You’re Outta Here

Lately there is  considerable media attention given to passengers bounced off of an airplane for various reasons.

There was the woman we all heard about that had an outfit that was too revealing … she exposed herself, and became semi-famous.

Then there were the girls that said they were just “too hot” to be passengers when they were really just ignorant and attention seeking.  

Recently a lady travelled with a child that in clinical terms went “BATSHIT” for whatever regrettable and unfortunate reason. The kid and mom were both bounced with minor media mention.

Sometimes hindsight makes it easy to be critical of a crew’s decision making processes. Not all decisions are made with good information processed over an adequate decision making time interval.

Here are some of my favourite passenger bouncing / bumping stories and some important definitions. 

“Bumped” is when your seat is taken away and assigned to a passenger of a higher priority than yours. If you are boarded as a standby (even at a different city) and a regular fare shows up you may be bumped. Try to accept your fate politely.

If you appear to be intoxicated in the gate area, or on the airplane,  and are denied boarding or asked to get off of the airplane you have been bounced.  There will be no compensation for this since by regulation you are not allowed to travel if you appear to be intoxicated or unruly.

Another type of “denied boarding” is what happens when you have a reservation for a flight with 152 seats but you are the 153rd person to try to get a boarding pass. If somebody else doesn’t volunteer to give up their seat you will be denied boarding and are due some compensation. It isn’t much.

The next level of travel intervention is “pounced” in which the local police handcuff and restrain you for the Homeland Security forces which can pack you off to Guantanamo in about six hours if you continue to be an unruly individual. This is generally reserved for people that are overly rude.

While it is amazing that media coverage is as comprehensive as it is in some of these instances it is equally amazing that others are never reported.

A passenger going to Las Vegas was reported as being unruly in the gate area before departure. There was evidently some discussion about not taking him but when several US Marines in uniform showed up for the flight the decision was made to allow him to travel.  Evidently things were calm enough on the airplane but the unruly man approached the flight crew in the Las Vegas terminal after the flight and started to complain loudly.

One thing no crew wants after a long day is a drunken complaint.  Nobody likes a complaining drunk.  Especially after the day is over and they are walking through the terminal.

Things evidently got out of hand somewhere about the point where the Captain had the guy’s head shoved through a railing overlooking the fifty foot drop to the baggage claim area threatening to toss his ass over the edge. Fortunately the local police intervened and saved the man by taking him to jail. 

Another of my favourites was described in the Dallas Morning News in about 1995.  Sometimes  even after a flight is boarded something will happen that requires a stand-by passenger to be bumped. 

An operations agent came on a flight at DFW to find a stand-by passenger and tell him he had been bumped. This should have been easy since the agent had a copy of the boarding pass with the seat number.  There wasn’t anyone in the seat where Mr. Gay was supposed to be so the agent asked the man in the next seat “Are you Gay?”.  He evidently responded “Well, …yes”. Okay then, says the agent, you’ll need to collect your things and come with me.  Here is where things got out of hand.

Another passenger overheard the exchange and was upset by it. He asked the agent  “I’m gay, do you want me off the flight too?” Sure, if you want to stay here with him just get your stuff and come with me.   This evidently triggered an even greater communications failure the result of which was that about a dozen and a half gay and/or outraged passengers stormed off of the airplane in protest. 

Meanwhile Mr. Gay, not realizing what was going on, continued to his destination.  Un-bumped, un-bounced, non-pounced, and still a standby passenger on an oversold flight.

Once again proving that talking is easy, but communication is a bitch.

Happy Landings


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