The following letter was written by a travel industry veteran who asked not to be identified.
I won't even name the airline because my feeling is that this is symptomatic of many if not most US major airlines. I was standing at a ticket counter of a major airline and, unusually--perhaps because it was in the evening--there were only two customers at the counter: me and a young girl standing at the podium at the next counter position. [more]
The girl seemed to be about 18 years old, and I noticed she had a Danish passport that she was using for identification. She was having trouble printing a boarding pass for her flight, and the airline agent behind the counter intervened only to respond to her something like, "The flight is closed out because it is less than 45 minutes prior to departure." I found out her flight was at 8p and it was about 7:16, 44 minutes prior to departure. I watched and listened as he did call the gate, only to be told that the flight was boarding and, he reiterated, "closed."
He barely looked at the young girl, acted to her as if she was standing there as a large cardboard cut-out and said that the next flight is the following morning. It was hard for me to comprehend the utter lack of concern and compassion for this girl who now looked as though in any second she was going to break out in tears. I intervened and asked the agent to call a supervisor. He said that "her bag wouldn't make it anyway" to which I responded, "At least she would." Frankly, there are many connections that are less than 40 minutes and bags make it! I asked again, and he was not pleased by my interference and would not budge. I then backed off, only to apologize to this girl on behalf of our industry and perhaps even our country.
I asked the girl if she had anywhere to go or knew what to do and she replied "No." I said that the airline probably could get an inexpensive hotel for her to stay in, to which she responded, "I think that is too complicated, I think I will just stay here." I apologized again and left worrying about a young, foreign girl having to stay alone in this big airport all night long.
As I was leaving I thought of my own daughter who next year may be participating in a college semester overseas, and could find herself in a similar situation, and thinking how terrible she would feel and how concerned I would be for her well being. I thought of going back to offer to take this girl to our house for the evening, but unfortunately in this day and age I was afraid of the connotation and potential legal issues and compromised in my own mind that she probably would be ok for the night.
Then I thought about our industry and how said of a commentary this is. Today in the airline industry it is all about the bottom line, lack of training, lack of concern, and near complete loss of customer service along with staff who have little or no authority to remedy situations. This airline's concern was to push a plane out at all cost! And frankly this young girl would not have delayed this flight for one second. But with blinders on, this agent didn't even recognize the fact that there is something more important. Unfortunately, evidently, neither does this airline's management. It is sad and it is shameful what has become of the US airline industry. I hope someone is listening out there in every ivory tower of every major US airline and starts to take action to correct this horrible state of affairs.