This story is spectacular for a number of reasons, many of which are completely unexplained. Read through that AP report above. I’ll wait.
Ok, first of all, two fires broke out underneath the plane? What? And yet, Mr. airport operations specialist says that they were kept in the plane in order to keep them safe. Correct me if I’m wrong, but generally, if there are fires breaking out under the plane, the best course of action would be to go away from the plane.
Even more galling is the fact that Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood has the bollucks to say something like “passengers have rights and are entitled to fair treatment when they fly.” And yet, the ‘limit’ that an airline can keep a domestic flight on the tarmac in the plane? 3 HOURS. Tell me something, would you feel like you’re getting fair treatment if you’re sitting in a hot, stuffy, unairconditioned plane next to 299 of your closest friends in the dark for 3 hours with no water or food? Would you feel like you have rights when you’re confined to the child seats that airlines try to pass for ‘economy’ these days, strapped in like you’re going somewhere?
In fact, when was the last time that you felt like you had any rights when you flew? These days, just to get on the plane, you have to empty the contents of your luggage, take off all your clothes, and subject yourself to a physical search, as well as a soothing bath of x-rays. Then, you’re confined to a tiny seat with no leg room, ass to ankles with the fattest, smelliest guy you could ever imagine. If you think that I just described going to jail, you are probably right.
What I love the most though, is the ridiculous spin job the airport officials are trying to do here. “The process to do clearance when you have 300 people is going to take a while, plus their luggage” mentions the airport spokesperson, despite the fact that luggage has nothing to do with getting people off the plane. “It’s better to be on the ground wishing you were somewhere else than to be in the air wishing you were on the ground” says Mr. Operations Specialist again, as if these people should be THANKFUL that they were made to wait in a giant coffin with fires being lit underneath. “Virgin Atlantic would like to thank passengers for their patience and apologise for any inconvenience cause [sic],” says the Virgin statement. Nothing like a little inconvenience that causes 3 people to be taken away in ambulances.
Look, I understand the necessity of safety, I understand US Immigration’s desire to do things properly (especially since I’m sure everyone is looking at them pretty hard these days what with the illegal immigration issue coming to the fore in AZ), but I’m curious when someone in authority is going to wake up and look at these kinds of situation with some kind of humanity or compassion and realize that humans aren’t livestock. If the airport was waiting to call back their employees, would it have been that hard to unload the people into the airport and have them wait there? At least they would be free to move around a little bit, stretch, purchase food or drink, or go to the bathroom.
As far as I’m concerned, airports employ people who have no interest in being kind or friendly or in providing any level of service. The airport is full of gatekeepers – the ticket agent who grants you passage on to the flight you’ve already paid for, the “security” personnel who nonchalantly screen you, the agents at the gate who refuse to let you board if you are 1 row outside of the group that’s supposed to board, the stewards and stewardesses who tell you when you can and cannot go to the bathroom, the customs agents who tell you if you can get into the country or not, the baggage handlers who decide not only when or if you get your bags, but also in what condition you get your bags – whose primary interest is to slow you down and make it inconvenient and unpleasant for you to travel by air. I can’t wait for the day when this untenable situation is resolved. I hope that this is a situation that can be fixed. I hope that I don’t have to endure these tribulations on my upcoming trip to Vancouver. I hope….