On the surface, one might think that taking responsibility for oneself – to ensure one’s own health, safety and comfort – is a normal, healthy human behavior. If this way of thinking is, in fact, valid and/or true, then one must wonder why recent news reports and reactions reverberate an unequivocal “no it’s not.”
In the news this week, James Beach was reported to have assumed responsibility for his towering 6’1” height. According to the report, while making his flight reservation, Mr. Beach paid a little more for a seat that offered “a little extra leg room” – approximately four inches – to accommodate his height. Also, to ensure he would be able to comfortably work on his laptop while in-flight (afterall, he did pay extra for a seat with additional leg room), he settled into his seat, unlatched the tray on the seat back in front of him and installed his Knee Defender – a device that would stop the seat in front from reclining.
As one might have anticipated – especially in today’s self-absorbed, “civilized” society – an in-flight confrontation ensued between the co-passenger in the seat in front of him and Mr. Beach. This altercation, of course, caused the plane to be diverted to the closest airport so the quarreling duo could be removed and detained.
For those of us who travel often, these are troubling (but common) chords to our ears. Many of us have found ourselves in similar situations – and know all too well that “civilized” approaches are rarely effective or satisfy both parties (despite Seth Kugel’s claim in the video that it could have “easily” been resolved). As I replayed (and felt myself relating to) Mr. Beach’s story, several ongoing concerns filtered through me…
- I wondered why innocent, unsuspecting consumers – people like Mr. Beach and I – are constantly put in positions that require us to go above and beyond (i.e. take additional responsibility at the front end as Mr. Beach did) to ensure our own health, comfort, and peace when investing in a service or purchasing a product?
- I also pondered why – especially when problems consistently repeat themselves – and simple solutions seem obvious – is change so elusive? Sara Nelson, President of the Association of Flight Attendants, explains that airlines claim “passengers have the right to recline; but, unfortunately, the airlines cannot deliver on their claim” because of the redesign of the modern plane which resulted in reduced space.
- I reflected on my time as a marketing professional…and wondered why companies today ignore (or often don’t even solicit) input on product or service design and creation – especially when the needs expressed would accommodate a majority of users/consumers and avert problems. I also recall the fact that if a company does not think through the entire design, process, etc. nor willingly invest sufficient time and money, the user/consumer suffers…and often winds up being forced to take blame, deal with confrontation in the marketplace or in some cases brought to their death.
- Lastly, is it unreasonable that individuals (like Mr. Beach and I) take responsibility – look after ourselves – as we journey through life and encounter situations imposed upon us…which reflect no real “fault” on our own?
I’m certain most people will agree…airline travel has become much more of a challenge – physically, mentally, and financially. However, one has to wonder why with “increased revenue across the board,” airlines have not taken matters into their own hands (advertising, design, etc.) nor taken responsibility to address and resolve this constant and plaguing issue?
For me personally, it seems that some negotiating might need to take place the next time I travel. My claustrophobia might present a challenge…however, those overhead bins are beginning to look quite promising as a great resource for privacy while traveling. For a person of my size, they would definitely offer some additional leg room…and the ability (non-optional) to recline. I wonder if the airlines would be willing to discuss this with me – allow me to reserve that space to privately journey to my destination in exchange for me checking my two carry-ons? Maybe they could even leave the overhead bin door ajar…and hang a safety strap – kinda like a remote seat belt – down the middle of the door opening?
This airline dilemma, to some, might appear to be a specific, clear-cut situation. Sadly, it’s not. Various examples exist – within numerous industries – where consumers/users are unknowingly imposed upon or inconvenienced…and forced to assume responsibility or take blame for the outcome of their product or service purchase. More on that later…
Crafted, researched and written by: LIZ CARLOCK
The Write Resources, LLC™
© 2014 EM Carlock
Graphic credits: www.dilbert.com