Passing through a major international airport last week, I went to the information stand to enquire where the lounge was located. The kind lady on duty explained that the lounge was not in that terminal. She asked how long I had until my flight. “Two hours”, I told her, and she helpfully suggested that I go for a meal in the well-known restaurant just above us. I look up and see said eponymous restaurant, whose owner is a well known chef and entrepreneur. Quick ethical decision made, I politely tell the helpful lady that I did not wish to go there, because of the bad reputation and lack of ethics of the owner.
Stance taken for personal, corporate and culinary integrity, notwithstanding the attraction of the delicious, if overpriced, food on offer up above. She looked a little surprised, but appeared to understand perfectly my concern – Helpful Lady was well aware of what I was talking about. Result: an uncomfortable couple of hours perched on a seat in the concourse area with laptop balanced on my knees. Moral satisfaction all round though…and the cheap BLT sarnie from the competitor’s food counter tasted ethically delicious…at least I am ‘putting my money where my mouth is’.
Air travel ethics incident number two: arriving at another European airport much earlier than anticipated, I went to the airline desk to ask whether they could transfer me onto an earlier flight. The friendly lady informed me that I was the proud owner of a low cost, non-modifiable, non-flexible ticket. She reminded me that these were the rules of the airline. “C’est comme ca.” I would have to wait several hours until the flight I had booked (even if they were operating slightly less than chock-a-block flights to my destination every 20 minutes in the meantime…). “Sure, these are the rules of the airline”, I told her, “but there is also the ‘gentillesse’ [kindness] of the airline”. Sounds close to compliance v ethics to me! Friendly Lady played with her computer for a few minutes, proceeded to tear up my existing boarding pass and printed me a new one for the flight leaving in 20 minutes time. A good vote for ethics over compliance in the face of customer requirements. This also resulted in good PR and positive Twitter banter between yours truly and this particular high quality airline. Merci encore!