It's hard for an industry to be more hated than insurance or telemarketing, but airlines have been trying for decades. Whether it's charging $50 to check one bag or bumping paying customers at a moment's notice, it truly seems like they couldn't give half a damn about their passengers.
Then, on some occasions, they really put in the extra effort to openly make the customers overtly hate them. For example...
7"Sorry, ma'am, but we mishandled your luggage. With fire."
Everybody who parts with their luggage at the airport does so with a twinge of nerves; afraid their bags will end up in some other city, or that some crazed baggage handler will sneak off to some private room to start trying on their undergarments. So when a United Airlines employee approached Shannon Tadel and asked to speak with her privately about a problem with her luggage, she probably assumed the worst.
We're guessing even by assuming the worst she was not prepared for when the man said that her bags were on fire.
As it turns out, Shannon's luggage was placed too close to an exhaust port on a belt loader, which was so hot it ignited the bags. She thought it was a prank until the pilot revealed himself to not be Ashton Kutcher and pointed out a Tarmac crew attempting to extinguish her clothing with a fire hose.
To make matters worse, her smoldering, water-logged luggage wouldn't be allowed on the flight. We're not sure if this was some kind of regulation or if they just wanted to see the look on her face.
United apparently thought that a first class upgrade was enough of an apology for destroying a bag full of her clothing, and didn't respond to her reimbursement claim. They forced her to jump through many hoops and even dry-cleaned her destroyed clothing to try and lower the amount of the claim.
As usually happens, they kept running her through a maze of bullshit before Tadel went out and got the story made public via the Chicago Tribune. Suddenly United was all about pleasing the customer, becoming very compliant and apologetic, issuing her a check to cover her loss and assuring her that in no way did the public embarrassment factor into their decision to replace the possessions they set ablaze.