When I was a Hostage
by André Gayot In the last century, terrorists of many descriptions found a spectacular way to make their point: they hijacked planes and seized the passengers as hostages to monetize them. This lesson has not been forgotten. Airlines that were in the epicenter of the drama realized that they, too, could take advantage of this strategy and mimic the principle. It would be even easier because they already had the planes, and the passengers as well, in their grasp. Thus, they did not even need to capture them, which incurs additional costs. Becoming a hostage seems to us to be an improbable event. Don’t believe that. I was recently the victim of this rapacious strategy. Traveling across Europe on a major airline, an emergency forced me to alter my itinerary. First, I was told that to call the company, I would have to pay them so many Euros per minute even if I had to wait “for the next agent available” since they might be “all busy assisting” — I presume distraught — “passengers.” Passing this first hurdle, you are told that whatever your emergencies may be, including your possible demise, there is nothing to be done except to pay the maximum rate of the day. The tally was astronomical, about four times the bill for the entire scheduled trip. Then, what can you do? Even though you consider yourself a hostage in a foreign country, don’t expect the intervention of any international organizations to rescue you. It would take too long and they are sometimes clumsy. The blackmailing has succeeded; all you can do is pay. On the positive side, now ransoms can be paid with a credit card. That’s what I call progress.