Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

The trouble with videos of unpleasant situations on planes is that they rarely tell the whole story.

Often, though, the tale told by passengers has far more words and details than the one told by airlines.

Perhaps airlines feel they have little to gain by speaking too much. 

Perhaps passengers feel that the more detail they offer, the more sympathy they'll garner.

Here's a video from a Delta flight, operated by SkyWest, out of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

The passenger, New York City DJ Robyn Rodgers, is being spoken to like a recalcitrant child by a Flight Attendant.

Rodgers said on Instagram: 

Just before take off the flight attendant rudely told me to put my phone on airplane mode. As I was swiping to it the attendant menacingly stood over me with her arms folded waiting for me to do it. I told her 'I know how to turn on airplane mode, you don't have to stand over me.'

Regular flyers will know that one of the likely directions of such an interaction is downhill.

Or, in this case, all the way back to the gate.

Rodgers again: 

She became agitated and said 'If you're gonna act like that we can go back to the gate and you can get off.' I held up my phone to show her that airplane mode was on. She stormed to the front then came back to my seat and said we were going back to the gate.

Rodgers and four other passengers were removed.

On the video, you can hear at least one passenger insisting that Rodgers did nothing wrong.

Moreover, those attuned to our difficult racial times won't fail to notice that the Flight Attendant is white and Rodgers is black.

Indeed, Rodgers commented: "The attendant used the term with me 'zero tolerance,' which to my knowledge is not an airline term, but I have heard it wielded in a certain administration...just an interesting detail."

I asked Delta for its view. 

"Our partners and employees should reflect our culture of treating all people with dignity and respect, and if we aren't doing that, we aren't doing our job. We are working to review the details of this event," an airline spokesman told me.

Rodgers offered an Instagram update to say that she hasn't heard from Delta at all.

How, though, could five people have been removed? Rodgers says that a man sitting behind her and a woman sitting ahead of her were removed by police for challenging the Flight Attendant. A child was allegedly removed too.

The claim offered was that the Flight Attendant felt "unsafe."

All this raises a couple of uncomfortable questions.

Isn't the reaction of passengers often a giveaway? They don't always side with the passengers involved in the dispute. Sometimes, they applaud when Flight Attendants take decisive action.

Not, it seems, here.

Then there's this.

When you're on a flight, do you have any idea whether everyone on the plane really has turned their phone to Airplane Mode?

I fear not.

Do you think the Flight Attendants have any idea either?

I suspect it's a regular occurrence that at least one person on every plane simply forgets to turn off their phone at all.

Still, such confrontations can often turn out to be not about any actual infringement of airline rules, but about personal attitudes.

Passengers can be arrogant, unpleasant, drunk, ornery, tired and simply frustrated by life in general.

Several of those descriptions can fit a Flight Attendant on any given day and this one doesn't seem filled with an excess of goodwill.

When such instances come to light, it seems as if some Flight Attendants have a very swift trigger to draconian action.

They turn into police officers, rather than customer service agents. 

Yes, theirs isn't a easy job. The question here is how the confrontation started and who -- or what -- might have escalated it?

How do talented customer service people achieve compliance from the reluctant?

With charm, rather than threats, surely. Even their threats can be charming.

Here, all we're left with is an unpleasant atmosphere.

I'll leave you with the tweet that Delta currently has pinned to its Twitter account.

"Every day, around the world. We love. We embrace. We bring people together," it says.

Published on: Jun 28, 2018