EasyJet: No Frills, No Free Speech?

220px-Easyjet_a319-100_g-ezbr_hundredthairbus_arpEasyJet has long been notorious for the level of service and comfort of a cattle car. However, the cattle were at least allowed to get on the plane and occasionally “moo”. Mark Leiser, who lectures at Strathclyde University, says that he was pulled out of line on his delayed flight and told that he could not board the plane. The reason? Lesier had tweeted criticism of the airline, which one would think the no-frills company would be rather used to. Apparently not. He says that he was only allowed on the plane after the airline employees discovered that he is a lawyer.

I thought only life-saving organs were barred from flights but free speech also appears on EasyJet’s no fly list.

Leiser was supposed to board the flight an hour earlier from Glasgow to London and was concerned about his connector. He told to an EasyJet employee about his connector. He says that an employee told him that it was not their problem and “EasyJet was a point to point destination carrier.” (Actually, EasyJet is barely a human carrier by any civilized definition but we will let that pass).

He said a military member was left without a connection to Portsmouth and also shown little sympathy.

Leiser then sent the tweets.

The first tweet said “Flight delayed 90min. Soldier going to miss last connection & @easyjet refusing to help pay for him to get to Portsmouth. Get right into em!”

The second tweet said “Manager came down to inquire why I was tweeting about @easyJet. Staff member said I cant tweet stuff like that. Asked me to save the tweet.”

The third tweet said “Manager from easyjet just said I couldnt board flight because I criticised @easyJet on twitter before boarding the flight.”

He was pulled out of line and he said that he was told that “they were not going to let me get on this flight because of the tweet I sent. The manager then came over and told the woman to check if I had any bags on board. They asked to see the tweet and said to save it and that I was not to delete it.” He said that after objecting, he was asked if he was a lawyer and later allowed to board after showing that he was a lawyer.

If true, it is an extraordinary abuse not only of a customer but of free speech. It appears that in addition to the lowest possible level of service, EasyJet feels that it can impose an authoritarian control over any complaints about the level of service. EasyJet should probably change its slogan to “Come on, let’s [Shut Up and] fly!” It is like the airline Josef Stalin always wanted.

EasyJet released the following statement: “EasyJet has never denied boarding due to comments on social media. On the rare occasion that we consider denying boarding it is on the basis of disruptive behaviour.” That sounds a lot like saying that Leiser is a liar and made this up in his series of tweets sent during this confrontation. You can decide who is more credible.

s200_mark.leiserLeiser is a PhD Candidate in Cyber Law at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and lectures on Internet Law (LLB) and the Law of Business Associations. My favorite part of his resume is that he tutors on “Voluntary Obligations.” I know an airline that might need a lecture on that very question.


17 thoughts on “EasyJet: No Frills, No Free Speech?”

  1. I am out of the loop. So when you tweet the airline has immediate access to it? Are they the NSA? Please someone explain. Are they monitoring the passengers? The shoe bomber gets on…but the tweeters detained??

  2. How different would this confrontation had gone if the airline staff had instead approached the customer and apologized and offered to be helpful — you know, the old “the customer is always right” motto? Even if they couldn’t satisfy the customer, at least acting like they cared would have gone a long way. Maybe then he would have sent another tweet recognizing the airline for its professionalism. Thus, a lost opportunity for the airline and now they stand to lose a lot of money — I’ll certainly avoid them.

  3. Freakin lawyers! Most definitely a priviledged class in America. Anyone else has to be rich enough to afford a bunch of you guys to be on par.

  4. It’s good to see that little spat by Easy Jet’s employees’ treatment of this man led to a public relations debacle. One has to wonder how such small little memories encoded in the brains of individuals fire into the conscious when the person is on am airline booking website and there are two suitable flights on different carriers of about the same price. The person sees Easy jet, thinks “nah” and simply clicks the other airline’s button without putting much thought to it. And so Easy Jet loses $300.00 in revenue from this man, and probably multiplied by the thousands of others who had the Easy_Jet_Deny neuron energized.

  5. This is not a free speech issue, and this also happened in the UK, which has no equivalent rights of expression as in the United States. Their exceptions to the Human Rights Act are laughable.

  6. I find it heartening that you refer to this as a free speech issue.

    In recent months, I have seen many self-identified, putative progressive/liberal voices seek to disrupt what I believe is the free speech of others and then make statements that free speech is about government censorship only.

    This would be derided as not a free speech issue but as a FREEZE PEACH issue.

    This attitude is often taken by feminists and “tumblr social justice warriors”, but it can often be seen by the bloggers and commenters at FreeThoughtBlogs.com including reasonably well known ph.d biologists.

    But even more oddly, I’ve seen very well known on the Internet lawyers that I absolutely believe are defenders of the First Amendment make similar, if not identical claims.

    Google “Speech has Consequences” and you can see what I mean.

    “Speech has Consequences” is often used to justify highly disproportionate viral public shamings, or demands for firings, or even demands for boycotts.

    Growing up, I heard that the answer to ugly speech is more speech. I never heard that the answer to ugly speech was a viral Internet campaign demanding a head on a pike.

    I don’t understand how we can claim to support free speech and at the same time support Internet campaigns to have people fired for their speech (not behavior.)

    Anyway, 30 years ago, I was on a much delayed American Airlines flight. At one point I asked a gate attendant when the flight would board and he said something like fifteen minutes. An hour or more later, when we started boarding, I asked him, “Do you have the time?” I swear that’s all I said. In front of other passengers too. Not even with a snotty attitude. Well, he told me he was this close to throwing me off the flight. Which admittedly I thought was pretty funny in a Mission Accomplished sort of manner. Good thing I didn’t have access to twitter back then, I would probably have ended up on the no fly list.

  7. I am with ARE on this. I have seen the airline industry go from a great service, down to lousy service, but I don’t even have a category in which to put EasyJet. Deregulation of the airline industry was the worst thing that could have happened to it. And don’t even get me started on repealing the Fairness Doctrine of the Communications Act of 1934. That repeal is why we see stenographers at networks instead of reporters, and why blatant partisanship is allowed to exist at all.

  8. IT seems that when dealing with bureaucratic thugs, a lawyer is a lot better than a .357. It is time to bring back the CAB in the USA, or give the FAA more authority to regulate economics of airlines.

  9. I read the Independent article and several of the comments at the end of the article then I read the tweets. It seems everybody wanted to embarrass everybody else. The whole thing seems to be, more or less, a tempest in a teapot.

  10. My minister says there are no coincidences. I don’t agree with her but the chances of pulling this on not only a lawyer but one who is an expert (or on the way to becoming one) on cyber law. Boy talk out coincidence!

  11. There are several airlines that I would not let ship my dead body, much less when I am still alive. EasyJet is one more to add to the list.

  12. It is easy. Don’t fly on that so called airline. Also, when did we start having majors in cyber this or cyber that? Can someone tweet that?

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