Erin McInrue Savage understands her sport isn't the most popular in the United States. But she doesn't think she should have to make the case that curling is a sport at all. That's what the Oakland woman said she was forced to do when an American ...and more »
By Marissa Payne, (c) 2017, The Washington Post
Erin McInrue Savage understands her sport isn’t the most popular in the United States. But she doesn’t think she should have to make the case that curling is a sport at all.
That’s what the Oakland woman said she was forced to do when an American Airlines employee at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport allegedly balked at allowing her to check her curling broom as sporting equipment.
“[The agent] said curling isn’t a sport,” McInrue Savage, 34, said Saturday, a day after her Facebook post about the incident went viral. “I told her it’s in the Olympics.”
McInrue Savage said the interaction began when the agent refused to allow her to check her equipment bag for $25, the standard fee for an excess sports equipment bag that her curling teammates had been charged on a different airline.
“[The agent] said it wasn’t an ‘elite’ sport like golf,” McInrue Savage said. She gave the customer service agent a history lesson about curling’s origins, and offered to demonstrate how the brooms work. Finally, after an eight-minute exchange, she said, the agent agreed to allow her to pay the $25 fee — but then said, “I hope you never fly American Airlines again.”
American Airlines is disputing McInrue Savage’s account, described in a lengthy essay on her Facebook account.
The post, which identified the agent by name and included a photo of the agent’s name badge, was deleted by Facebook as a violation of its “anti-bullying” policy. By then, however, the post had been shared hundreds of times, even gaining the attention of USA Curling, which fields the U.S. Olympic team. The organization confirmed on Tuesday it had reached out to American Airlines about the issue, but declined further comment.
American Airlines is strongly denying both the details and the manner in which McInrue Savage suggested the interaction occurred.
“We all agree that curling is a sport, and our colleague in Phoenix never stated that curling was ‘not a sport,’ ” American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said in a statement on Tuesday. “Our colleague is a former gymnast and coach, and has great respect for all athletes.”
“Based on the information provided in the Facebook post by the passenger, and the statement from our team member: we applied the correct policy regarding sports items,” Feinstein continued. “The passenger presented herself with a bag that was over the standard bag size of 62 linear inches but containing sports equipment, her curling broom. Our agent explained to the passenger the policy on oversize bags and that she would be willing to assist the passenger by applying the sports equipment rate of $150 vs. the normal oversize charge of $200.
“Our team member worked directly with Ms. McInrue Savage at the ticket counter to rearrange the items in the bag, in order to shorten the bag, which would only result in a $25 charge.”
Feinstein said the agent denied ever telling McInrue Savage never to fly American again, and that the airline has tried to reach out to her.
On Tuesday, McInrue Savage stuck by her original account. She reposted her Facebook message, this time blurring out the agent’s badge number, and she plans to continue spreading her story.
The Canadian-born McInrue Savage, who competes with the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club, is a vice president with Emeryville market research company Age Wave.
She remains unsure why her customer service experience deteriorated so badly, but she does have an idea about how American Airlines might avoid this in the future.
“It would be great if American made a specific policy,” she said, referring to curling equipment.
American’s website has specific guidelines for everything from javelins to hang gliders, but it does not mention curling equipment. The airline is not alone in ignoring the Olympic sport online, however. Delta, Jet Blue, Spirit and even United, which sponsors Team USA, also fail to mention curling specifically when giving their sporting equipment guidelines.
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