Delta Passenger Removal…the airline industry streak goes on

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Earlier today, Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel published an article (with video) of yet another passenger removed from a flight, this time a Delta flight.  Though details of what happened have mostly been provided by a nearby passenger, there are lessons to be learned from the demeanor of passenger Mr. Hamilton.

The article explains what happened, mainly from the perspective of a co-passenger, Krista Rosolino (if you already know what happened, scroll down to read My Take):

The story begins mid-afternoon of April 18 aboard Delta Flight 2035 from Atlanta to Milwaukee. The plane was pretty full. Hamilton was traveling alone. Krista Rosolino and her husband, Mike, both lawyers in Milwaukee, were sitting with their infant daughter across the aisle from him.

The plane taxied to the runway and the passengers were told it was third in line to take off. This is a time when you’re supposed to remain seated. But the wait extended to about 30 minutes, Krista Rosolino estimates.

Hamilton felt a strong need to urinate and figured it might be OK. “We weren’t taking off. We were still. The plane isn’t moving,” he said.

I asked Hamilton why he hadn’t used a restroom earlier. “I don’t normally pee right before I get on the plane, and I’ve never had a problem like this before. I don’t remember drinking an abnormal amount of water,” he said.

He walked to a restroom at the rear of the plane. A flight attendant there said if he used the restroom they would lose their place in line. So he sat back down, but the urgency grew stronger. Hamilton returned to the restroom and this time went in and quickly did his business. It beats making a mess right there in your seat, right?

“The pilot came on and said, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry for the inconvenience but we have to return to the gate and remove a passenger,’ ” Hamilton said. “It escalated to that point that fast.”

Two Delta agents, first one and then another, approached Hamilton and told him to get his things and exit the plane. He knew they wouldn’t let him back on, so he refused. Hamilton, 39, a DJ and a poet who moved to Milwaukee a year ago, is an artist in residence at an MPS school, and he needed to be home the following morning for a field trip.

The Rosolinos and other passengers whipped out their phones and took video of the encounters. Soon everyone was escorted off the plane. Hamilton said he felt his attempts to explain himself were futile.

“It was already understood and decided that I was a problem and I was getting kicked off the plane. When I exited there were FBI agents waiting for me with Delta personnel,” he said, adding how thankful he was that Mike Rosolino stood by his side throughout.

Hamilton had remained calm both on the airplane and during questioning at the terminal. He thinks that saved him from getting arrested for causing a disturbance or interfering with the flight. Delta refunded part of his ticket cost and left him to find his own way home.

They said his checked luggage would be waiting for him in Milwaukee. He bought a walk-up ticket on a Southwest Airlines flight, at a cost of three times the refund he had received, and arrived home about 11 that night, several hours later than he had planned.

Here’s some video of what happened:

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My take

From this article it certainly seems to me like Delta over-reacted BIG TIME.  I recently sat in the tarmac for a similar amount of time as this man and was in line for take off in Beijing in a United flight and the flight attendants completely understood my emergency, same as Mr. Hamilton’s, and let me use the lavatory.  So yes, this defies common sense and natural understanding.  I just don’t see how it would be any better to deal with the alternate option.  Also, the fact that they apparently refunded only half his ticket and didn’t place him on another flight…  Shame on you Delta!

One thing I disagree with is Mrs. Rosolino’s bringing up race here.  I’m a ‘minority’ myself and have at some point or another been labeled and what not.  I deal with it.  No matter what, there will always be ignorant people around without natural respect and love for their fellow, but different skin-toned, human-being.  I firmly believe that the more people talk about it, the more it’ll continue to be an issue.  In this case, however, there was absolutely no indication that racial prejudice played a role, especially given that the flight attendant in the video doesn’t look all that white to me.

Anyway, what jumped out to me the most here was Mr. Hamilton’s demeanor.  After watching how Dr. Dao reacted to law enforcement, I have to applaud this passenger’s demeanor; and reports say even at the gate, where he was unfairly dismissed with nothing, he still maintained control of his emotions and respect toward ‘authority’…oh and his dignity too.  The one negative is that he probably won’t get as high a payout as the United passenger, but he will be remembered as a class act; and even if he isn’t remembered he can be proud of himself for the way he handled a situation not in his favor.

Give me your thoughts