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

Twitter is a useful tool for getting companies to pay attention.

You expect drama there, partly because you can find it so easily.

And so it was last week that Ryan Austin Dean posted a dramatic tweet that concerned his 3-year-old son River and a trip on American Airlines.

It read:

Our 3-year-old's appendix ruptured, yet @AmericanAir will not even rescind $400 in change fees for our rescheduled trip because his appendix didn't rupture 'the day of the flight.'

Which was followed by:

Honestly, this is why airlines are becoming so hated. 

Honestly, when you saw the picture of his son in hospital, which was part of the tweet, you'd surely have experienced sympathy.

How could any reasonable airline employee object to waiving change fees in such circumstances?

Then again, we're talking about American Airlines here. Its CEO has a deep and abiding commitment to change fees being a vital element in its lifeblood.

He claims that if the airline was prevented from charging them, American wouldn't offer changeable tickets at all.

In Dean's case, many might easily imagine -- however unfairly -- that the airline wouldn't have been effusive in its sympathy. Dean certainly didn't feel the airline's warmth.

He followed his dramatic tweet with another, this time offering an exchange between himself and American that was less than complimentary. It read:

Just in case you guys were wondering if @AmericanAir had even a semblance of a heart, the answer is no.

The tweet appeared to show a standard written answer that did, indeed, appear to lack both heart and a clear understanding.

So I asked American for its perspective on this incident.

A spokesman told me that, contrary to some reports, one tweet doesn't express all the direct messages that followed between American and Dean. He said:

We did not have the full understanding, and that is when the passenger explained the details via direct messages and we waived those change fees.

The airline insists it was all solved via these Direct Messages in 60 minutes.

Dean insisted otherwise to me:

That's a lie on their part. I spoke to them on the phone in a hospital family room and fully explained that my toddler had emergency surgery. They said they wouldn't do anything because the medical emergency wasn't the day of the flight.

Yes, but American says it was all solved by Direct Messages. Dean told me that the initial messaging happened by phone and on other social media. He said:

They're also ignoring that the initial interactions were on Facebook. They declined those requests after two hours. 

The conversation did then go to Twitter Direct Message. However, Dean says:

I fully broke down the situation. They again refused to do anything until my messages got more traction online.

Ah, so it was the unruly power of Twitter that got someone at American to see the potential PR disaster looming?

Having seen some of those Direct Messages, it's clear that Dean told American's customer service that he wasn't mad at them personally, but at the the airline's policies.

Something, though, clearly went wrong in the initial interactions between Dean and American Airlines customer service.

Even when the change fees were finally waived, Dean wasn't assuaged. His next tweet read:

Thanks for the help, folks. American Airlines suddenly decided to make a 'one time exception.'

The apogee of generosity on the airline's part, some might feel.

In the end, the real disappointment perhaps isn't that American may not have initially wanted to waive the change fees. It's that change fees exist in the first place.

Other airlines, such as Southwest, seem to do without them just fine.

When you charge $200 for a couple of characters typed on a keyboard, you're not likely to ever garner sympathy.

That's something American and other airlines seem to find so hard to understand.

Or perhaps, some might wonder, they find it hard to really care.

Published on: Oct 6, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.