Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Airline Linguistics

One of my best friends recently returned from one of those family inspired, crazy holiday travel dances.

Portland to Ithaca with a brief layover in Newark via redeye. To keep things interesting she brought her children and upon landing in Ithaca embarked on a two hour drive through icy snow.

We were catching up over coffee and she was telling me about the highlights of her trip, but it was the return piece that made my ears perk up. Two feet of snow overnight was her first clue that thirty minutes to make a connecting flight wouldn't be sufficient. She called the airline and was told she had a "valid connection".

"I understand it's a valid connection, but the plane is going to sit on the runway for at least thirty minutes for de-icing. We'll miss our connection."

"I'm sorry ma'am, but it is a valid connection," was the response.

Early the next morning she returned to Ithaca to be told her children didn't have seats on the flight. "So you're overbooked," she told the airline attendant.

"No ma'am. We had two extra passengers who we removed so now the flight is at-capacity."

"Yes! Those two extra passengers were my children and so you're overbooked."

"No. We've removed the two extra passengers in order to make the flight at-capacity."

As a writer, this purposeful twisting of language to alter reality fascinates me. It's as though I bought a box of chocolates, eaten a few and then decided to return them.

"Ma'am, it appears you've eaten a few of these chocolates."

"I just removed a couple and now I need my box to be replenished to an at-capacity state.

"We can't replace the chocolates you've eaten."

"I haven't eaten them. I've removed them. You can't expect me to accept this as a valid sale when the box hasn't been filled to capacity."

Silly, right?

But as long as the airlines are pushing forward with their new form of linguistic reasoning it makes me think we should push back, lobby for codified language that will redefine and specify the  true meaning of phrases like valid connection, overbooked flights and adequate aisle seat space for elbows and knees.

After that we can turn our attentions to the vendors of chocolates and those cute little Girl Scouts who sell cookies. I happen to have one such cookie pusher living in my house and I'm sure she'd be happy to engage in a little alternate reality linguistic reasoning. Any takers?

19 comments:

Connie J Jasperson said...

I love this post. I think it's an awesome idea and i will begin by emailing my opinion to my congressperson!

Jessie Humphries said...

Oh crap, just looking at those assorted chocolates is making my mouth water! I need some chocolate right now, even if its only 10:00 am!

Donna K. Weaver said...

That would make me nuts. I can feel an adrenaline rush right now just thinking about it. I don't think I should read books anymore about people who fight monsters. It makes threshold for nonsense pretty low, and I think it might be rubbing off on me because I think I'd have been tempted to punch someone. lol

*takes a deep breath*

Emily R. King said...

And this is why I hate flying. I'm dreading my flight to Hawaii in March, but it's the only way I can get there (at least in my timeline).

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'd have a few choice words and phrases for that airline!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Snork

Logic and humor is also missing in some transactions with airline personnel. I found that out when my 7 year old and were traveling via plane to visit my folks. I had bought tickets for both of us and had them in my hand when they told me there was no seat for my son. Excuse me? I have a paid for ticket that says he does. And then they wanted to charge me for changing my flight so both of us could travel. Oh there was hell to pay. Idjits, lol! I'm nice but a rock wall on some issues. Kid and I flew first class that flight.
:-)

M Pax said...

Flying has become so unenjoyable, I only do so when forced.

Mia Hayson said...

Hahaha. At-capacity is such a weird way of saying it in order to attempt to deny that you're full.:-/

<3

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I've flown five times in the last three years and the flights were all overbooked - no denying it!

TL Cooper said...

Please tell me your friend convinced the airline to put her and her children on the same flight... I mean seriously, what was that airline thinking???
And, yes, that is some crappy linguistics... Seems like we're surrounded by it these days...

Jemi Fraser said...

That's crazy! I don't understand people/businesses who manipulate like that! So unfair.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

We had the same issue when we took a US airline to SF from Canada. Four of us (out of five) had been bumped off the flight because it was overbooked. My kids were in tears because it meant their spring break trip would either be cancelled or would only be a day or two long. Eventually the airline found four volunteers to give up their seats. We decided not to use anymore US airlines after that.

Chuck said...

The airline lingo and that of some other companies/industries makes me crazy. I dealt with a situation today that kept on the phone with my bank for a good 10 minutes longer than necessary because we were obviously not speaking the same "language".

Dianne K. Salerni said...

The airline linguistics make perfect sense to me. They can't have overbooked the flight if they negate the existence of your friend's children. They "removed" the bothersome extra 2 passengers, thus enabling them to deny that they were ever overbooked at all.

Perhaps I can solve my school's funding problems by the same reasoning. If we don't have 100% students passing the state test, we lose our funding. Therefore, if I "remove" students who fail the test (because they don't speak English, for example) then who can say that I didn't have 100% compliance?

Rachel Morgan said...

Oh my gosh, I would want to scream at those airline people! I hope she managed to sort out the problem.

Alison DeLuca said...

Like Donna K., I can feel the adrenaline rush of impending fury. And let's not even start on the language of health insurance!!!!!!

Barbara Watson said...

Furstrating! And so true how the language twisting is acceptable in some capacities and so totally not acceptable in others.

Tonja said...

Great post! You couldn't get away with that in any other industry - at least I hope not.

Michael Di Gesu said...

IT blows my mind how the airlines have changed over the past thirty years... Customer service has become extinct. SOOO sad.

One would think with so many airlines going under they would treat customers like gold.... HA!