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

What is happening on United this week?

First, a Flight Attendant forces a passenger to put her dog into an overhead bin. 

And the dog dies.

Now another passenger is making a claim that is, if true, quite baffling.

Frederick Joseph, marketer, writer and founder of We Have Stories, says he was sitting on a United flight next to a woman whose manners might not have been the highest.

In a series of tweets, he described how the woman pulled down her tray table and then put both her feet on it. 

Joseph is black and the woman was, he said, was white. 

Joseph claims the Flight Attendants turned a blind eye.

He said: 

So flight staff walks by numerous times without saying anything, and I'm irate, because no black person would ever get away with this shit. So I start looking at the staff noting that there is an issue. You know, giving them the snitch eye...

Joseph said he took the matter into his own hands.

So finally I decide to say something to the woman myself. So I say 'ma'am, I'm trying to eat, and your feet are next to my food.'
She says 'what do you want me to do, the seats are small.'

The seats in Economy Class are, indeed, tiny. However, the woman doesn't sound, from his telling, like the most understanding of humans.

Joseph says the next part of the conversation went like this:

So I'm like 'I understand, which is why there is room for your feet and legs under the seat in front of you'
So she says 'this is why I fly first class, and I don't come back here with everyone else.'
So I'm like that's great, so are you going to put your feet down?'

This is why I fly First Class?

So what, pray, might you be doing slumming it out back?

Next, he says, the woman called over a Flight Attendant. 

She says to the flight attendant 'this man is disrupting my flight, I'm just trying to be comfortable' So I point at her feet and explain my stance.

The next part becomes truly bewildering.

The flight attendant says... 'well what if she puts her feet closer to the window or puts one down'
The woman says 'if I put one foot down, I want to be accommodated for accommodating him'
 

Can this really be? Can such a woman really be that much of a bastion of privilege that she has this level of audacity? And can a Flight Attendant really have attempted to split hairs by offering a one-legged compromise?

Now for the blowing of the mind.

So the flight attendant speaks to the person in-charge on the plane and they give promise this woman a f****** $1000 voucher ... ONE.THOUSAND. DOLLAR.

Many might want this story to be an invention. They might want this story not to be true because, if it is, what hope is there? 

I certainly have my doubts.

Can it really be that a woman would be offered a $1,000 voucher in exchange for behaving with basic decency? Or might the Flight Attendant have simply been trying to dupe her into decency?

I asked United and will update, should the airline get back to me.

Still, Joseph claims that he asked to be accommodated too.

So I ask 'what voucher will I be receiving for my suffering'
The flight attendant says 'sir, we can only make but so many accommodations, and she has agreed to move her feet for you.'

The accuracy of all this isn't certain. But the picture of the woman's foot isn't a great look.

In the meantime, Joseph said that he tried to explain to United's customer service.

Now I'm on the phone trying to explain how problematic this all was to a white woman in customer service who doesn't get my issue.

What's problematic about all this is that such stories have become, for many people, instantly believable.

On the day that a Flight Attendant told a woman to put her dog up in the overhead bin, almost anything to do with an airline becomes believable.

It's certainly not the first time that a passenger has tried to take liberties with their seating position, either.

Working for airlines is hard. On so many airlines, managements have made it ever harder.

The art of customer service and knowing how to react has rather become lost under the pressure of getting ever-narrower planes out on time, with fewer staff on board than there used to be.

If this tale turns out to be true, it's likely another difficult PR day for United.

And, I fear, not the last for it and so many other airlines.

Published on: Mar 14, 2018