Alaska Airlines Apologizes to Passenger with Parkinson's

Horizon Air President Glenn Johnson has apologized to a man who many say was mistreated at the gate. According to the company, the man showed up at Horizon's sister airline, Alaska Airlines, late and intoxicated. At the time, it was not clear to gate agents that the man needed special assistance. 

Cameron Clark, also a passenger on the flight, saw the scene and apparently tried to intervene and help the man get on a flight to see his daughter, but he was not successful. Frustrated, Clark sent a Facebook post to some friends, calling Alaska Airlines "the worst of humanity." Clark also wrote,

"what happened to our collective sense of decency, of compassion, of our disposition to help those in need of extra help. alaska airlines. you broke a man's heart today. you maintained your policy, and ignored an opportunity to do the right thing. you broke my heart too."

Over the weekend, Alaksa Airlines has been responding to negative comments on Twitter and Facebook, such as this one:

Alaska Air

In an updated Facebook post, Johnson apologized and explained plans for improvement: 

A Message from Horizon Air President Glenn Johnson

I've seen a lot of concern by our customers about the treatment of the gentleman who flew out of Redmond, Oregon, to see his daughter. Now that we've been able to largely complete our review, which I've been overseeing throughout the weekend, I'd like to share some information with you. First and foremost, we've determined that we could and should have handled this better and I apologize to our passenger on behalf of all of us at Horizon Air and Alaska Airlines.

I'm happy to report the gentleman has been able to visit with his daughter after arriving at his destination before noon on Saturday. We are providing him with complimentary roundtrip flights for this trip and have offered free tickets for another visit down the road. We're also working with Open Doors Organization, a disability advocacy group that focuses on travel issues, to learn from this customer's experience and to help us with our ongoing care for passengers with disabilities. Alaska and Horizon have partnered with various disability organizations for years to help our employees better serve our customers.

This experience has reminded us of the importance of assisting passengers with disabilities and making sure every one of them receives the special care they may need. The information we've gathered during our review will certainly improve our efforts going forward. I'd like to say again that we're sorry for the experience of this customer and thank everyone who has brought this to our attention.

Glenn Johnson

President, Horizon Air

Discussion Starters:

  • Compare Johnson's two Facebook posts (August 4 and 6). What do you notice about the approach, tone, audience focus, content, and organization? 
  • How do you assess Johnson's plans for the airlines, for example, working with a disability organization? Do you see this as genuine, useful, a good PR move, or something else?