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

American Airlines is modernizing its planes. 

Yet it only takes one serious incident to make you wonder how well any airline's planes are being maintained, when the pressure is, these days, placed forcefully on prompt departure.

Jennifer Zanone was on a flight from Hong Kong to Dallas on Saturday, when an apparently routine landing turned into something landing on her child's head.

As she explained on Facebook, a ceiling panel -- with an oxygen tank attached -- gave way and landed on her one-year-old child, whom she was holding on her lap.

Worse, said Zanone, she was asked by a Flight Attendant to wait for a gate agent to document the incident on the Boeing 777-300.

"We were never met by an agent," she told me. "Which is why I proceeded to the customer service table to get help." There, she says, she didn't get any customer service.

"The lady at the customer service desk was very nice, but she told me she could do nothing for me because she was not a supervisor. She called the supervisors for 1.5 hours and was frustrated that we were being given the runaround (her words)," Zanone told me.

It's bad enough when there's an incident in which a child could have been hurt. 

It's surely worse when the airline appears not to react in a serious manner.

I asked American for its view.

"American's primary concern is for the Zanone family and their young child," an airline spokesperson told me. "Our customer relations team has spoken with Mrs. Zanone to offer additional support and obtain details of what transpired."

I asked Zanone what additional support she'd been offered.

"American called me this morning simply to say they would email me more information," Zanone said. "I have not received any emails at this time, so I am not certain what additional assistance we were offered."

The picture suggests that what transpired was serious. 

Yet Danone's exhortation that one should "fly American Airlines with extreme caution" suggests a slight disconnect between the airline and its customer.

She said she declined medical assistance at the airport "because I didn't know what the medic could do on site with a jet-lagged, exhausted child, so I chose to monitor him myself until I could get him back to his own doctor."

Of course, no airline is perfect. Why, Delta passengers found themselves rained on during a flight last year.

I had an experience with Virgin Atlantic last year when an armrest came away on a really quite new Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The way an airline reacts matters.

In Danone's case, it's clear she wasn't happy with how she was treated.

"I just can't comprehend why the airline wouldn't meet with us following the incident," Danone told me. 

All too often, it does seem that some airlines' resources are stretched to severe limits and staff simply aren't in a position to react. Of course, on occasion the staff doesn't care.

When it comes to American Airlines, some fear that management is worried about trying to make staff take on too many responsibilities, thereby risking employee unrest.

Still, what would have happened had Zanone's child been struck more severely and suffered serious injury?

I fancy one or two people will wonder about the plane. I understand it was swiftly repaired and flew off to São Paul, Brazil within hours.

Published on: Apr 8, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.