Airlines are having a bad week, and it has nothing to do with flight patterns. While United Airlines is recovering after a computer glitch knocked out its system, delaying hundreds of flights, Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines can’t blame computers for their public relations crisis.
A passenger on Delta has complained his luggage was lost and then returned — covered in toothpaste and urine. Meanwhile, a pilot on Southwest has been suspended after being recorded on a homophobic rant about the lack of eligible flight attendants on his recent trip to Chicago.
A British man recorded a YouTube video recounting the troubles he had with a counter agent misdirecting his baggage to Boston. When he finally got his lost bag back, he opened his bag to be greeted with the “overwhelming scent of urine.” He shows off his clothes, which are “damp like someone’s left them out in the rain and smell like pee.”
He said that when he was unable to reach Delta by phone, he recorded the video.
In the Southwest incident, USA Today reports, the pilot was suspended and required to undergo diversity training.
While the recording is filled with profanity and troubling statements from the suspended pilot, there is some comic relief. An unidentified pilot and air traffic controller can be heard on an audio recording expressing dismay. You can almost make out their eye-rolling and shoulder-shrugging.
“We don’t need to hear that,” a controller says. “They wonder why airline pilots have a bad reputation,” a pilot dryly remarks.
The airlines have not returned calls for a comment.
(As a side note: if you can handle the Southwest pilot’s tirade, the airline has just introduced a $40-a-flight ticket price in honor of its 40th anniversary. Not the best P.R. buzz to get the word out, but there you go.)
Update: Delta and Southwest responded with these e-mailed statements:
“We are talking with the customer to apologize for the misdirected bag and secure information on the condition in which his bag was returned to identify a cause and offer resolution. As it relates to the actual handling of the bag, if anything happened outside of our normal procedures it is unacceptable and will be closely reviewed.”
“Southwest Airlines is committed and dedicated to maintaining the highest standard of ethics in the industry; in fact we’ve built our Company’s reputation on the Golden Rule: treating others as you would like to be treated, with concern, care and respect. The actions of this Pilot are, without question, inconsistent with the professional behavior and overall respect that we require from our Employees. The Pilot in question has been reprimanded, receiving a suspension without pay for a length of time. Prior to being reinstated, he underwent additional diversity education to reinforce the Company's expectations for all Employees to demonstrate respect for others. The pilot is remorseful and has formally apologized to both FAA Controllers and his base Leadership. Southwest’s Flight Operations Leadership has also sent an apology to Southwest Flight Attendants and his fellow Pilots.”