Are airline disasters increasing? Not so much the kind that result in deaths and general mess – which are going the other way even as passenger numbers head for the stratosphere – but public relations disasters. Barely a week goes by that some airline is not in the dock for hauling a bloodied and protesting passenger off a flight or murdering their pet.
Latest airline snafu is the story of a woman and her four-year-old child detained in Dubai because, according to some reports, she drank a glass of wine offered to her during the meal service on her Emirates flight from London.
Not so, according to a statement issued by the Attorney-General of Dubai. In their version, the woman tried to enter Dubai on an expired Swedish passport, then an Iranian passport, which would get her only a short-term visa. That would mean rescheduling her flight out of Dubai. Profanities were said and things took an ugly turn when she produced a not-so-smartphone and started snapping photos of the immigration officer, which is why she ended up in the slammer. Based on information attributed to human rights group Detained in Dubai, media outlets then spun the story to suggest she'd been arrested because she drank a glass of wine that was offered as part of Emirates' inflight service.
Whom to believe? OK, so Dubai takes a dim view of alcohol consumption, at least in the public sphere, but arrested for drinking a glass of wine on board an international flight? If so half the country would be in the clink, given the wolverine-like enthusiasm with which Emiratis besiege the drinks trolley.
But why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Media loves stories that cast airlines in a dark cloak and fangs. Ever since April 2017, when Dr David Dao was forcibly removed from his seat on a United Airlines flight to make way for a UA crew member, bloodied and bruised with a broken nose and teeth shattered by overzealous security officers in what the airline's chief executive described as a "passenger re-accommodation" incident, airlines have been guilty of a series of spectacular corporate face plants.
IT consultant Andrew Wilkinson claims that when he protested on the flight to South Africa, a British Airways... https://t.co/jkAFV3GHLi— Police Alerts UK (@PoliceAlertsUk) August 21, 2017
When he boarded his British Airways flight from London to South Africa, Andrew Wilkinson noticed a wet patch on his seat. Assuming it was water, he wasn't too concerned, but when he moved closer and took a sniff, his worst fears were confirmed – the last passenger had peed on the seat. BA flight crew gave Wilkinson some wipes and told him to clean it up himself. Relocating to another seat was not possible in the fully loaded economy cabin. Couldn't they upgrade him or another passenger to business? Not happening, was the response. Wilkinson spent the entire 11-hour flight sitting on a blanket that, according to one report, gradually absorbed more of the wee as the 11-hour flight wore on, until Wilkinson's jeans were moist. BA's response? Wilkinson's frequent flyer account was credited with 5000 frequent flyer points.