Even for those of us who have watched their antics in the long-running television documentary, it's hard to comprehend the enormous stupidity of EasyJet this week.
Ann Jordan was flying from Bristol to Newcastle with toddler Azrael and baby Kaleb. As instructed by EasyJet, she arrived with a special booster seat for Kaleb, but needless to say it wouldn't fit EasyJet's seats - they hadn't bothered to tell her what sort to get. Also needless to say, the plane was not equipped with a spare. After all, EasyJet's not an airline, is it? And airlines don't carry people in large numbers, do they? And they don't provide seats for those people, do they? And people don't tend to have children and babies, do they? So why should EasyJet be expected to provide appropriate equipment for what must be an incredibly rare event, a mother turning up with a couple of kids?
Not a problem, Ann thought. After all, they'd done the outward journey with her sister, and each had taken a child on their laps without the airline making any objection. She could simply take Azrael on her lap, and the kind lady in the next seat offered to hold Kaleb.
But no, said the captain and his crew, that wouldn't do at all. It was not that there was any danger to the children, you know, not being strapped in or anything. And it wasn't that in the event of a crash or severe turbulence a spare child flying round the cabin might hit another passenger and injure them.
No, what it was, was that the woman who had offered to hold Kaleb might be an abuser. While the child's mother sat right beside her but was, presumably, distracted by the in-flight entertainment (people trying to sell you stuff) or by the arrival of the in-flight refreshments (people trying to sell you stuff), this devil in matronly form might have her wicked way with the child.
The captain didn't make clear just how a middle-aged lady might get her depraved jollies with a small baby, but presumably he is an imaginative man. Or perhaps he's just terribly experienced in the wiles and practices of in-flight abusers, although to be honest The GOS can't recall a single occasion when it has been reported that a child has been abused on a plane.
In the end, EasyJet simply ejected the tearful Ann and her children from the plane, which then took off without them. "The captain and the cabin crew just would not see sense and compromise", she said. "I couldn't believe it. It was just crazy. I felt absolutely humiliated."
Other passengers tried to persuade the cabin crew to allow the family to continue their journey home, but in vain.
EasyJet said: "Under the Child Protection Act, it is not EasyJet's policy to allow another passenger to take responsibility for an infant to be seated on their lap for take-off or landing. We appreciate Mrs Jordan's frustration, but these policies and our resulting actions were taken to ensure the safety of her and her children. The safety of our passengers is our top priority, which is why we do not compromise."
Well, we've got news for you, Mrs.EasyJet. Tough talking like this is the first refuge of the inept, and the time is going to come when petty jobsworths like you and your employees are going to get some rather unpleasant surprises. There are already fears that Litter Wardens and the proposed new Smoking-in-Public-Places Wardens are likely to get a good smacking in the course of their "duties", it is frankly a miracle that more Traffic Wardens don't get their wheel-clamps shoved where the sun don't shine, and you'll be next!
Then there's the legal aspect, too. Child Protection legislation does not require you or give you the right to interfere between parents, their children and other members of the public, or to over-rule the wishes of any responsible parent. And you do not have the right to accuse the other passenger of being a potential child-molester, and we await with keen interest the news that she is taking legal action against you for slander.
Just how long are we, the public, going to tolerate this kind of lunacy? Lots of other people on the plane took Ann's side and tried to influence the crew. Why did they stop there? Come on, you tell us - what the hell could Mrs.EasyJet do about it if the entire complement of passengers just stood up and refused to sit and fasten their seat-belts until they got their way?
The airline is thinking of changing
its name to "PC-Jet"
Finally, let us contrast all this rubbish with the quick-thinking, common-sense and initiative shown by crew and passengers on an Air Mauritania flight this week.
A 31-year-old would-be hijacker, seeking asylum in France, tried to take over the Boeing 737 as it landed in the Canary Isles. He was armed with two pistols (one might well ask how he got them onto the plane in the first place, but presumably this was nothing to do with the plane crew or the other passengers) and was demanding to be taken to Paris.
The pilot, Ahmedou Mohamed Lemine, realised that the man did not speak French and that, on the moment of landing, he would be the only person not wearing a seatbelt. So in the minutes before touching down he briefed his mainly French-speaking passengers and crew over the public address system. He told the women and children to move to the rear of the plane while the hijacker was occupied in the cockpit, and asked for a group of men to be ready to act when he slammed on the brakes as soon as they touched, and then quickly accelerated, hoping to knock the man off his feet.
The plan worked and the hijacker, Mohamed Abderraman, tumbled over and dropped one of his guns before six men stormed the pilot's cabin, threw a pot of boiling water over him and sat on his head until the landing was complete.
Bloody brilliant stuff, this - straight out of Biggles and the Boys' Own Paper!
And can you see it happening on EasyJet? Well, no. They'd probably fall over backwards to comply with the hijacker's demands, assuring him that his human rights would be respected at all times, and offering a complimentary one-third bottle of Beaujolais and a blow-job from one of the less repulsive stewardesses.
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