Yeah, “We’re All In This Together,” Except When Officious Fools With A Little Bit Of Power Have Dead Ethics Alarms, As They So Often Do.


….that is, if this infuriating story is true, which it might not be.

On an American Airlines flight with just eleven passengers, Yahoo! tells us, the flight attendants made all eleven sit in the last three rows, next to each other, because if they were allowed to spread out, they were told, it would be the equivalent of an upgrade. All eleven had purchased basic economy tickets. An unnamed American employee apparently revealed the episode, which occurred on March 24. That was the same day American started a new policy, specifically directing flight crew to spread out passengers to minimize the threat of Wuhan virus infection.

Now, as reported, this is mind-meltingly stupid. Some elements do need to be considered, however:

  • The story was initially reported  by Mother Jones, which does not have impeccable credibility, since it has a political agenda which includes vilifying corporations.
  • I have never been on a flight with “basic economy” restricted to three rows. If three rows at the back of the plane constituted the entire section, how many rows could there have been? Six? Nine? What was this, a toy plane?
  • If it was so small that it had just three rows for economy, spreading out the 11 passengers still might not have kept them all six feet away from each other.
  • If the plane was that small, why did it have more than one flight attendant? If it was only one, who was the unidentified whistle-blowing flight attendant?
  • Flying right now is per se an invitation to be infected, not that this excuses  flight attendants for trying to make the flight as risky as possible.
  • Were there no assigned seats? If so, shouldn’t this problem have been averted at the gate, or when the tickets were purchased?
  • If this is an accurate description, why did the passengers not throw a collective fit? I would have. And if they threw me off  the Death Flight for protesting, good. The trend of Americans acting like sheep as  unreasonable and poorly thought out orders issue from various power-wielders great and small is disturbing. Is this really how we are in the 21st Century? “Oh dear, they are unnecessarily making us sit together so we can infect each other in obvious violation of all medical advice! Well, what can we do? Move over, dear, and cough on me…”?

The story does say that the attendants relented, and eventually allowed the passengers to spread out. If they were initially crammed into the three rows, however, that qualifies as locking the barn door after the horse virus has escaped, or bat virus…you know what I mean.

I am naturally inclined to believe the worst of all airlines, as I have flown enough to witness astounding incompetence at all stages of the air travel process. Presumably something happened. An airline policy should not be necessary for those overseeing seating in a pandemic to make obvious and sensible decisions. Unfortunately, too many of us are unwilling to take initiative and do the right thing when circumstances require it.

That tendency can be as destructive as any contagion.


10 thoughts on “Yeah, “We’re All In This Together,” Except When Officious Fools With A Little Bit Of Power Have Dead Ethics Alarms, As They So Often Do.

  1. It could have been as simple as one passenger saying, “if I get infected, I will sue.”

    Not that that would necessarily have impressed a flight attendant.


  2. The sounds odd for several reasons. If it was a relatively small plane, they would not have put all the passengers in one area because of center of gravity issues. If it was a larger plane, then a basic economy section (and I’ve never heard of a basic economy “section”, BE flies economy with bag limitations) would be larger than 3 rows. And on my most recent flight, taken 3 weeks ago, there was no one more conscious of social distancing than the flight attendants. This doesn’t make sense.

  3. I’m not buying this story. I find it very hard to believe with only 11 passengers that the attendants would have given a rat’s ass where people sat – except for maybe in 1st class. I agree with 77Zoomie: BE isn’t a section. It’s a less expensive ticket that comes with limitations. I’ve also flown on very small planes where the pilot went down the line of passengers and asked each one how much they weighed. You were then seated accordingly.

  4. American Airlines how far have you fallen! Back in the late 30s, my mother was a stewardess for AA, where you were required to be an RN to serve in the position. One flight included the Benny Goodman Orchestra including Frank Sinatra. The members of the band were engaged in antics which would definitely get them kicked off the plane now but my mother had to gracefully deal with it.

  5. Could I just live on United airplanes for the next month, buying dirt cheap international flights and turning around to another leg just to rack up cheap miles and turn into one of their coveted Million Milers? One has to wonder….

  6. Yeah, there’s got to be more to this. Basic economy tickets these days often don’t include seat selection without an additional fee, so to start with, all 11 passengers would have had to have booked that way. Second, BE is just a booking option, not a specific group of seats in main cabin. The seat assignment algorithm would have to have put them all there (that would seem strange, but I can’t swear that it wouldn’t do that.), and, as you say, an agent would likely have changed this at the check-in counter (if used) or at the gate. Most importantly, as others have noted, I’ve never seen a flight where the attendants gave a damn about where you sat after boarding had been completed.

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