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

It was a carry-on about a carry-on.

That, at least, is the story told by Debbie Cardarelli.

Last year, she and her husband Robert were boarding an American Airlines flight at Philadelphia Airport back to their home in Rochester, New York.

As often happens, the overhead bins were full, so Robert Cardarelli was asked to hand over his carry-on for checking.

This, he did. But then, as Philly.com reported, he remembered he needed his eye drops. He'd once had a corneal transplant and, well, the bag was sitting there just a few feet away.

So he asked the baggage handler if he could take them out.

And then, Debbie Cardarelli accuses, the baggage handler said that the bag couldn't be touched again.

Sadly, as these things sometimes do, what ensued was an argument. Oh, and Robert Cardarelli's arrest.

At first, Cardarelli got his eye drops, after Robert Cardarelli got a ticketing agent to intervene.

Soon afterwards, however, police officers came down the aisle of the plane -- with the ticketing agent -- and arrested him.

It seems that the baggage handler, Tawanda Ward, had accused Robert Cardarelli of making a bomb threat.

Robert Cardarelli was charged with three offenses, including threatening to use a weapon of mass destruction.

A judge found him not guilty, deeming Ward not believable. She had allegedly not told anyone about the purported bomb threat for 15 minutes. 

Worse, Debbie Cardarelli says that when they flew to Philadelphia for the trial, they were booked on American, called ahead to check whether that was OK, were told it was and then were denied boarding.

Even worse, the Washington Post reports that the airline refused to respond to subpoenas, hence delaying the trial.

Robert Cardarelli has since died, but his widow wants American to admit it was responsible for the arrest and everything that came after it.

I asked American whether it had a reaction to this lawsuit and whether it had, perhaps, tried to settle the case.

"Given this involves active litigation, we are going to decline comment," an airline spokesman told me.

Debbie Cardarelli says that her husband wasn't even interviewed before being charged. The airline personnel were, it seems, simply believed.

Which leads me painfully to a theme that has echoed through airline-passenger relations, and this column, for some time.

Airline bosses have pushes their employees into a security role. Those employees know the power they wield, which engenders the fear that they can cause you a lot of trouble if you ask too many questions.

Or, indeed, if they just don't like you.

Too often, there's even video evidence of airline employees talking down to customers and asking them something along the lines of "are you going to be a problem?"

This is exactly the sort of line of which some police officers are fond.

A couple of weeks ago, an Air Canada flyer claimed that when he told a Flight Attendant that at least part of her job was customer service, he said her reply was that, no it wasn't. It was safety.

And, yes, he says he and his family were thrown off the plane.

At what point does the understandable -- if sometimes misplaced -- neurosis associated with security become a cudgel for airline personnel to wield when something displeases them?

Yes, passengers can sometimes be unpleasant, rude or even intolerable.

But if the facts as presented in this lawsuit are true, how could something so apparently straightforward have led to so much grief? 

There may be more to the story that American Airlines isn't telling. 

What has emerged so far is yet another example of why many airlines inspire suspicion and not a little distaste, given the way they can treat customers.

Two of those basics are Show You Care and Give Options

I wonder whether they were applied in the case of Robert Cardarelli.

The 6 Worst Airline Customer Service Blunders
Published on: Aug 12, 2018