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

Jonathan's a salesman with a Fortune 500 company.

Worse than that, he's a friend of mine. (Naturally, he asked me to change his name for this article.)

He flies a lot. 

So he hopes he's seen most of the things that can go wrong on a flight. 

Until, that is, a recent United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Boston.

Flying in Economy, he noticed that there was a constantly long line to go to the bathroom at the back of the plane.

Finally, he got up and stood and stood and stood.

Until he got to the front, he told me, and heard the Flight Attendant offer an explanation.

One of the two bathrooms was out of action.

Had someone blocked it? Had it endured a flood? Was it broken? Not quite.

"We didn't have time to clean it out," said the Flight Attendant. 

"How is it possible that United couldn't have cleaned a bathroom before the customers got on board?" Jonathan asked me. 

"Well," I answered. "I'm guessing that the crew's bosses put extra pressure on them to get the plane out on time and, er, I don't know. This sounds ridiculous."

I asked United for its view and will update, should I hear. 

Jonathan, though, was even more aghast at how the passengers reacted.

"They just stood there, packing the aisle and accepted it," he said. "I didn't hear a single word of complaint."

And this, at heart, is where airlines can take advantage.

They know that by lowering the expectations of their customers, they numb them into a sense of inevitability.

Too often, when things go wrong with a flight there's nothing you can do about it anyway. 

So you just take it, occasionally hope for some sort of air miles compensation and hope that you'll get to the other end with no delay. 

You might think that flying with just one restroom is a minor inconvenience. But add up all the minor inconveniences and it becomes a thoroughly unpleasant experience.

Airlines, though, are currently obsessed about D0 -- the code for ensuring that a plane pulls back on time. They care about it not so much because they want to please passengers, but because they like to bolster their statistics. 

Which is all an airline passenger really is these days.

A number who, every day, feels a little number.

Published on: Jun 17, 2018