissed, and wouldn’t blame them. Hopefully, if the requirement was evenly enforced, this will all be chalked up as a misunderstanding.

    And hearing white people say they’re sick of people playing the race card just cracks me up. Let me kidnap you and take you to another country, force you to labor in a field for me, not give you equal treatment for 200+ years, and then I’ll tell you to get over it. Then you tell me how that makes you feel.

    The civil rights struggle wasn’t centuries ago. Many of our parents were alive for it. Many white people tend to forget this, it seems to me. Either that or their ashamed of (or afraid to lose) their white privilege.

  19. Way back when I worked for Worldspan we had very strict dress codes to fly non-rev. We knew we’d be overdressed no matter the class of service but we also knew that we were flying on someone else’s nickle, so it made it worth it.

    BTW, I’d never fly on a buddy-pass…

  20. @Matt M – What the hell does the timing of the civil rights movement have to do with any of this? And since this is pretty clearly a case where US was enforcing the rules for buddy passes, and also a case where these two individuals were just as clearly breaking them (whether they meant to break them isn’t the point), yes people are going to get pissed at them for playing the race card, since race had nothing to do with it.

  21. I know someone who followed the buddy pass dress code to the letter — jacket and tie, but otherwise extremely casual. They got on the plane without incident, but the incongruent look later triggered an extensive interrogation by customs who thought they might be drug mules.

  22. If i was african-american I’d sue at every quasi-unfair thing under the umbrella of “racial discrimination” too. Great money-making opportunity! They must have suffered a loooooot of emotional distress for being told to comply with written company policy.

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