Tantrum over this: Airline humiliates customer, then offers paltry upgrade

You've probably already seen the video by now. A woman somewhere in Asia misses her flight and she freaks out. For three operatic minutes, she swoons over the desk, she wails and stomps, she writhes on the floor and wails in multi-octave grief. "They have no compassion!" the woman shouts. "They're crazy!"

Cathay Pacific, the airline that refused her entry, is now apologizing. One of its employees took video of the episode, which (no one knows how) ended up on YouTube, where it has collected the jeers of the world (but so far, no Oscars). The airline says it has "disciplined" the worker who shot it and has offered the woman, who is a regular customer and mortified with embarrassment, a free upgrade on her next trip or a refund of the frequent flier miles she used to book the missed trip to San Francisco.

A free upgrade? Are they kidding?

How many people have seen this flip-out? The main YouTube posting of it has nearly 5 million views. That's half as many people as watched last week's episode of Lost on ABC. That doesn't count all the duplicate copies out there getting views of their own.

As inappropriate as it may have been for the woman to have such a dramatic and public freak-out, it was much more inappropriate for airline employees to post a video of it online for the entire world to mock. I can understand the impulse to record the incident -- you never know if she's going to hurt herself or others, and you'd want the proof in case of future accusations -- but I can't condone the posting of this to YouTube. The punishment doesn't fit the crime.

We also don't know why the woman was so upset to have missed her flight. She won't come forward in the press because she's too humiliated. The assumption is that she was just being over-dramatic. But maybe it caused her to miss the funeral of someone she loved. To be honest, if you consider that her meltdown could have a tragic origin, the video becomes pretty hard to watch.

This is the perfect example of something I wrote about a few months ago. Companies are increasingly wronging us with deteriorating service and outright insults, and when they're caught, they too often offer us pathetic recompense. This woman may indeed be unbalanced or over-dramatic, but international ridicule is not the right response from the airline that set the incident off. And the Confederate currency of a free upgrade is, frankly, even more insulting.
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