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There Are Two Sides To Our Obsession With Airline News

  • Kristina Evans
  • May 28, 2017 12:24PM

It seems we could almost run a daily segment on the latest airline news. Every day a new story arises with the latest insanity from an airline. The highlights are easy to remember: a man getting dragged off a United Airlines flight; flight attendants wrenching a stroller away from a distraught mother on an American Airlines flight; a woman being forced to pee in a cup after being denied bathroom access. If we didn’t know any better, it would seem like the skies are becoming more reminiscent of the Ol’ Wild West.

But is this really the case? Are airlines really becoming that emboldened and disrespectful to customers? Or are customers simply finding better avenues to air their grievances?

First of all, there will always be an abundance of airline complaint stories. It’s just a matter of finding the ones that hit all the human interest points for reporters. In 2016 alone, US airlines carried around 744 million passengers, or about 2 million each day. If just one out of 100 has a complaint- seat assignment, damage bag, rude flight attendant, bad checkpoint experience, forgotten glass of water- that still works out to at least 20,000 unhappy customers a day. Most of us just go with the flow, brushing off delayed flights or a stranger’s reclined seat in our laps, merely happy to get to our destinations. We may not be ecstatic, but we’re not particularly upset enough about the situation to demand a change either.

Say only one-thousandth of 1 percent (0.001%) of daily flying crowd ends up unhappy, that’s still 20 people a day. There are undoubtedly more unhappy people than that. Even when airlines are almost perfect, there’s always a story about an expectation not being met. A video of a brawl on board a flight is pretty much always newsworthy.

The recent fixation seems to link back to that United Airlines incident, where a passenger was bloodied and hauled off a flight to get some United employees to another airport for a shift. So much attention was devoted to that particular incident that it has since elevated the public and media’s interest in similar stories.