Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
There was no blood.
Well, except for bad blood.
The latest in the ever-continuing saga of Airlines and the Restless involves a passenger on a Delta flight last week from Atlanta to Milwaukee.
As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports, Kima Hamilton was sitting on a plane that was standing in line, waiting for takeoff.
He was overcome by an urge to visit the restroom.
"We weren't taking off. We were still. The plane isn't moving," Hamilton told the Journal-Sentinel.
He went toward the restroom at the back of the plane, but was told by a female flight attendant to sit down again. So he did. But he says he couldn't hold it any longer and this time slipped into the restroom.
The next thing he knew the pilot was announcing the flight was returning to the gate in order to remove a passenger.
Yes, it was Hamilton.
The story is taken up by Krista Rosolino, a fellow passenger who was traveling with her husband and child.
In an open letter to Delta, she says: "I observed the most outrageous treatment of a paying customer that I have seen in my two decades of flying."
She's a lawyer, so I imagine she has some parameters for outrage. She refers to Hamilton as "Nice Gentleman." She says a flight attendant explained that because of Hamilton's actions, the flight had lost its place for takeoff.
"A Delta employee (Horatio) came on and asked Nice Gentleman to gather his things. Horatio talked to him in a rude and harsh manner, demanding that he leave the plane; Horatio wouldn't explain why and wouldn't give any assurance he could still travel to Milwaukee," says Rosolino.
There are passenger videos of this encounter. What Rosolino sees as rude and harsh might appear to others as merely officious. The Delta employee spoke to this paying passenger no differently than a police officer might.
After the infamous United Airlines incident with Dr. David Dao -- dragged bloodied from a plane after refusing to give up his seat for a United employee -- you might think had reminded staff about tone and manner.
In this Delta case, Hamilton didn't want to get off and calmly expressed his feelings. Moreover, fellow passengers appeared to be on his side.
The first Delta employee walked away, only to be replaced by another. This one, named Bryant R., according to Rosolino, didn't succeed in persuading Hamilton to get off the plane. (Here's video of that encounter.)
"Bryant R. claimed that Delta had never encountered an issue with someone using the bathroom during taxi/waiting takeoff (REALLY DELTA?!?!)," writes Rosolino.
I must admit I've seen it countless times, more often with First or Business Class passengers. Bryant R. did try to explain that if the plane had taken off while Hamilton was peeing, he could have got injured.
Eventually, Delta got everyone off the plane. When they were allowed back on, Hamilton wasn't with them. Worse, says Rosolino, the airline had re-sold his seat.
Hamilton told USA Today he was met by FBI agents and was grateful that Mike Rosolino, also a lawyer, stayed with him throughout.
I contacted Delta to ask why its staff had behaved as they had.
The company offered me this statement: "Our flight crews are extensively trained to ensure the safety and security of all customers. It is imperative that passengers comply with crew instructions during all phases of flight, especially at the critical points of takeoff and landing."
I suspect, however, that this may not be the last thing Delta has to say.
Hamilton says Delta refunded part of his ticket and then left him to fend for himself. It cost him a lot more to get home.
Rosolino describes an encounter with someone from another Delta flight, while sitting at the airport. That flight had enjoyed two passengers using the toilet just before takeoff. In that case, the flight attendant had warned the pilot, she says. The plane had waited a short while and then resumed its takeoff procedures. It didn't return to the gate.
Rosolino wonders what a passenger who can hold it no more is supposed to do.
"The situation was resolved in the one minute he was out of his seat," she says. "I don't believe the plane moved an inch during that time. Why did Delta have to continue this saga by returning to the gate to remove him? What about him made you want to remove him from the plane? Was it the color of his skin that you didn't trust? Or the color of Katherine S.'s [the female flight attendant who had first warned Hamilton about the toilet] skin that made you trust her version of the story?"
Hamilton is black.
What can one make of it all? Was it worth anyone's time to go back to the gate? Could there have been a different way to handle it? Again, more than once, I've seen flight attendants actively give permission for a passenger to quickly use the restroom or merely turn a blind eye.
Here, it was all different. Once the pilot got wind, everything became a little more Draconian. Was this procedure?
Or is it that airline staff are now told to be police officers first and customer service agents second? (If they can get around to that part of it.)
The videos don't show everything. We don't know the nature of the conversation between Hamilton and the female flight attendant.
For Rosolino, however, there was one more annoying part of all this. "The final event of this horrifying saga occurred when, after the plane was airborne, the pilot announced his apologies for the delays and explained that the situation was due to a security concern/issue, " she says. She insists that neither she nor her husband saw any security issue at all.
Rosolino, naturally, says she'll never fly Delta again. I wonder how she'll get around the essential oligopoly that exists in the airline industry.
"Who treats a person like this?" she says. "Have you forgotten that the people that pay to fill the seats are actually human beings who sometimes have emergencies (like having to use the bathroom when you have been waiting on the plane for an hour)?"
I'm not sure that airlines have forgotten. In too many instances, they see no reason to care. The pressure on the staff is only to ensure profits are made.