Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Time For Everyone To Voluntarily Leave United Airlines

I watched the video of the man being dragged off the plane.  WHATTTTTT????????????  FOR REAL???

OK, Alaska Airlines once removed a passenger for insulting a female crew member.  And more recently they had a woman leave the plane for being disruptive and insulting to the man sitting next to her because he'd supported Trump.  But neither was physically dragged off.  Watch how politely the flight attendant spoke to the unhinged woman passenger.  And in both cases, the passengers were at fault.

From what I can tell (given the sketchy info available so far), United decided to bump four passengers so that four United crew could get to work, presumably, at the destination, Louisville.  In my experience passengers don't generally board until the bumping is taken care of.   In this case the passengers were already on board.

The airline says they offered $400 then $800 vouchers to people who would voluntarily get off.   No one volunteered.  Then, they say, they picked four people randomly.  Presumably they would all get the $800  that was offered to people who voluntarily left the plane, but I don't know that for sure.

Three passengers got off 'without incident.'  The fourth said he was a doctor who had patients to see the next morning.  He also was of Asian descent.

The passenger did nothing wrong except insist that his valid ticket for that flight be honored.  The airline screwed up by overbooking the flight and boarding the passengers first and then insisting that four get off.  They should have thought about their crew members before filling the plane.  Once it was filled, there was no reason why their crew should have precedence over paying passengers. Even before the passengers boarded the plane, there's no reason crew should have precedence.  How did they pick him?  Was he flying on frequent flyer miles? Was it because he was Asian?

If they needed to board sky marshals, I might give them a little more leeway.  But the passenger said he had to get to work the next morning which was no different from the United crew having to get to work.  And crew members are much more interchangeable than a doctor seeing his patients.

I applaud the man for not backing down.  The airline employee used terrible judgment when he forcibly dragged the passenger off the plane.

I can't believe that there wasn't a single person on the plane who couldn't have been persuaded to take the $800 voucher (or move if necessary) to free up one more seat.  They could have even offered to let them wait between flights in the United board room.  There were lots of other options.  They could have even found another crew member to substitute in Louisville.  Surely they do that all the time when crew call in sick.

I understand that an unruly passenger might need, on occasion, to be forcibly removed from a plane.  One who might be endangering other passengers.  I don't know how often passengers are dragged off like this man was.  Here's a story about an abusive United passenger causing a Sydney - San Francisco flight to divert to Auckland, but the video shows him walking off on his own power.  And the passenger was the problem.

But this man was only standing up (or in this case sitting down) for his rights.  The airline overplayed its authority to make these decisions, which they have for airline safety requirements.  Not to fly they screw up and need to fly their own crew around.

I'm guessing the pressure to fly on-time played some role in this.  There was also some machismo in the security guy having his authority challenged.

I have to give a big cheer for cell phone videos that document what happens.  Of course they can be edited to distort what happened, but it seems that most of these get up pretty quickly and are from ordinary folks who aren't editing before they post.

I don't normally write about something like this where all the facts are not clear yet.  Perhaps it's because family matters have made me a frequent flyer over the last several years, but this one hits home.  And I'm ready to eat crow if it turns out the passenger wasn't a doctor and did something, besides refuse to give up his rightful seat, that legitimately provoked his removal.  But it will be hard to justify dragging him out.  But I'm ready to say I was wrong if time proves I jumped the gun.  And my wife and I volunteered, when getting our boarding pass, to bump and when they offered us $400 each on flight that was leaving right away (though with stops on the way), we said ok.  Before we got on the plane.

The United CEO's non-apology letter doesn't help. In fact it suggests that the problem starts at the top of the company.  I agree you should support your employees when they take the difficult, but right, action. I cheered on Alaska for backing up their crewe when they booted the man who demeaned the female crew member.   But not when it's the airlines fault.

I hope lots of regular United passengers start checking out other airlines.  Given the leggings incident a couple of weeks ago, and this saga (video below), I'd say that United has a serious problem.


  1. This was a local story so we got a few more details. Supposedly the doctor and his wife (and two other people) were chosen to be bumped because they had the cheapest tickets -- not chosen at random.

    If this stupid decision was made to preserve on-time departure, they really screwed the pooch, because the doctor apparently broke free and ran back onto the plane, where he went to the back and barricaded himself. They got him off again, then had to make everybody else leave the plane so they could clean up the blood. The plane ended up being at least an hour late.

    apparently at least one passenger said he would be happy to accept $1600 to be bumped but $800 was the highest they would go. I guess the last laugh will be all the zeroes they have to pay out in the lawsuit. (shoulda offered $3000, guys...)

    I'm so glad that everybody has cellphones so it's harder to get away with this kind of nazi behavior. (Doesn't this remind you of those novels and movies about horrible dictatorships where the poor guy thinks he's gotten away from the evil government and then they drag him off the plane?)

    I was also intrigued and disgusted to read that "law enforcement" got involved in the dragging. Makes you wonder what "law enforcement's" mindset is -- like maybe they should have come onto the plane and said "Hey, stop beating that guy up!! You want to be arrested for assault?"

  2. Think how simple it would have been to offer those folks say 400 dollars more or whatever it took to get one more person to give up a seat. It’s a strong argument to make employees empowered enough to act creatively. Even if they had to spend an extra $1,000. I read that United Airlines stock took a 900 million dollar hit after this.


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