Sunday, August 18, 2013

Awkwardness on American

I had some fare credit left over from flight cancellations; so instead of taking the Delta shuttle from Chicago to LaGuardia in New York, I flew American. It will be the last time for a while.

I think what put it over the top was the tone of his voice. It wasn't sympathetic or apologetically stern; it betrayed disdain and contempt.  Let me back up...

I was upgraded on the flight, as only a Platinum. This doesn't happen too frequently for me, so I was pleased. I was seated in the bulkhead seat so I had to stow both my laptop bag and suitcase. Before I sat down I tucked the complimentary blanket enclosed in a plastic bag down the side of my seat. I have never used blankets while flying.

I was texting my wife while everyone was boarding. I barely overheard a new mom reminding her husband to ask for a blanket as they passed by. Not thinking anything of it, I reached down the side of my seat to retrieve the blanket I had stowed and offered it to the husband: "here, take this".


If I had known the embarrassment I was about to cause these new parents, I would have simply kept my eyes on my phone and let them pass. Upon seeing the plastic-wrapped, red blanket in the husband's hand, a flight attendant immediately sprung into action:

FA: "Where did you get that? You can't have that!" Befuddled husband: "I'm sorry?" FA (loudly): "Those blankets CANNOT leave first class." Now-indignant and embarrassed wife: "Are you serious?" Passenger behind me to her neighbor: "She took a blanket" FA: "Yes, those blankets are for FIRST class only" Husband: OK, well, here (hands blanket to FA) Wife: At least give it back to him ( gestures to me) Me: (thinking... Seriously?!) "No thanks... All good" As I sink in my chair.

The flight attendant's tone and volume drew the attention of the entire first class cabin. I heard muted protest but it didn't last beyond the first drink order. It stuck with me though.

I get the airline's position here. They don't stock enough blankets to accommodate coach, so a coach passenger with a blanket could lead to a few awkward conversations with other passengers about why THEY can't have blankets.

What stuck with me was the visceral reaction of the FA. There was nothing customer service oriented about the way he handled it. It really felt like he was scolding the couple.


The couple.

For taking a plastic wrapped blanket.

What a lousy start to a flight experience.

To fly to LaGuardia from O'Hare, you can choose competitively priced service from United, American, and Delta. I will be avoiding American for a bit.

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