Ann Coulter’s rage is good PR for Delta Airlines: Menon
This weekend’s tweet storm proves even an airline can be popular when mistreating a professional menace like Coulter.
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Ann Coulter has done the impossible: she’s created airline sympathy.
This weekend, the conservative firebrand turned her scorn on Delta. In a long-haul tweet storm that started on Saturday and continued into Monday, Coulter was outraged after being forced to switch economy seats on a New York-to-Florida flight.
After calling Delta “the worst airline in America,” Coulter posted a photo of an allegedly unhelpful flight attendant. She then shared a blurry snap of the row from which she was deported. The three passengers now in that row, including the woman who inherited the seat Coulter had booked in advance, stare up at the smartphone lens with the same startled mix of confusion and alarm.
I suspect this is a look Coulter is used to seeing.
“@Delta didn’t give my extra room seat to an air marshall (sic) or tall person,” she wrote, as if about to present an exhibit in court. “Here’s the woman given my PRE-BOOKED SEAT.”
Coulter then wondered if the spotty on-board Wi-Fi was “to prevent passengers from tweeting from the plane about how they’re being treated.” She imagined a questionnaire for prospective Delta employees as: “What is your ideal job: Prison guard? Animal handler? Stasi policeman? All of the above: HIRED!”
“Hey @Delta,” started the next admonishing tweet, as if Coulter were now typing in a darkened room while swigging out of a paper bag, “if it was so important for the dachshund-legged woman to take my seat, she should have BOOKED THE SEAT IN ADVANCE. Like I did.”
You get the idea.
Just after 9 p.m. on Sunday, Delta responded: “We are sorry that the customer did not receive the seat she reserved and paid for. More importantly, we are disappointed that the customer has chosen to publicly attack our employees and other customers by posting derogatory and slanderous comments and photos in social media. Her actions are unnecessary and unacceptable.”
That’s an interesting apology that, let’s be honest, ends up blaming the victim.
When it comes to PR, it’s been a turbulent year for the airlines. From a United customer getting beaten and dragged off an overbooked flight to scandals involving leggings and damaged wheelchairs and countless spats that were caught on camera, to be a crisis manager with a commercial carrier in 2017 is to long for the off-the-radar serenity of a tobacco lobbyist.
People hate airlines. But what we learned this weekend is that people hate Ann Coulter even more. Her fury about losing something she paid for — namely, Seat 15D — was justified. We’d all feel the same way. But then she took it too far, as she always does, and in a fit of name-calling pique ceded the moral high ground to Delta, which is like letting a throw pillow beat you at chess.
Before this weekend, if someone asked me to guess the reason Coulter might be enraged enough to tweet more than 30 times in 48 hours, I’d probably go with, “She found a family of illegal aliens living in her pantry?”
This is what happens when a reputation precedes and schadenfreude is powered by contempt. Even when someone like Coulter is right, she’s wrong. The sad truth for her is that any airline could frogmarch her out of her seat, strap her to the wing and pelt her with peanuts and the overwhelming reaction would be laughter.
In fact, if airlines were shrewd, they’d see the potential marketing gold this story has just unearthed. You know how there’s a No-Fly List for suspected terrorists? Well, how about a Must-Hassle List for public enemies?
Is that Martin Shkreli in first-class? Grab that smug Pharma Bro by the lapels, lock him in the baggage hold and watch as this gross violation of his rights is greeted with wild applause.
Is that Sean Hannity waiting in the security line? Divert the blithering idiot to Room 4 for a pre-boarding strip search and then force him to pay a $500 mandatory surcharge to watch a double-bill of An Inconvenient Truth and By the People: The Election of Barack Obama.
We already have strong evidence that shows the leading variable used by the public in judging an airline PR brouhaha is: who is involved? If the person is known, the brouhaha will ultimately be graded on a like or dislike curve, whether this involves Gerard Depardieu urinating in a plastic bottle because nobody was allowed to leave their seats during takeoff (he got a pass in the court of public opinion), or Liam Gallagher getting banned for life by Cathay Pacific in 1998 over an in-flight meltdown that included a buttered scone (the mob agreed with the airline).
Six years ago, Alec Baldwin was ridiculed after he got into a tiff with American Airlines staff after refusing to turn off his electronic device. But since Baldwin is now beloved for his Donald Trump impersonation, if that happened today, he’d likely be hailed as a hero of the resistance.
Flying tends to bring out the worst in people. But when bad things happen to those who are perceived as bad, like Coulter, it’s hard for many to see it as anything but great.