Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Every time I fly United Airlines, the words of CEO Oscar Munoz are embedded in my soul.
No, not: "If you don't do what we tell you, we'll drag you down an aisle and then pay you millions of dollars."
He never said that, though he might have thought it.
Instead, it was his explanation last year that the airline waits for no one, not even famous people, in its quest to be on time.
Well, when I say no one, I mean almost no one. Munoz explained:
If one of my gate agents sees a young woman with three kids running down, but our schedule says we close in 30 seconds and she's a minute away or 10 minutes away or whatever, we have historically tended to shut the door.
But now, says Munoz, a gate agent has discretion to keep the door open.
I'm now in a position to qualify his statement. What he meant to say was, If one of my gate agents sees a Big Bang Theory star running down, but our schedule says we close in seven minutes, we histrionically shut the door.
This is thanks to Mayim Bialik's account of her experience with United on Sunday.
The Big Bang Theory's Amy Farrah Fowler was in a foul mood with United. You can tell because she took to Twitter:
To the @UnitedAirlines flight attendant who shut the boarding gate in my face. I made my connecting flight in Houston. it was a tight squeeze but You said there were plenty of open seats. when you saw my carry on suitcase you said there was no room and shut the door in my face.
No one likes a door shut in their face. Even if, I suspect, the person doing the shutting wasn't a flight attendant, but a gate agent.
This was a serious situation. I know this because Bialik took to Instagram, too, to berate United:
I made it despite your delays making me late. And you turned me away as you let 5 other people on from my connecting flight because I had a carry on suitcase. They had carry ons too. I understand everything was shut but that lady stewardess didn't have to shut the boarding door like she did in my face without even saying she was sorry. Or with 7 min left she could have made a small effort to try harder since she said there were 'plenty of seats open.' Maybe she hates the Big Bang theory.
Maybe she does. Maybe the gate agent was an anti-nerd or even an anti-Hollywood star.
Here's the truth. If the gate agent likes the look of you, he or she might indulge you. If not, you're done.
Bialik offered her own views:
Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she hates women who look like they're going to cry. Now my suitcase is broken from running so hard and aggressively, my asthma is super angry and random people think I'm a prima donna because as she shut the door I said 'I have a first class seat!' I didn't mean I deserve it more, I meant can my suitcase sit in my first class seat and I'll sit anywhere else? Not a good day for me and @united
Oh, no. The "I have a first class seat" line. That's about as troubling as "Do you know who I am?"
I fear random people would think this was spoken by a prima donna. I fear random gate agents (who don't like Big Bang Theory) definitely would.
Naturally, I contacted United to ask whether, perhaps, an antipathy toward Big Bang Theory was in play here. An airline spokesman told me:
We were able to get Ms. Bialik on the next flight to Los Angeles and we are reviewing what happened with our team in Houston.
I have a feeling there are at least some people at United who like Big Bang Theory, as the actor subsequently posted her thanks in an Instagram story for the resolution offered by the airline.
United has learned that it costs much less to resolve disputes -- especially with an actor who has 659,000 Twitter followers -- than to be loathed by a substantial portion of the world for your mindlessly aggressive attitude.
Or, as a Twitterer entitled Borty McBortface mused:
Customer service is improving, at least they didn't beat you up.