I think the term racism is thrown around far too flippantly, but in a letter entitled “Dear Lufthansa, are your racist?” a Korean writer questions Lufthansa’s treatment of a group of Korean reporters who missed their flight to Seoul–
Dear Lufthansa, are your racist?
Probably not, but this was the question that first popped into my mind when I heard about a bunch of unfortunate reporters who missed their Lufthansa flight out of Europe a few days ago.
This group of journalists flew Lufthansa to and from Germany last week to cover an international conference.
They were lucky enough to fly business, but on their way back, they mistook the time of their flight ― they had confused the boarding time and the time the plane actually took off ― and had to buy tickets for another flight out of the country the following day.
When I first encountered the story, I remember thinking that it wasn’t the most intelligent thing for them to do, especially since they probably had tons of time to gab and laugh in the lounge. Anything that happened, they deserve.
However, when I chanced upon a more detailed account of the day, I couldn’t help wondering what was wrong with this airliner ― which is a member of the prestigious Star Alliance.
When the reporters clamored to get out of the business lounge ― making a lot of noise, I’m sure, as Asians usually seem to do when they get together abroad ― the employees at the counter told them, “You better run, but you’re probably going to be late anyway.”
So they had already known that this boisterous group of loud and probably less-than-attractive Asian reporters (compared to their blond, long-legged European counterparts anyway) were on the verge of missing their flight but saw no point in informing them.
The employees then scolded the reporters, saying that since they were adults, they should be responsible for their own schedules.
Right. But when in another country, it would be nice if the staff could help out, even with adults.
Furthermore, it turns out if the lounge people had known that some of the passengers were going to be late, they have the option of paging the plane to let them know of the fact.
The employees, however, decided not to take advantage of this option for unknown reasons.
Lufthansa also said they don’t make public announcements in the business lounge in order not to disturb the other guests. Well, guess what: Korean Air and Asiana all page flyers if they realize they are missing guests. And this time, it wasn’t just one, but 10 people together, so they were pretty hard to miss.
Another thing that bothered me was that once Lufthansa decided not to help the reporters, they had to take all of their bags out of the plane. This process took more than 10 minutes, so to Koreans who are used to putting efficiency above all else, they could not understand why they could not take that 10 minutes to board, which would have made everyone happy.
All in all, it was the Korean reporters who made a mess of things, since everything started when they mistook their flight time. But when you think about Korean Air and Asiana, and the pains they take to be nice to patrons, one can’t help but think, why fly anything else?
Note the bolding, which is mine. There’s a couple points to unpack here.
First, the racism charge is unfounded–which the authors seems to admit in the first line of the letter.
Second, I understand the norm of boarding announcements in lounges and the fact that in airports like Seoul Incheon, if 10 business class passengers are on a single flight, they would be tracked down: the lounge would be the logical place to check first.
Perhaps Lufthansa had a number of non-revs itching to get on the flight?
But the author makes an offhanded remark that this would not happen to “blond, long-legged European counterparts” yet the proposed solution only enforces the very stereotype the author complains of.
Say there was a group of 10 Asian men sitting around talking. Would it be proper for a Lufthansa agent to scrutinize them, try to figure out their nationality, then walk over and remind them that “their” flight is late–because if they are Koreans they must be going to Korea, right?
I like the policy of no lounge announcements and asking passengers to monitor the departure boards themselves. I do think a search party is warranted when 10 (presumably paid) business class passengers are missing and the point is well taken that spending 15 minutes removing bags in front of the passengers when they could have simply boarded the flight seems like salt in the wound.
But racism? Not here and I live here and see Frankfurt Airport a lot more than most.