In our post-9/11 world airlines have quickly turned customer service problems into law enforcement problems. A customer creating a “disturbance” might really be creating a “distraction” for bad people to do bad things. It doesn’t matter how unlikely this is, especially prior to departure while still on the ground. The culture of precaution and ‘not being too careful’ has granted huge deference to the judgments flight crews make in the instant. And it’s allowed prejudice and ego to trump good sense.
How many times have we seen a passenger act concerned with a flight attendant moving their carry on bag in the overhead, and being asked in response, “Are we going to have a problem?”
United learned its lesson about turning customer service over to airport police in the David Dao dragging incident which reverberated around the world. United says they no longer call police unless ‘safety and security’ is at issue. That still gives them broad interpretive latitude. Other airlines haven’t made similar public commitments.
So it’s no surprise that a woman objecting to vomit on her 14 year old daughter’s Frontier Airlines seat wound up in jail, and her daughter in the custody of Child Protective Services. (HT: @RenesPoints)
Copyright: zhukovsky / 123RF Stock Photo
On Las Vegas – Raleigh flight 2066 Easter weekend departure was delayed for cleaning. But her daughter’s seat was still… dirty.
“She jumped up to say mom! My hands are wet. She smelled it. She says ‘this is vomit, mom.’ So we went to look. It was on the bag, all over her shirt, her hands,” Swinney said.
That’s when Swinney alerted a flight attendant.
“I don’t know if she got offensive about it. But she turned around to me and said, ‘that’s not my job.’ If it wasn’t her job. Why wasn’t it attend to?” Swinney said.
…Swinney, however, said the flight attendant never attempted to clean up the mess and did not reassign her seat. …she confronted the flight attendant again and that’s when authorities were called to remove her and her daughter.
“I felt humiliated,” Swinney said. “I felt more bad that my child had to see me be handcuffed and taken away from her.”
The 53-year-old woman was put in jail and her daughter was placed in child protective custody.
There’s video of the passengers having discovered the vomit – and of the arrest.
Frontier refunded the cost of the Las Vegas – Raleigh segment and they bought new travel home on Delta the next day. According to the airline,
- Flight attendants apologized for the vomit, and sent the passengers out of the area to have the seat cleaned.
- Passengers were told they could have different seats “once boarding was complete..if available”
- The mother “became disruptive” so the two were asked to get off the flight. The mother refused. Law enforcement was called, and the whole aircraft was deplaned.
- The woman was taken into custody because “[t]he safety of passengers and crew is our top priority.”