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

Airlines have become highly mockable entities. 

I'm not sure they mind all that much, even if it makes their PR people's job a touch interesting.

Still, passengers have now learned that the internet offers them an excellent arena in which to launder their frustrations.

So when Mike Thompson, an American Airlines passenger, contacted traveler advocacy site Elliott.org, he was very detailed about his grievance.

He was flying, he said, with his business partner to a wedding. Dallas to Nashville. 

The gate agent decided his carry-on wouldn't fit under the seat. Thompson had, you see, booked one of those pesky Basic Economy seats, which offers you all the privileges of a flying jail.

He was commanded to pay a $50 baggage fee. 

He told Elliott.org that the gate agent "elevated his aggressive tone and had no patience or empathy for me, the situation, or my understanding of it."

Most airlines are fairly clear about what these Basic Economy tickets give you. Essentially, nothing. Not even the privilege of an overhead bin.

Thompson claims to have been unaware. He also says he told the gate agent: "You need to work on your customer service, tone, and tact."

Did he say it politely? Or might there have been some tonal tinges of his own?

Still, he says his business partner paid the $50. Clearly, a very fine business partner.

Thompson then claims the gate agent ran after him and explained he had the power to prevent him from boarding, as the jetway was closed.

"I was without words at this point but felt like I was in a verbally abusive situation. So I began to capture the situation on video with my phone," Thompson said.

And then American Airlines called the police.

I contacted American and wondered how it might see Thompson's story.

"The duffel bag was too big for carry-on size, and had to be checked," an airline spokesman told me. "The customer refused. It was big enough to be a checked bag."

Ah. Oh.

The airline concedes that Thompson finally agreed to check the bag. 

However: "He became argumentative with our team members over checking the bag."

Getting angry rarely works with employees who have been trained to act like police officers, rather than customer service staff. That, sadly, is the nature of the airline business these days.

Try charm. It's the only chance you've got.

And then the airline got to the crux of the matter. 

"The passenger was then disruptive with another supervisor, and went down a closed jet bridge," the airline spokesman told me. 

It seems, then, that the argument over a bag went on so long that the boarding process was already completed.

And so, the airline told me: "At that point, law enforcement was called to the gate, as entering a closed jet bridge is a criminal offense."

It's worth always remembering that an airline can throw you off a plane for almost any reason it sees fit. (United, of course, is desperate not to do it these days, after all the bad publicity it received when calling the cops and bloodying a passenger.)

At heart, though, once you get shirty, you're likely to lose your shirt. 

You might not think it fair, but so much of the power is in the airline's hands. 83 percent of all seats are held by just 4 airline groups.

Their main goal is money-making, not customer-empathy. 

Occasionally, though, some passengers just don't get it. Even if, like Thompson, they fly 100 times a year.

I asked American why Thompson would have walked down a closed jet bridge.

"You will have to ask the passenger that question," the airline replied.

You might imagine that a passenger who flies as often as Thompson says he does would know that a closed jetway isn't an encouragement to board.

I want to leave you on an uplifting note. 

Please, therefore, let me add the very fine words of one Elliott.org commenter, A.J. Peacock: "Basic economy does not include explanations from gate agents. It's an extra fee. (humor icon, please)."

Published on: Oct 15, 2017