I have a feeling we'll be hearing more about this.
Reuters is reporting that a man from New York, Gokhan Mutlu, is suing JetBlue for $2 million. The reason he'll probably be booking a seat on another airline for his next flight? JetBlue made him sit in the plane's restroom.
Apparently what went down is that Mutlu arrived to the airport in February, planning on taking JetBlue from San Diego to New York, he was told that the flight was full.
But on the plus side, a JetBlue flight attendant said she would give up her seat and travel in an airline employee "jump seat." (Reuters points out that it's not clear in the lawsuit whether the flight attendant was on the job or a passenger.)
So Mutlu boards, and 90 minutes into the flight, the attendant decides that she's quite uncomfortable in the employee "jump seat." Mutlu was told he would have to give up his seat and "hang out" in one of the restrooms for the rest of the flight.
Mutlu wasn't so crazy about that idea, and according to the lawsuit, the pilot got involved and was angry and said that the passenger "should be grateful for being onboard."
But then Mutlu offered to sit in the "jump seat," he was told it was reserved for the airline employees. Mutlu retreated to the bathroom and -- during certain moments of turbulence -- was terrified, since there was no seat belt on the toilet.
Not that anyone asked, but here's my take on things. Mutlu has a point that the airline bungled things up big time. Sure, the flight attendant was doing the guy a favor, but I tend to suspect it was JetBlue's fault that Mutlu lost his seat in the first place, given that so many airlines make it a practice of overbooking. Part of me, when I first read about this story, felt that it was reasonable for the flight crew to ask Mutlu to "hang out" around one of the restrooms. I mean, they tried to do him a favor, it didn't work out, and what else are you going to do?
But assuming Mutlu's correct, that he offered to sit in the jump seat, and they refused because that's reserved for employees, then truly whoever on JetBlue made that decision probably should be "extremely humiliated," in the way that Mutlu says he was. Maybe this staffer could be forced to sit on a couch with Oprah for an hour and be belittled by her in front of a studio audience, for instance.
So as a guy who read this in the paper, not knowing anything else about the case, and as a consumer, I'm on Mutlu's side. But I do keep thinking -- $2 million? At what point, I wonder, did we start deciding that after enduring an extremely inconvenient event in our life that it was fair game to try to transform it into the best moment of our lives? Because if this guy wins the lawsuit, don't tell me for a second that he won't look back on all of this and think, "Cool -- I'm so glad that happened to me."
I mean, $2 million? Two million dollars? For $2 million, I'd sit on the wing of the airplane.
Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
Airplane service hits a new low: Window, aisle or toilet seat?