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

First-class passengers aren't immune from the beady-eyed stare of disapproval emerging from a flight attendant's head.

Here, for example, is the tale of an enthusiastic traveler who says he got shouted at by a first-class purser. 

Well, by a purser in first class.

Benji Stawski, writing at the Points Guy, says he cheerily boarded his American Airlines flight as soon as he could.

His aim was to take pictures of the cabin. He writes about these sorts of things, you see.

Immediately, he says, the purser "yelled" at him to stop taking pictures. 

Oh, dear. Here we go again, I fear. Policing replacing customer service.

It's been a trend on airlines for quite some time. Making planes narrower and shoving more seats inside them doesn't help.

Still, this was first class. Isn't it a touch déclassé to yell in first class?

Stawski says the purser accused him of taking pictures of the crew. 

In a fit of painful sanguinity, Stawski says he let the purser see what pictures he'd actually taken. 

This wasn't good enough.

He says the purser huffed: "Either you delete all of the pictures you took or I'm going to take your camera away."

Stawski says he did as he was told, fearing he'd be kicked off the flight.

He later retrieved the pictures. They don't appear to be espionage-level.

Please let me insert a painful kink here.

There's no federal law forbidding taking pictures in public spaces. 

As consumer advocate Christopher Elliott explained comprehensively in the Washington Post, the more prickly flight attendants lean on a regulation that says passengers must not interfere "with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessening the ability of the crew member to perform those duties."

American Airlines' own rules are a touch slippery.

They read: "The use of still and video cameras, film or digital, is permitted only for recording of personal events."

Who's to decide which event is personal and which isn't?

Stawski seems to have been personally excited about flying in American's first class. Does that count?

American also includes this sentence: "Unauthorized photography or video recording of airline personnel, other customers, aircraft equipment, and procedures is prohibited."

I asked American whether its purser was in the wrong and might be disciplined in some way. After all, we're talking about first class.

"We take the allegations mentioned by Mr. Stawski seriously, and are looking into the matter. However, we are going to decline to discuss personnel matters," an airline spokesperson told me.

Its new policy also has the "personal events" phrase. It adds:

"Any photographing or recording of other customers or airline personnel that creates a safety or security risk or that interferes with crew members' duties is prohibited."

Previously, the rules read:

"Photographing or recording other customers or airline personnel without their express consent is prohibited."

Customer service, just like policing, involves judgment. It may have been lacking here.

Too many times -- and these are often the times that ultimately reach the media -- airline employees behave in a Draconian manner, rather than trying to offer genuine, reasonable service.

American Airlines has recently been teaching its staff -- and even re-teaching -- some of the basic principles of customer service.

Three of the principles: Show you care, proactively communicate and give options.

Does yelling come under the proactive communication principle? 

Oh, I don't know.

Published on: Aug 16, 2018