Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
For United Airlines, the anniversary of dragging a paying, bloodied passenger, Dr. David Dao, down a plane brought nothing more than a few fond remembrances and claims that the airline is so much better now.
This doesn’t mean that somewhere, on some airline, there aren’t passengers still being forcibly dragged off planes.
Indeed, as if with perfect timing, a passenger has just claimed that he was “threatened,” “manhandled by the crew” and “offloaded from the aircraft.”
His alleged offense?
He complained that the early Sunday morning flight was garlanded with mosquitoes.
Dr. Saurabh Rai, a heart surgeon, was flying on IndiGo Airlines from Lucknow to Bangalore in India.
He claims that his complaints led to him being dragged by the collar and marched off the plane.
He even claims he was told: “If you have a problem with mosquitoes, then why don’t you leave India.” Which does seem a touch harsh.
Bengaluru-based cardiologist Dr Saurabh Rai speaks to TIMES NOW and shares his account of what happened onboard the Indigo flight which led to him being offloaded pic.twitter.com/Evf7VsCFVg
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) April 10, 2018
He told Times Now that he asked for mosquito repellant cream or spray. He said many children were crying.
Thankfully, there’s at least a little video, posted by Asian News International, that appears to show mosquitoes were bothering several of the passengers. (It was incorrectly marked by ANI as Jet Airways.)
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) April 10, 2018
I contacted IndiGo, a budget carrier that enjoys more passengers than any in India, to ask for its perspective. I will update, should I receive a reply.
Could it be that complaining about mosquitoes can get you removed from an IndiGo flight?
Bugs are, after all, an occurrence in flights all over the world. In some cases — British Airways, for example — a big problem appears to be bed bugs.
IndiGo doesn’t appear to see things in the same way as Rai. It suggests he had a stinging manner.
The airline told DNA India:
Before cabin crew could address his concerns he became aggressive and used threatening language. As matter escalated after closure of the aircraft doors, he attempted to instigate other passengers on board to damage the aircraft & used words such as ‘hijack’. Hence, keeping in mind applicable safety protocols crew apprised pilot-in-command, who decided to offload him.
That sounds very different from Rai’s version.
Oddly, DNA says passengers on the flight insisted that the cabin crew’s only reaction to Rai’s complaints was to suggest he take another flight.
There was more. It doesn’t make the airline look entirely friendly.
“Eyewitnesses said neither the staff nor the security men arranged any vehicle to drive Dr Rai back to the airport lounge; he walked all the way back,” said DNA.
Indeed, at least one passenger offered his complaints on Twitter.
@IndiGo6E @ZeeNews @TimesNow @republic @timesofindia I don’t know #sauravRai. I was traveling with family on Sunday8th Apr by @IndiGo6E & yes definitely there were mosquitoes in flight.We even complained to crews but didn’t get any help from them. Sorry Indigo for speaking truth. pic.twitter.com/as0RwzHF1z
— Adv Sumit Kumar Singh (@sumit35_adv) April 10, 2018
NDTV suggests that this isn’t the first incident involving alleged manhandling on an IndiGo flight.
And now India’s Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered an inquiry.
Optimists will say that at least Rai doesn’t appear to have suffered physical injury, unlike Dao, who lost a couple of teeth.
Pessimists will say that Rai must have provoked the cabin crew in some way with his tone and manner and surely won’t get the sort of large settlement that Dao is said to have received.
In the end, such incidents merely underline the problems that, all too often, surround the flying experience these days.
Airlines used to pride themselves on customer service. Many still claim to, but good customer service requires a commitment that begins at the highest levels.
One difficult interpersonal incident can reverberate beyond anything airlines thought previously possible.
Passengers have phones with cameras. They have the web, which can magnify and accelerate with untold speed.
The minute they complain, the airline is often on the defensive.
The line between a situation defused and an international PR issue is thinner than a hamster’s nasal hair.
Knowing how to react to a complaint — look how cleverly KFC did it recently — can bring enormous benefits in the future.
A strong brand doesn’t want this sort of thing buzzing around it for a long time.