As recently as 2007, United Airlines gushed about hiring a former Disney exec as vice president of customer experience, proclaiming that "Disney is a leader in treating its customers as welcomed guests." Funny, but I never noticed any of my United seatmates joining hands and singing about what a small world it is, so I'm not sure how this worked out (and according to news reports, this V.P has since moved on to other ventures).
Is there a solution to all these fees, the apparent passenger disrespect, and let us not forget the seemingly endless tales of terse flight attendants (and to be fair, the seemingly endless tales of very strange passengers)?
It's a mess all right, but we could start to fix things with a little consistency.
Take fees: Fortunately, the Department of Transportation is implementing new and improved transparency guidelines for airline fees, but more consistency would help, too. Example: Most airlines tell us what the fees for overweight checked bags are, but overweight carryon bags can be another story (yes, carryon bags can be too heavy, as I learned from personal experience with Hawaiian Airlines). Should all bag fees be uniform? You tell me.
Then there's the dress code situation (never dreamed I'd be writing about this); most airlines don't seem to have one or they have very vague guidelines; let's change that. Airlines, if you want people to dress a certain way, say so. At the very least, it might prevent folks from reaching for those baggy pants or those bikini panties before heading to the airport.
As for the ranting pilot, one Southwest spokesman apologized while another said, "We've built our company's reputation on the Golden Rule," but even that's somewhat inconsistent; how I want to be treated and how you want to be treated may be two different things. We can insist on this: Every airline should treat every flyer with fairness and dignity, and that includes quadriplegic passengers or anyone who faces challenges.
A final note on the ranting pilot; he has since apologized, and he was schooled, literally -- suspended without pay and given a course in diversity training. Maybe it's time for the airlines to go back to class, too. Remedial courses in customer service, anyone?
This work is the opinion of the columnist and does not reflect the opinion of ABC News.
Rick Seaney is one of the country's leading experts on airfare, giving interviews and analysis to news organizations that include ABC News, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press and Bloomberg News. His website, FareCompare.com, offers consumers free, new-generation software, combined with expert insider tips to find the best airline ticket deals.