When Flying Kills
If you haven't seen it, take a look at yesterday's Outlook story on the death of Carol Anne Gotbaum, the US Airways passenger who died shackled to a bench in the Phoenix airport. It's distressing on several levels.
Gotbaum was flying US Airways and its subcontractor, Mesa Airlines, from New York to Tucson and was supposed to connect in Phoenix, but was denied boarding due to overbooking. She wasn't late for her connecting flight; she had an assigned seat and had checked in and confirmed her reservation at JFK. Still, she wasn't allowed to board her flight because her seat had been given away to another passenger. Several passengers offered to let her have their seats, but the airline refused to let them switch. As the story reports, "When [Gotbaum] began to weep and protest, [airline counter personnel] called the police, who handcuffed her arms behind her back and dragged her away to a holding cell. They left her chained alone to a bench, crying inconsolably. Not long after, she was found dead, the chain shackling her to the bench stretched across her throat."
Gotbaum was on her way to an alcohol treatment center, but no one reported her being intoxicated that day. As author A.L. Bardach points out, flying these days can reduce a perfectly healthy person to temporary insanity; imagine what they can do to an emotionally fragile person.
Horrifying as this story is, it didn't really surprise me. It was just a matter of time. Of all the complaints that cross our desks in the Travel section, overbooking and airlines' reneging on seat assignments definitely tops the list. It's one thing if you're late, or are flying standby. But to have paid for your ticket, gotten a seat assignment and checked in on time, only to be told that you can't board because the airline overbooked, is beyond infuriating. Combine that with callous treatment from bitter, stressed-out airline employees and it's a tragedy waiting to happen.
Have you been denied boarding after having paid for your ticket and confirmed your flight? How did the airline handle it? How did you react?
By K.C. Summers |
October 15, 2007; 1:10 PM ET
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