As much as we here at “Are We There Yet?? ” enjoy assailing commercial airlines for inhumane treatment of families, recent news reports about a family’s “ordeal” of being stranded for five days at a major airport have been greatly exaggerated.
Yes, the Saxton family spent nearly 120 hours at Salt Lake City International Airport. And, yes, it appears they actually did wash their clothes in a bathroom sink. Those reports of the family eating food donated by kind-hearted TSA agents, and the family being “rescued” by a well-heeled stranger who ended up buying them plane tickets? Those appear to be true, too.
But before you go bashing the airline for behaving badly, know this: The family was flying on discounted “buddy passes” given to them by an employee of jetBlue, and at no point did these passes guarantee them seats.
Let me reiterate: In this case, the airline followed clearly stated policies and did nothing wrong.
From a philosophical perspective, it vexes me that this (non-) story received so much national attention, that so many people (editors included) were willing to blame the airlines so fast.
Granted, we family travelers don’t have much reason to trust big airline companies these days. Still, it behooves all of us—whether we travel solo or with kids—to gather all the facts before we judge, and be fair in judgment after that.
From a practical slant, the refresher lessons here are simple. If you’re traveling with little ones and you want to get home in less than a week, you probably shouldn’t fly on non-guaranteed passes. If you can’t afford guaranteed airplane seats for you and your family, perhaps you should pick a different (i.e., cheaper) mode of transportation. Finally, if you insist on flying with non-guaranteed airline passes and refuse to pick another mode of transportation, you shouldn’t expect much of anything in return.
Saxtons, what happened to y’all sucks, but you sort of brought it upon yourselves. Hopefully other families can learn from your foolishness; the airlines aren’t always the ones to blame.