Let's put love first.
Recently Karen Momsen-Evers was on a Southwest flight sitting in her seat about to take off when she got a text message from her husband. It said “Karen, please forgive me for what I am about to do, I’m going to kill myself.” She knew he had been under a great deal of stress and believed he meant it. She tried quickly to call him, but the flight attendant wouldn’t let her. “The steward slapped the phone down and said, ‘You need to go on airplane mode now,” she said. “I begged her. I said ‘I’m sure somebody can go and make an emergency call’, I just wanted somebody to go and try to save him. Nobody helped.” She sat in her seat crying. When the plane reached altitude, in tears, she tried again, explaining the situation to another flight attendant. The other flight attendant also refused help. When the plane landed she called the police in Milwaukee, where she and her husband had lived. It was too late. He was dead. The representatives of Southwest airlines had refused to help save this man’s life.
Incensed, upon seeing this story on CNN online, I called the public relations department at Southwest to see what their official statement on the matter was. The representative I spoke with told me there was none. Later, from the news I learned that their official statement was “The Southwest family continues to extend our deepest condolences to Mrs Evers. Our flight attendants are responsible for executing safety procedures to prepare a flight for departure and arrival, in accordance with FAA regulations, while assisting the up to 100 plus passengers with life events. Our employees utilize their training to handle each situation to the best of their ability and have a 44 year history of caring for our customer as if they were a part of the Southwest Family. Again, our hearts go out to Mrs. Evers and her family during this difficult time.” An emergency phone call to an airline official in the airport who could have then placed a call to the Milwaukee police, could not have taken more than a few minutes and surely would not have interfered with FAA regulations. After all, if these regulations do not exist to protect lives, then what is their purpose? Clearly, this is what caring means to Southwest, not helping save a life at the moment of need.
My personal belief is that it is very important to live our lives with our priorities in order. I was raised with a hierarchy of values in which we are responsible first to God, then to our loved ones, and then to our brothers and sisters with whom we share this world. Much further down the list is our responsibility to our employer to follow our employers rules. No doubt the flight attendant was following Southwest’s rules about the use of cells phones prior to take off. Clearly these employees did not recognize the responsibility which, at that moment, lay in their hands. They had a responsibility to do what they could to place a simple phone call to save a life.