Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Horrid Week In Public Relations

What follows are remarks possibly being made at the executive level of a certain airline that's had a few bad days publicity wise as of late. I'm sure the actual remarks are far worse.

“Ladies and gentlemen. It has been a difficult few days for our organization. There have been lots of bad press, misunderstandings, and disapproval of the public at large over some of our more... unorthodox decisions. It didn’t help that my response to the affair was, to be fair, rather tone deaf. There’s an old expression about there being no such thing as bad publicity, but I think at this point that it’s safe to say we’ve proven that wrong.

You know, if we could have taken it all back and done things differently, we would have in a heartbeat. I mean that. Really, I do. How were we to know that our tendency to overbook flights would end up biting  down hard on us like this? How were we to understand that one bad decision might lead to another, and then another, and another, and before we knew it, we had a passenger dragged off the plane, all bloody, and to make things far worse, it made the news everywhere.

I mean, abusing your passengers is one thing. It’s a long standing tradition at our airline.

But for it to actually make the news? With video proof? That’s unacceptable!

There are those naysayers out there who would tell us that once a passenger has taken their seat, that’s theirs, and we don’t have the right to toss them off the plane just so we can accommodate some of our own people for nothing. Well, to those people, I say: read the fine print!

There are those who say our industry shouldn’t overbook flights. That it’s a bad business practice. That we’re screwing around with the goodwill of the public. Well, to those people, I say... get bent! We’re the airline industry! We have the God given right to abuse our customers!

There are those who say that the right of passengers to get to their destination in a timely manner should come first. To those people, I laugh in their faces and say, drop dead!

There are those who say that to increase profit for the company, rather than increase ticket or fee prices, we should trim the executive salary levels. To those people, I fall about laughing. Are you serious? I happen to like having all that money I make every single year, thank you very much.

There are those who say that Amtrak doesn’t treat its passengers this way. Well, to those people, I say... we get the pissed off unwashed masses from coast to coast faster than Amtrak gets out of a state. Who gives a damn about customer service?

There are those who say that we shouldn’t have glorified rent-a-cops drag a paying passenger off a flight for simply refusing not to leave when asked to volunteer to leave against their will. To them, I say fuck you!

Look, we all know the cold, hard facts. Airlines rise and fall on how much money they make. And we lose money when it comes to undersold flights. If someone comes along and tells us we can’t overbook a flight, well, what happens? Empty seats. Because for some reason that escapes me, not everyone who books a flight actually gets to the airport to make that flight. It’s a hedge bet, every time. People aren’t going to show. So what’s best for us is to overbook a flight. Oh, sure, that might mean sometimes that everyone shows up and we have to bump someone to a later flight. It should only take an hour or four or nineteen later to get them home. I mean, we’ve got a sterling record of 56% of our bumped passengers finally getting on a plane within 72 hours, and if you ask me, that’s something to be proud of.

Oh, sure those whining twits complain. Lord, do they complain. I can’t tell you how many times our complaints department has heard the I was late for the wedding, funeral, birthday party, job interview, mother’s operation, spring break, honeymoon, stag and doe party, Super Bowl gripe. Bunch of whiny jackasses, if you ask me. They should be paying us more to fly!

Well, things are going to change here at United. Fly The Friendly Skies has been a slogan for us off and on down through the years, and it’s high time those scumbags we call passengers start to learn that you don’t treat your friends like this. You don’t question their integrity, you don’t film them when they’re doing their job, and you don’t dare complain just because you think your civil rights are being violated. We’re United, damn it, and we’re not going to take it anymore!

So we’re changing the way we do things. We’re going to get those dirtbag customers to start showing us some respect.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to start rolling out some new ways to maximize our profit potential. That includes our brand new Adventure Class of airline traveling. This will consist of tying ten bungee cords to the wings on each flight and to the waists of ten passengers. As long as they can keep up with the plane while it’s taking off down the runway, they should be fine, but trust me, you don’t want to trip running down the runway while bungeed to an accelerating plane.

And of course, it’s quite possible none of them will actually survive being completely exposed to the elements at 35 000 feet for hours on end, but come on... they’re airline passengers! Who cares what happens to them?

And sure, it’s possible that even if one or two of them actually survive that flight, that they’ll be turned into a bloody pulp when they hit the runway as the plane lands at its destination. But that’s just one of the downsides to doing business. And fortunately it’ll be covered in our new fine print.

But that’s not all we’re going to do. We’re going to throw in a new fee- guaranteed that the passenger will not be bumped, abused, mistreated, or eye rolled at by any of our staff.* The asterix, of course, will be in fine print, and will reflect the fact that we can put an exception on any of those conditions. For instance- except  if the airline needs to get twelve of its employees home on the next flight, if we feel like it, if our gate agent’s having a bad day, if the flight attendant feels particularly vindictive at the moment, or any other reason we can possibly think of to treat these so called guaranteed passengers like dirt, even if we’re not supposed to. And that new fee will be a five hundred dollar surcharge. If you don’t pay it, prepare to be harassed, harangued, and tormented at every turn by our flight attendants, all of whom continue to take lessons in sadism at the Marquis de Sade School Of Public Relations when they’re not in the air.

Okay, so we kind of messed up with this whole incident. Clearly I shouldn’t have used words like reaccommodate and volunteer. Clearly I shouldn’t have spoken to the media at all. Isn’t that what we’ve got public relations people for? You don’t ask the CEO to go before the cameras in a situation he can’t have every bit of control over.

But what’s important now is that we don’t learn from our mistakes... I mean, we learn from our mistakes. From this day forward, no more filming our actions on cell phones or other cameras. No more posting unflattering footage of our operations online. No more complaints department. Who needs to hear the whining and complaining anyway?

If you don’t like how you’re being treated by the flight attendants, that’s fine. Step out of the plane and leave.

Just don’t expect us to give you a parachute.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Walk Among The Tombstones

For once I'm going to be serious. Oh, shush, no laughing. I can be serious. When I want to be. On occasion. Just not when introducing what's supposed to be a straight forward post.

On Good Friday, I decided to spend the day here in Ottawa visiting of all things, two cemeteries, both large ones. The purpose was some material for my photoblog, which will be forthcoming in early May. I went to Notre Dame Cemetery, and then to Beechwood Cemetery, which is the source of these shots today.

Beechwood is a national cemetery, with the graves of prominent Canadians, including a prime minister, a governor general, political figures, writers, engineers, athletes, business people, artists, scientists, and every day citizens. It also has grounds set aside as an RCMP national cemetery, and for the National Military Cemetery.

There's some sort of thought that goes around that graveyards are creepy places, but I find them quite peaceful. Both Notre Dame and Beechwood were. This is the larger of the two, at 160 acres (Notre Dame consists of 20 hectares). Both date from the 1870s, and are still seeing new burials and interments. Both have mausoleums.

Beechwood's main building also features a large inter faith chapel that surprised me- no one symbol here of any faith, and yet it felt appropriate if a funeral needs to be held in here. The staff were also helpful; they provided maps to the grounds, particularly in terms of where prominent grave sites can be found. At most of those, a plaque can be found nearby giving details on the individual.

I wandered along the paths for quite awhile, photographing as I went along, gathering material for posts (there'll be several days of cemetery posts when the time comes). 

Along the way I paid visits to the two sections of the National Military Cemetery. Here are buried veterans of world wars and military service, even long after their days in the military were done. The tombstones, done according to the standards of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, stand sentinel over those interred here. This is the older of the two sections, filled with veterans. I can tell you that walking among them, looking at names, at the simplicity of the stones, was very moving. I will be featuring a full series on this over at the photoblog in May, so have a look when the time comes. I hope you've enjoyed this brief glance at Beechwood.