Hawaiian Airlines Diverts Plane After Passenger Becomes Irate Over Being Charged $12 For A Simple Blanket

Hawaiian_AirlinesThere was a news story this week about a Hawaiian Airlines flight that was diverted to Los Angeles because of an unruly passenger.  Frankly, the most important aspect of the story was not the diversion but the reason:  the airline charges $12 for a passenger to have a simple blanket.  We have been discussing how airlines are stripping away basic human comforts and turning flights into cattle calls.  On top of that, the airlines are charging fees for every possible comfort, including reducing leg space to virtually zero and then charging for small increments of space in coach.  However, a $12 blanket truly represents a new low — particularly on a long flight to Hawaii.

This is a scene from dinner time on Hawaiian Airlines:
The boy was later jettisoned over the Pacific.
The culprit on this trip was a 66-year-old man who wanted a blanket and insisted he should not have to pay because it was cold on the plane.   He has an obvious point.  However, during an in-flight call with an airline representative, the man said he “would like to take someone behind the woodshed for this.”  That appears to have been over a phone and, if that is the full extent of the statement, it does not sound particularly threatening.  It sounds like a cranky older person who wanted a blanket.  However, he was proclaimed an “unruly passenger” by Hawaiian Airlines and the captain diverted the Honolulu-bound flight to Los Angeles.  Police and FBI then rushed into the plane and determined that the man was just cold and cranky.
Now one would think that Hawaiian Airline would be covered in shame over its policy and its response. Guess again.  The man was put on another flight (sans any blanket of course) and the airline said “Diverting a flight is clearly not our first choice, but our crew felt it was necessary in this case to divert to Los Angeles and deplane the passenger before beginning to fly over the Pacific Ocean.”
The flight was delayed by four hours, but the airline was able to avoid giving out a free blanket.

179 thoughts on “Hawaiian Airlines Diverts Plane After Passenger Becomes Irate Over Being Charged $12 For A Simple Blanket

  1. Anyone who flew even twenty years ago knows that flight attendants used to be particularly adept at handling irate passengers without having to escalate the problem to the Captain and even then the problem was usually resolved on board. Go back a little further in time and, “the customer was always right”, or at least that’s the way they made one feel. The guy would have ended up with a free whatever and a complementary cocktail as well.

    Aside from the fact that it’s much harder to maintain such an excellent model of customer and crew relations when there are these constant nit picky to down right frustrating additions to the cost of air travel, there is a palpably different atmosphere of distrust and confrontation lurking just beneath the surface between passenger and crew now from what there was in years gone by.

    This is brought about partly by the additional security measures and concerns that have been building up due to emphasis on as well as real risk of terrorism where every passenger must be regarded as a potential serious danger to the safety of the flight. Much of that can’t be helped, but by no means all. Partly, however, this is simply lack of air-line competition. Airlines charge more because they can charge more and they nit pick because they can get away with it. In some measure, given such an atmosphere, it pays the airline to make sure that anyone who gets out of line in the least be made aware they will be summarily dealt with.

    • Partly, however, this is simply lack of air-line competition.

      There is no lack of competition. Service was quite congenial 40 years ago when there was an actual federally administered cartel. There are always trade-offs.

    • You are right. I remember when airline attendants were much more cordial and skilled in calming down upset passengers. And it’s true that there is an undercurrent of deep resentment among passengers now, who have been charged for the most absurd things. And it seems like attendants are warily on the lookout for the next maniac who is going to run amuck at 30,000 feet.

      It’s like that basic scam where someone sells you something for a great price, only to get it out the door, they tack on charges until it costs more than you’ve ever paid before. I feel rather sorry for airline attendants for having to interact with us after that.

      There is much that drives up the cost of a plane ticket, and there are inherent obstacles to the prices going down. It’s beginning to sound a lot like taxes. Those taxes that get passed as temporary stopgap measures tend to stick around, and so do airline charges.

      Here is an interesting article on the natural collusion between airlines: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/03/why-is-flying-still-expensive-even-though-fuels-gotten-so-cheap/472359/

    • Of course, time was when people actually dressed up for a flight!
      Today the airlines are, of ccourse, moving a wholly different class of passenger in conditions rivaling the “Middle Passage” ! lol

    • He can conduct his own, personal revolution when he’s not seated on a plane. A time and a place for everything. I don’t want to be stranded, confined and locked in a plane, with no opportunity for escape, 20,000 miles up in the air, with a revolutionary. The Karl Marx of the airline industry can conduct and lead whatever war or revolution that he wishes, just not on a plane. I support and applaud this pilot, as I can only assume and believe that his actions were not pursued in a thoughtless and careless manner. Given the attention that this maneuver was expected to receive, I am willing to grant this pilot the benefit of the doubt that the costly and inconvenient decision was made after thoughtful and genuine consideration of the anticipated scrutiny.

      • At 20,000 miles up in the air, revolution and revolutionaries would be the last thing you would be worried about. In fact, it’s the last thing the revolutionaries would be worried about too. 🙂

      • Oh, come now. Requesting a free blanket is hardly a revolution. Only a few years ago, the airlines GAVE the customers FREE blankets just for the asking. I still have two of them from previous trips where I requested a blanket. A sensible airline would have quickly calculated the cost/benefit of the two alternatives (i.e., diverting the flight or giving the manm a free blanket), and would have given the man his blanket pronto.

        But the airline wanted to send a message to customers: you, the customer come last and YOU must pay for everything, including the multimillion dollar bonuses to our top executives and for all the other executive percs they get. You don’t like it? That’s tough! WE, the entire airline community, have agreed to draw the line in the sand and to extract every conceivable fee out of customers. Call it conspiracy? Call it collussion? That’s tough. We make our own rules, and if you don’t like them, take some other form of transportation!

        • The air line wanted to send a message, but the message wan’t just about being to do what ever they wanted to do or charge what ever prices they wanted to charge.

          Accross the board, from Captain, to flight attendants to administration to the company board of directors, the thing most feared during a flight is the guy or gal who manages to get a weapon of some sort onto the plane and is going to use it. It has come to be the first thing they think of when anyone looks so much as cross eyed at a flight attendant. That the airline decision has taken the issue so far beyond any rational assessment of risk stems from the exact same impulse of excessive caution that makes Trump’s Executive Order on Muslim immigrants and refuges so well accepted by so many people on the street regardless of it’s brutal and in some cases truly tragic consequences.

          • And it’s important to note the atmosphere this fear creates. You don’t need a weapon to trigger the response. You simply need to represent the smallest of threats.

          • It’s not clear what the corporation wanted. The Los Angeles Airport Police has said the initiative came from the crew.

            • Yes, and I have no problem accepting that. But where do you think the crew get their attitudes? These are professionals. They have to deal with crank cases frequently. Personal bias is going to be considerably less at play than with non professionals. So they react largely based on company policy and company atmosphere (even corporations manage to imbue policy with a certain non rational stamp).

              • At this point, not a clue. The press secretary to the Los Angeles Airport Police said the situation was in his experience nearly unique. Again, it’s a reasonable wager that a lawyer is behind this somewhere.

                • Those darned “deep pockets” are usually to blame! If this type of incident had occurred, say, on a Greyhound Bus, it wouldn’t receive even a single line in any newspaper or blog, much less create the potential for any substantial amount of award money for an attorney to siphon off!

        • Exactly!

          In a capitalist society, the defense and maintenance of private property is sacrosanct.

          In this instance, that private property was as trivial as blanket and/or $12.

          Refusal to respect either justified an arrest by the LAX PD, irrespective of how petty.

          You are absolutely right that this was done to set an example to others to keep in line and not get uppity!

      • bam bam – an easier and less costly decision could have been made by the captain getting ALL the passengers to Hawaii on time. He made a poor decision. The actually have seats on planes for ‘irate’ passengers in the hold.

        • Per the spokesman for the Los Angeles Airport Police:

          “”made a statement that he wanted to take somebody behind the woodshed over this, which prompted the flight crew to contact the captain who then in turn diverted the aircraft to LAX.”

          “(The crew) took offense to the statement that he made. Maybe they felt uncomfortable with it, which is well within their rights to divert the plane and refuse service,”

          The same fellow said he’d actually never encountered a dispute quite like this.

          One of the other passengers offers an account:

          Dallas resident Claudia Rodriguez said she wished the crew had been more communicative about the diversion and delay.

          “The thing we were most upset about was when we got off the plane, when they deplaned us after sitting for an hour, we talked to one of the staff and we asked them what we would do next, and we were not given a lot of information,” she said. “They told us to go ahead and seek other options, so we went ahead and bought another ticket for my husband and I and we’re not going to get a refund on that one. We ended up losing $600.”

          The flight departed Los Angeles a few hours later.

          If this account is correct, the crew diverted the flight out of spite, left the other passengers uninformed, and kept them waiting for 3 hours. If that’s true, there’s a string of employees at Hawaiian Airlines that need to lose their jobs. As in now.

        • Cost shouldn’t be a consideration when safety is concerned. Safety, or the concern for safety, should win out every time. Any passenger considered menacing or threatening to others needs to be dealt with accordingly.

          You do realize, don’t you, that the pilot has to account for his actions, don’t you? Don’t you think that this pilot would never have dreamed of taking such extreme steps–jeopardizing his job and career–unless he had a damn, good reason for doing so?You still, incorrectly, view this episode as a blanket issue. It wasn’t. It was a behavioral problem, on a flight, which the pilot remedied as he saw fit.

          • Cost shouldn’t be a consideration when safety is concerned. Safety,

            Rubbish. There are always risks and trade-offs and actuaries make it their business to calculate them.

          • bam bam – I correctly view it as a highway robbery issue. Highway robbery at 20,000 feet in intolerable conditions. The airline caused the irate customer.

            • I would wager that this customer was irate and disturbed prior to any encounter dealing with a $12.00 blanket. You know, it’s never about the $12.00 blanket. There is no justifying his behavior, whether he viewed this as highway robbery or anything else. Do you routinely scream, HIGHWAY ROBBERY, when you are in your local supermarket and the cost of eggs, chicken or beef has skyrocketed? Do you have a psychotic break in the cereal isle because the cost of various foods has risen? I’ll assume that you simply deal with it. Rationally. Calmly. It is what it is. No one is going to be sympathetic to your own, personal revolt, at the local Kroger, much less so when they are trapped, in air, with you.

              • bam bam – the cabin was cold. The passenger wanted a blanket for the long flight on in a cold cabin. So, yes, he was already irritated. TSA may have ticked him off while he was getting ready to board. All we know is that the captain made a poor executive decision costing the airline money for fuel, landing fees, good will.

                For the loss of a blanket ….

                • Why would the other passengers, who were, surely, witnessing this meltdown, have agreed to pay for their blankets after viewing some blowhard get his for free? Just what planes need–chaos. Remember, other people, on the plane, are watching. No doubt about it. Other people, who may not be exactly thrilled with the notion of paying money for a blanket but did so out of necessity. While they have quietly and calmly coughed up a few bucks for the convenience of being comfortable and for the stupidity in failing to bring a blanket from home, they see that causing a fuss and threatening to give someone a beating works wonders and gets a passenger a free blanket. A recipe for disaster. That’s just what the travelling public needs–revolts in the sky. The same applies to alcoholic beverages. One has no right to demand a free alcoholic beverage, in flight, despite demanding that they should be free or that the overinflated price is highway robbery. It is what it is. Deal with it or stay off a planes.

                  • Why would the other passengers, who were, surely, witnessing this meltdown,

                    Reporters interviewed one passenger who was in earshot. Her account of what he had to say was quite banal.

                  • bam bam – knowing the law can be very helpful. There is a section of the Arizona constitution that requires that if anyone requests water from you for drinking you must give it to them. I was on a flight to Oklahoma, but we were not out of Arizona yet, and I requested water. They were going to charge me for bottled water until I reminded them of the constitution. They were not happy, but they got me a cup of ‘tap’ water.

                    • Never heard of being charged for a cup of water on a plane. Why would anyone hesitate in providing that to you? Makes no sense. I believe you, but it makes no sense.

              • There is no justifying his behavior,

                He placed a call to customer service personnel on the ground. How utterly intolerable.

                • Utterly intolerable to threaten bodily harm. That’s what he did. A threat made to take someone behind the woodshed is a threat to beat him. You may tolerate that sort of nonsense; airlines should not.

  2. Don’t cruise-ships go to Hawaii anymore? Or, does everyone just fly?

    Seems like the fresh ocean air – and better customer service – could have made the trip more enjoyable for this and his fellow passengers.

    • The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has statistics on passenger arrivals processed at the airports and at the port. About 99% arrive by air.

    • Cruise ships run the risk of becoming stranded at sea, like the one that broke down in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago! By the time that the cruise ship finally was able to reach Mobile, it was virtually a floating sewer!

  3. How were they better off by putting him on a different flight? He was still cold, still without a blanket, and it’s the same guy. Safety first, but ensure there is an actual threat before you dump your fuel and turn around.

    Perhaps there is more to the story than has been disclosed yet. But it sounds like it was the conversation over the phone that triggered the unruly passenger designation, and that it came from corporate rather than the pilot. Perhaps I’m misreading.

    The outcome is that now everyone knows that Hawaiian Airlines charges $12 for blanket.

    • Corporate is also saying it was the crew’s initiative

      “Diverting a flight is clearly not our first choice, but our crew felt it was necessary in this case to divert to Los Angeles and deplane the passenger before beginning to fly over the Pacific Ocean,” Hawaiian Airlines spokeswoman Alison Croyle told CNN affiliate KCAL.

  4. Rather ironic seeing a attorney complain about claims of overcharging customers.

    All these complaints about prices for add-ons, reduced comfort, and what not shows a lack of business understanding.

    We all want great customer service, well paid employees, and low prices. The problem is you can’t have all 3. You can only have 2.

    Airline rates are incredibly low*. The profit margin per passenger is paper thin, far far far thinner than is standard in businesses – including legal businesses. Airlines make a good profit because of volume. Likewise additional items/services even when a minimal cost have a large effect on the bottom line when you take volume into account.

    How many flights per day does Hawaiian Airlines service? How many passengers? How much would having at least 1 blanket per passenger cost the airline in materials, manhours, and fuel? Would passengers be wiling to pay the extra cost tacked onto their tickets?

    No they wouldn’t. If they’d like to they

    * quick check showed Hawaiian Airlines offering Roundtrip flights from Las Vegas to Honolulu at $553.
    They also offer flights at over $2000 round trip.

    • How many flights per day does Hawaiian Airlines service? How many passengers? How much would having at least 1 blanket per passenger cost the airline in materials, manhours, and fuel?

      Long distance flights used to have blankets in every overhead bin (on United Airlines, at least). That aside, you don’t need one blanket per passenger. You benefit from having a multiple of one blanket per anticipated request sufficient to satisfy all customer requests a certain share of the time (say, 94% of the time).

      • Again, blankets on long haul flights were once bog standard, and the airline admits they have them for 1st class passengers and a selection of passengers on red-eye flights. This man is old enough to remember that.

        Tell me, do you think having a latrine on the plane is ‘catering to every whim’? How about the drinks cart? Air sickness bags?

  5. Here’s a report of another dangerous passenger whose threat to the safety of a plane was defused by courageous crew members:

    “Martin [a legally blind passenger], along with her guide dog Quan and husband Jim, were en route from Maine to Calif. on March 1. They were boarding a connecting flight from Washington, D.C., to Dallas when Martin noticed that her seat, located in the bulkhead aisle, would not be able to accommodate her dog.

    “ ‘There was not enough room for a 75-pound dog and three adult humans,’ Martin told [station] WLBZ.
    Martin claims a flight attendant then denied her request to switch seats, and that when she asked again, she was told to leave the plane and speak with a ticketing agent.

    “Once she was back in the airport terminal, Martin said the American ticketing agent also denied her request to change seats, and even refused to allow her to upgrade, telling her that service animals were not allowed in first class, reports The Portland Press Herald.

    “Martin says she knew that there’s no rule against service animals in first class — she’s owned service animals since she was 28 — but she re-boarded the aircraft, anyway. Upon re-entering, she says a man in first class offered up his seat, which she gladly accepted.
    But soon, an American Airlines employee informed Martin that she was being removed from the flight.

    “ ‘I asked him why, and he said the crew had decided I was a danger to the safety of the flight,’ she said.
    ‘I stood up, reached for Quan’s harness, and almost began to cry,’ Martin explained. ‘This is just so far out of the realm of anything I have ever experienced in all of my years of travel. I felt helpless, I felt afraid. Terrified.’

    “On the way out, Martin claims her husband asked the pilot why they were being booted, to which the pilot replied, ‘Because I can.’

    “The couple eventually rebooked on a United Airlines flight leaving from a different airport.”
    http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2017/03/14/blind-woman-claims-was-kicked-off-american-airlines-flight-with-service-dog.html

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