AirTran Airways Complaint - Threat
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND -- Greetings,
My name is Del Hughes. I am the Coaching/Club Director for the Atlanta Chapter of the National Volleyball Organization known as Starlings Volleyball Clubs,USA. The topic of this letter is almost certain to gain your attention. As it did ours aboard one of your domestic flights recently. Until March 24 2002, I had never been threatened by an airline attendant with being removed from a flight.
Especially for having a conversation with one of my friends about apparent non-compliance with airline safety guidelines. Airtran flight 462 from Atlanta to Baltimore went off without a hitch. The Attendants inside the airport were friendly and helpful. The ticket agents were likewise friendly and expedient. The flight was a pleasure.
The return trip however (Flight 449) from Baltimore, Maryland was riddled with harrassment and bitterness. That was before we even got off the ground. The flight attendants name as best we could ascertain was Cathi/Kathi. I'd purchased the 17 round trip tickets for the 14 & 15 year old teams and we were on our way home after a successful tournament in Baltimore. It was a 6:00am flight and we'd arrived in plenty of time to accomodate all of the security protocols now in place. However when we got on the plane we had the misfortune of encountering Ms. Cathi. After having been greeted with a smile by the male flight attendant as we boarded, we made our way to the back of the plane where our seats were.
I was the lead, and carried with me my 4 month old son Gaelen, in his baby carrier. Cathi, eyeing my approach quickly stopped me in the aisle way and asked if I had been cleared to bring this carrier on board. I told her that I had passed all of the security check points and had even had a 'baby pad down' done at the security gate. This was a new term to me and actually made me smile as I watched the gatekeepers go over the carrier to ensure that it was only that. She asked me if the lead flight attendant had cleared it and I said that he's seen me bring it on and seemed to nod with doting approval as I boarded the plane. This was clearly an unacceptable answer for her as she quickly sped to the rear of the plane to call him and ask for herself.
She asked him if he could guarantee that it had the appropriate FAA sticker on it. When he couldn't guarantee it she hung up and began lifting the seat out of my hands while my son slept. I asked her what she was looking for and she told me that in order for me to bring it on board it must have been cleared as a safe for airline travel carrier or I wouldn't be allowed to bring it on board. I told her that I would help lift the seat high enough for her to search it. She could not locate the sticker and told me that I would have to remove the child and take the carrier back to the front of the plane so that it could be checked. She told me that she was not going to be fined $15,000 for anybody. She volunteered that this was the penalty for having a non approved carrier on board. I asked her to please look again because it was a brand new top of the line seat and should meet all appropriate safety guidelines. I lifted the fabric and she located the sticker.
She said that she would 'allow me' to keep the carrier on board this time, but I had to remove the base. I removed the base and started to place it in an overhead bin. I guess that I was taking too long placing the base in the bin and buckling the the carrier in the seat because she yelled out in the middle of the flight "Will you get out of my way so that I can do my Job". Almost all heads turned at this point to see what what might be the matter, and I moved. Then she began almost barking to the other passengers to please take their seat because this was a full flight and there were people trying to get on board. The group that I was with had one seat that apparently was not grouped with all the rest and was several rows away from the rest of the girls. I asked my wife and the chaperon to stay with the girls and I would take the seat away from the teams. My wife took her seat next to our son and tried to find out from the parent, what all of the commotion was about. About this time Ms. Cathi returned to hear several passengers talking about the incident, including my wife's conversation. She quickly interrupted saying that "the reason there was a problem was because there was no sticker on the baby seat." My wife, slightly stunned by the interruption said, OK. Ms. Cathi felt compelled to show my wife the sticker because she began reaching over my wife to get to the baby seat again lifting it as my son slept trying to point out the sticker to my wife. My wife said "wait a minute. It's not that important to me. Let him sleep". Ms. Cathi, continued trying to explain why she had to 'do her job'. My wife said 'that's fine it's over.' Ms. Cathi, decided that she would hover over my wife telling her with a pointed finger in her face that she wasn't going to allow anyone to cost her $15,000. My wife feeling very threatend at this point said 'you know what, I am going to the bathroom this conversation is over,I wasn't even talking to you in the first place'. Ms. Cathi said, 'Do YOU have a problem? You sound like you don't want to be on this flight any more. I can have you removed'. My wife responded, "have me removed for going to the bathroom, go ahead". My wife got up and went to the bathroom. Ms. Cathi, again got on the phone with the only male and apparent head attendant and asked him to meet her in the middle of the aircraft. She was having a problem with one of the passengers and may have to have her removed. She returned with the other attendant and he took the lead asking if there was a problem. Meanwhile, I decided that I needed to get more involved and asked Ms. Cathi exactly what was going on. She began by saying "is that your wife"? I said "yes it is". Ms. Cathi said "well she has had an attitude since she got on the flight, you know it and I know it". I said to her "No, all I know is that the flight started with you telling me to get out of your way so that you could do your job"? My wife explained to the gentleman what had happened from the beginning and he asked if everything was alright. She responded saying yes and then one of the other passengers stood up and said to him "excuse me, but this woman (Ms. Cathi) has been extremly rude all morning, and I am not even with that group". He seemed to acknowledge this and said that he apologized for any inconvenience. I thanked the woman who had come to our defense. This seemed to be the end of the ordeal that developed into us versus what appeared to be an airline attendant on a powertrip.
Mr. Leonard, I was in the Marine Corps for 9 years and have used Airtran for many years even prior to it's renaming. Frankly, your airline has offered friendly customer service at below average rates and that is always cause for patronage in my book. My hope is to continue using Airtran Airlines but I have to admit I am a little gun shy. To think of what almost happened in front of seventeen, 14 & 15 year old children while they were in my care is shuddering. If my wife had been removed from the plane, it would have caused shockwaves to ripple throughout the entire Atlanta volleyball club for years, not to mention my family.
When all was said and done, we got through it with little more than hurt feelings, and an exciting story to discuss on the way home, but I could certainly do without that type of excitement in our lives. Thank you for taking the time to read this dissertation. It was written in the hopes that I might find some solace in bringing this to your attention, and some evidence that your organization cares about the treatment of it's patrons.
Starlings, Atlanta Boom
At the very least I would like a response from your company regarding this incident. Thank you for your time.