After United cancelled a monk of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert’s return ticket in the middle of an overseas trip, the abbot took to the Internet.
The saga began when Brother John Baptist, a member of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert, in Abiquiu, N.M., booked tickets through United Airlines to his native Malawi in Africa. When Baptist, who was visiting Malawi to tend to a sick relative, attempted to delay his return flight, United informed him that his ticket had been cancelled due to suspicion of credit card fraud, leaving him stranded in Africa.
Brother Noah, who handled these travel plans for the monastery, called United to get to the bottom of the situation. The brothers received assurances that the cancelled ticket was an error on the airline’s part and the stranded member of their flock would be booked on a return flight as soon as possible—but that wasn’t what happened.
Hours passed without any indication that Baptist had a plane ticket home. A follow-up phone call to United was even less helpful. The monks were told at first that the ticket had not been paid for, and then they were told that the ticket was paid for with a potentially fraudulent credit card.
The brothers insisted that the trip was paid in full using a credit card issued to the monastery, but they got nowhere with the customer service agent, and this time, they were informed that the flight cancellation was not the airline’s responsibility.
Noah told The New York Times that this was the point when he lost his temper. “I said to her something like: ‘Thank you for speaking. God bless you. I will pray for you. But you have not been helpful.’”
Those words don’t exactly sound like a temper tantrum, but Noah insisted it was a strong rebuke. “It was my tone of voice,” he told the Times. “I know that it manifested anger.”
The leader of the monastery, Abbot Philip, posted an open letter on the monastery’s website explaining Baptist’s plight and calling on supporters who might be able to help sway the intransigent airline.
In the end, prayers, media attention and phone calls from the monastery’s supporters saved the day. A few days after the Times contacted United about the situation, the airline called the monastery to apologize and offer a $350 voucher for future travel.
“We really appreciated this,” Noah wrote in an email to the Times, “because it was the first time someone had said it wasn’t the monks’ fault!”