10 November 2009

United Was Wrong to Deny Track Suit Guy His First Class Seat, But Still, a Track Suit?

Hello All BlkAv8tor2003 Checking In!!!

So I guess the airlines, specifically United is questioning how there customers dress when riding in first class. To a point I can see their (United) point but I still believe you have to deal with certain situations on an individual basis. A gate agent who did not feel that a customer was dressed appropriately for first class travel gave a upgraded passenger a little bit of a hard time because he was wearing a sweat suit.

I posted the story as it was written from the news reports but a few things seem sketchy at best. The agent a contract employee working for Air Wisconsin (United express Carrier for United) was working a mainline United flight. Air Wisconsin must pull double duty working United flights out of Dulles as well as United Express flights during their day.

After everything happened a United spokes person said the employee thought the passenger was a company employee. This would not be true because when they upgraded the passeneger his ticket info would have indicated if he was an employee or at least traveling on some type of industry pass, his boarding priority would have indicated this right away.

When employees travel they are required to dress a little different compared to the regular traveler. Employees, parent and kids are required to almost dress like your going to church especially if there is a chance of getting put into first class. This is somewhat adjusted depending on the destination too and if an employee is upgraded and not dressed appropriately (gate agents discretion) then they will be asked to change clothes before boarding.

So most employees will dress nicer in the beginning just to avoid the last minute hassle or trying to change clothes during the last part of the boarding process where employees are usually given their seat assignments.

Now this regular passenger was mistaken for an employee, I doubt that but it will be a quick fix for the airline in the eyes of public opinion. Passengers do dress pretty bad or what the airlines would consider inappropriate. Southwest removed a passenger for dressing risque' (exerpt: a few months ago waitress Kyla Ebbert (who works at Hooters, where scantily-clad is a good thing) was escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight from San Diego to Tucson because her outfit -- a miniskirt, tank top, and cropped sweater -- was too revealing (I don't see any cleavage and she was wearing a bra). She put up a fuss and was eventually let back on the plane after a lecture on her dress, or lack thereof. http://www.bloggingstocks.com/2007/09/05/passenger-too-sexy-for-southwest-airlines-luv-miniskirt-gets/) and they eventually changed their minds and let her travel.

The days off dressing up when you fly have been gone since the 70's but at the rate we are going we may see a change on the horizon. I have a feeling the ways of the past are slowly coming back where you dress to fly, hat and coats are your carry-on and the last thing you wanted to do was give a flight attendant a hard time!

I don't think this situation was very good for United and hopefully they will verify before the upgrade another passenger what kind of passenger they are upgrading. This time I think they got off lucky (so far anyway) and no legal troubles have popped up yet but we shall see what happens in the next few weeks. The passenger (Mr. Alvarez) is a corporate executive and the airline should and usually knows when they are ona any given flight (their reservation will indicate it at check-in) and they should have extended him the standard corporate executive courtesies but this went way wrong.

The airlines' bread and butter is the business traveler because they pay high fares, travel on short notice and they fly alot so, United needs to pay attention because word of mouth advertising still works very well and keep this kind of activity up and you will hurt yourself in the long run when you start losing major travel accounts and business travelers starting using someone else for their corporate travel.

Read on and see if the passenger was right or wrong or was it the airlines fault on this one.

As always remember "Be Proactive, Not Reactive" when you fly and enjoy your flight!!!


Did you hear the one about the guy who was denied a first class seat on a United Airlines flight because he was wearing a track suit? It's a corker. Armando Alvarez (not pictured), an executive at Best Buy, used his frequent flier miles to upgrade to the front of the cabin for a flight from Washington Dulles to Connecticut on October 26, but the gate agent refused to let him enter the cabin, WTTG-TV, Washington, reported Thursday.

The gate agent took one look at his Puma getup and deemed him unworthy of the fancy seats, insisting he sit in coach with the riffraff instead. "I was handed a first-class boarding pass and then it was pulled back out of my hand," Mr Alvarez said.

Mr Alvarez was wearing a Puma track suit with white trainers when he was stopped by the gate agent. He said he checks-in his suits to stop them from getting wrinkled and travelling in a track suit just makes sense.

Mr Alvarez said he complained to United Airlines Customer Service Department and the airline's board of directors, but hasn't received a response. United has come out and said it was all a big misunderstanding, and that the agent apparently thought Alvarez was an airline employee - and thus required to follow a dress code - but not before the story became the latest example of the inhumanity of airlines today.

Alvarez said the agent told him he was dressed too casually for first class.
"I was humiliated. I was embarrassed and when some of the passengers were boarding behind me they said, 'Hey, what just happened?' And I said the agent just said I wasn't properly dressed to go in first class today. And they said, 'Was he kidding?' I said obviously not because I'm boarding and not getting in first class," Alvarez said.

United Airlines said the gate agent, a contract employee who works for Air Wisconsin, is being interviewed and security footage is being reviewed as part of a probe into the incident. Officials said United's dress code only stipulates that passengers wear clothes and shoes.

I agree that United was wrong to treat a paying passenger this way, and they have admitted as much, but the incident reminds me of just how much air travel has changed since the glory days of the fifties, sixties, and seventies. People treated flying like a special occasion back then, and dressed for the part.

When I was a kid in the seventies, my parents made me wear a jacket and (clip-on) tie for every flight. Of course, we were an airline employee family, so those dress codes applied to us, but it seemed like everybody around us at least made an effort to look decent.


Anonymous said...

This was big news firstly because the guy was an executive for a large company.

Secondly, he was mistaken for an employee because he only got in line when employee travelers were called up.

Leave it to the press to make a big deal of nothing. It is sad that this day and age we call this news. I have seen this everywhere since the incident.

The man was still let on the plane so who cares. Did he miss a family funeral, wedding, or anything else? For someone who travels in first class so often he should have known better. He also should have explained his situation instead of flipping out. Find something of substance to report on.

BlkAv8tor2003 said...

Anonymous thank you for your comment. I think you missed the point too! I bring this information to the masses because it is to show the seasoned traveler as well as the vacation traveler what problems may arise not matter how innocent the traveler may be for not knowing.

I have riden in first class as well as worked in first class as a flight attendant and passengers do treat airline travel as an extension of their living room and sometimes you have to remind them that your not at home.

Mr. Alvarez is a seasoned traveler and I'm sure he made this into a bigger situation than it warranted and it could have been resolved quickly and quietly if had spoken to a supervisor, identified himself as a VP and had them refer to his reservation profile to prove his status and frequent flyer profile. The agent could have pulled him off to the side and explained the implied rules of dresscode which are not policy at United that the airline expects qhwn passengers fly in first class.

Many things were done wrong and could have been done better.

I as a blogger will to a point pick what stories I choose to speak on and give my insider info that the news organizations won't give because they don't know or care to find out. So this is a matter of "substance" that you as a seasoned traveler (I presume) will find trivial and the not so seasoned traveler may find this information useful because they didn't know!

Thank you for the comment and I always except comments good or bad because I want to hear all points of view!

Be safe and smart when you fly!