Many of you have asked whether I have resolved my photo incident with United Airlines. The answer is yes. We have been in regular contact for the last couple of weeks and while I will not be walking away from the incident with a heap of compensation, I now know that United is taking this issue seriously and the chances of what happened to me ever happening to another passenger are slim.
In terms of compensation, United has agreed to pay for the new ticket I had to purchase from Istanbul to Baku and has offered modest additional non-monetary compensation. More importantly, though, I now have a channel of communication open with United that will not close as my issue fades away. I did not demand to meet with big wigs over this incident, but there will be opportunities going forward to dialogue with those in positions to effect change.
United asked for nothing in exchange for this compensation and I continue to tell my story, including most recently to CBS News. There is much I have to write about on Live and Let’s Fly and I prefer not to drag out this drama even longer, lest is appear self-serving, but I do want to more to hear my story—I want people to be aware that they can be thrown off an airplane or arrested for snapping pictures onboard, even if the chances of this happening are now much slimmer.
Two data points hearten me. First, a source tells me that United FAs have been specifically instructed that passengers may take photos onboard aircraft as long as it does not involuntarily impinge upon the privacy of another passenger or interfere with the duties of the crew. Second, Marty—a friend of mine on Flyertalk—posted this earlier this week:
I had a not-so-pleasant experience with a FA on UA last week. When I received the United survey about my flight, I rated this flight and the crew with the lowest scores possible. Thinking it would go into United’s Survey Black Hole, I was surprised today to receive a call from GS CS in DTW.
We discussed the issue and the CSR asked me if I got the name of the offending FA. I told her that I didn’t see a name tag and was certainly not going to ask, as I didn’t want NYC police waiting for me at the gate upon landing. I then referred to Matt’s incident. I asked her if she was aware of it.
She told me that they had an office-wide briefing on the incident. So at least it seems that they are taking it seriously.
If res. agents are being briefed on this incident, I think it is fair to conclude that UA is taking this matter very seriously. United has graver problems to contend with than dealing with the fallout of a blogger thrown off a flight, but my story did inflict damage on United and continues to, as more stumble upon my story and media outlets continue to pick it up.
Here’s my commitment to you. For reasons that I will discuss tomorrow (because so many of you have expressed incredulity and downright contempt that I would continue to patronize United Airlines after what happened), United will remain my primary carrier. I’ll make that case tomorrow and ask all of you whether I am being rational. But in continuing to fly world’s largest carrier (at leAAst for now), I pledge to do everything in my power to keep United accountable, particularly respecting its photo policy. Flying them often will help me to do this—and I also want anyone else who runs into any sort of photography issue on United Airlines to write me. I will tell your story to the world.
This whole incident has been a dream in a way—work keeps me busy enough and it is like I have had a third job over the last two weeks in dealing with all the fallout from my ill-fated flight to Istanbul. I am still answering e-mail that I received (to the tune of several hundred per hour) when I first posted about this incident and if I have not yet responded to your note, I will do so soon.
I could be angry at United. After all, I never got the apology from management that was deserved. I could be angry at the paltry compensation I received compared to someone, for example, who is downgraded from business to economy on a trans-Atlantic flight (a $1,000+ voucher). But I am at peace about this whole affair—it opened my eyes to many things and I will have a more watchful eye going forward, hopefully to the benefit of all of you.