Mindboggling. It’s the only word I have for Delta’s treatment this week of a couple traveling with their two toddlers—tossing them off the plane and threatening them with jail time. It would be egregious in any environment. In one where airline executives are being grilled by congress for precisely this kind of behavior, it’s…well, mindboggling.

If want the recap, see this article:

If you want to be entertained by the idiotic Delta employees’ behaviors, watch the full 8-minute video here:

In a sentence: Brian Schear was told he could go to jail, and his kids to foster homes, if he didn’t hold the toddler on his lap, opening a seat for a standby passenger—even though Schear paid for the toddler’s seat.

“It’s a federal offense if you don’t abide,” the Delta employee says.

It was a red-eye flight with no others scheduled for 12 hours, so the family had nowhere to go—no hotel, no transportation; they faced sleeping overnight in the airport. Delta employees said, “Too bad.”  It’s against the rules to put a toddler in a car seat, despite Delta’s own policy clearly stating otherwise (as later posted to Twitter).

Why do incidents like these keep happening?

Because the airline industry has a pervasive culture of arrogance and customer disrespect. This culture has existed for years, continues to worsen, and is only being exposed thanks to mobile phones and social media.

Crisis lesson? It’s not good enough to apologize and to “say” the right things. You actually have to do them from the beginning. A lesson Delta clearly needs to learn.

Brand protection begins and ends with your corporate values. Incidents like these continue to occur because Delta, United and others have allowed it. They have not adequately communicated a customer-first culture or a zero tolerance policy. When they begin to do that, incidences will lessen and only then can they begin to reclaim their reputations.