Tuesday morning I turned the “Frequent Flier” column in the New York Times Business section.  It’s usually a favorite Times feature, but what I read was astounding — and troubling. “Frequent Flier” is a weekly guest column written by — naturally — a frequent flier who tells of his or her experiences. Having spent a lot of my life on airplanes, I can empathize with these tales of misery. This week’s commentary was written by Anjula Acharia-Bath, who, the Times helpfully tells us, is the head of Desil Hits, a multimedia company “focusing on East-West fusion entertainment.” In a wide-eyed, aren’t-we-cute style, Ms. Acharia-Bath tells of jokingly offering a check-in counter clerk in London some 50 Cent gear to upgrade her to first class. The clerk does it. The power of rap T-shirts is revealed.

But Ms.Acharia-Bath then complains about the service she and her husband received in the first class section of the plane. Finally when asked by the cabin staff how she got upgraded, she lies in a rather bullying manner. But the most amazing part of the story is that nowhere does she tell us what airline she was flying.  What? How could that be?

Now “Frequent Flier” is not a news column. Faithful and knowledgeable Times readers realize that the unjustified lines in the text indicate that the column is a special brand of analysis/commentary/opinion. But these offerings are edited and checked carefully by the copy desk. Strict rules apply. So it is very strange that a central fact — what airline was she writing about — was left out of the story, even if it was a commentary. Really would a restaurant commentator be allowed to dis a meal and not mention the name of the restaurant? Would a political figure be allowed to write an account of fiddling with some legislation without mentioning the name of the bill?  Of course not.

In recent years, careful and open sourcing has become something of a fetish at the Times. Times stories elaborately explain why a quotation has no named source attached to it — or where the information in a paragraph comes from. This is all to the good, even if it clutters up the story. But where were the editors when this story went to press? Who was demanding transparency for the readers? Nowhere in the story is the omission of the airline’s name explained.  The Times could claim that the writer said that she would not do the story if she were forced to name the airline. Perhaps so. Then don’t run the story. That’s what principled journalism is all about.

There’s another critical point: the writer blithely admits to lying to staff about her escapade, as well as bribing the check-in clerk with pop culture trinkets. How do the readers of the Times know she didn’t invent — or elaborately embroider — the whole tale?  Especially since she was allowed to hide the name of the airline from us.

This article was really unworthy of the Times which is still one of the world’s great newspapers and struggling mightily to maintain quality and standards in tough times. Do you agree? Check out the story yourself.