Fly the Unfriendly Skies

 

United Airlines has a PR nightmare on its hands as a disturbing video burned up the Internet. After overbooking the flight from Chicago to Louisville, the crew chose four passengers at random to leave the flight. Passenger number three was a doctor who said he needed to treat patients in the morning, so refused to leave. The flight crew called security, which forcibly yanked him out of his seat and dragged him down the aisle.

This being 2017, several passengers recorded the whole thing on their smartphones:

Airline staff first tried a carrot before using a stick. Before boarding, they offered passengers $400 and a hotel stay to give up their seats. Once boarded, they doubled it to $800 and said the flight wouldn’t leave until four people were gone. When no one volunteered, a computer selected four passengers at random.

With condemnation raining down on the airline, United’s CEO issued a statement:

Using the term “re-accommodate” to describe forcibly dragging a customer off a plane only fueled the online firestorm.

How should United have reacted in this situation and what can they do to fix it?

Published in Culture
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s growing community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Get your first month free.

Members have made 270 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9
  1. Profile photo of Hammer, The Member

    Well… I suppose they could start by only selling the number of seats they have available. If people don’t show up, then people don’t show up and you fly with an empty seat. Because you’re paying for the seat, it should be yours whether you’re in it or not.

    • #1
    • April 10, 2017 at 10:49 am
    • Like32 likes
  2. Profile photo of Ekosj Member

    United faced real-time pricing for the seats. They offered $400 then $800 and still had no takers. They should have bid more. They overbook to maximize revenue from each flight. But, on the occasions it backfires they should either keep bidding for the seats until they get takers or put the extra passengers on a private plane.

    Just shows what they actually think about the passengers.

    • #2
    • April 10, 2017 at 10:51 am
    • Like33 likes
  3. Profile photo of Miffed White Male Member

    I’ve been in overbooking situations before, but never after people have actually boarded the plane. It’s just that somebody’s not getting a boarding pass.

    I’ve seen other reporting that indicates they had four crew dead-heading to the destination that they were bumping for. Pretty stupid on United’s part. They could have put the crew in a car to Cincinnati and gotten them there in time.

    • #3
    • April 10, 2017 at 10:52 am
    • Like19 likes
  4. Profile photo of Judge Mental Member

    In a general sense, airlines could do themselves a lot of good PR-wise, if they would just be honest with people. Stop telling people you’ll be boarding shortly when it’s actually going to be 3 hours. And carry that all the way through, which means either not overbooking in the first place, or telling people at the time that it happens.

    • #4
    • April 10, 2017 at 10:52 am
    • Like16 likes
  5. Profile photo of Spin Coolidge

    It’ll be fun to see how this plays out…

    • #5
    • April 10, 2017 at 10:53 am
    • Like2 likes
  6. Profile photo of Skyler Member

    I heard that they were trying to boot passengers to get their own crew on the plane. That’s even worse.

    I promise you after this, I will never fly United again.

    • #6
    • April 10, 2017 at 10:54 am
    • Like9 likes
  7. Profile photo of Judge Mental Member

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    United faced real-time pricing for the seats. They offered $400 then $800 and still had no takers. They should have bid more. They overbook to maximize revenue from each flight. But, on the occasions it backfires they should either keep bidding for the seats until they get takers or put the extra passengers on a private plane.

    Just shows what they actually think about the passengers.

    They should also offer cash instead of airline credit. I don’t want credit with the airline that just told me they can’t get me there.

    • #7
    • April 10, 2017 at 10:54 am
    • Like34 likes
  8. Profile photo of Postmodern Hoplite Member

    How should United have handled it?

    1. Don’t sell more seats on the plane than the plane is equipped with. Ever.
    2. If choosing to sell more seats, than be prepared offer the necessary incentive up front: a 100% refund for the desired flight, plus incidental costs for the delay.
    3.  If no one volunteers, then add to the incentives: the original booked flight 100% free, plus another additional flight (round trip) free.
    4. If there are STILL no volunteers, then simply do not seat the last four people who are not yet seated, and credit them all of the offered incentives before they board the plane (since if they were already on the plane and seated, they would not have been holding up departure of the flight.)
    5. See Rule #1 above.
    • #8
    • April 10, 2017 at 10:57 am
    • Like8 likes
  9. Profile photo of Skyler Member

    Postmodern Hoplite (View Comment):
    How should United have handled it?

    1. Don’t sell more seats on the plane than the plane is equipped with. Ever.
    2. If choosing to sell more seats, than be prepared offer the necessary incentive up front: a 100% refund for the desired flight, plus incidental costs for the delay.
    3. If no one volunteers, then add to the incentives: the original booked flight 100% free, plus another additional flight (round trip) free.
    4. If there are STILL no volunteers, then simply do not seat the last four people who are not yet seated, and credit them all of the offered incentives before they board the plane (since if they were already on the plane and seated, they would not have been holding up departure of the flight.)
    5. See Rule #1 above.

    No, rule number one is NEVER EVER EVER drag peaceful, paying passengers off the aircraft after assaulting them. All other rules follow from that.

    • #9
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:00 am
    • Like8 likes
  10. Profile photo of Damocles Inactive

    And I thought United was hard on guitars!

    • #10
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:02 am
    • Like7 likes
  11. Profile photo of Bob Thompson Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I’ve been in overbooking situations before, but never after people have actually boarded the plane. It’s just that somebody’s not getting a boarding pass.

    I’ve seen other reporting that indicates they had four crew dead-heading to the destination that they were bumping for. Pretty stupid on United’s part. They could have put the crew in a car to Cincinnati and gotten them there in time.

    I agree with you. I’ve seen much overbooking but never have I seen anyone removed for this reason after being seated. I don’t think they actually over assign seats so once all seats are taken no one else gets on. Yes, it sounds as if it was being done for a crew.

    • #11
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:06 am
    • Like6 likes
  12. Profile photo of Old Bathos Member

    I felt sorry for the guy until he started screaming like a girl. Then I felt sorry for the security guys stuck with this assignment.

    • #12
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:07 am
    • Like6 likes
  13. Profile photo of Titus Techera Contributor

    Ryan M(cPherson) (View Comment):
    Well… I suppose they could start by only selling the number of seats they have available. If people don’t show up, then people don’t show up and you fly with an empty seat. Because you’re paying for the seat, it should be yours whether you’re in it or not.

    They should have done it like men. I’m tired of commercial cowardice. The guy should have slapped himself in the mirror & then told the press, hey, folks, we get a lot of people flying because we overbook. We make money, the seat don’t fly empty, people get to where they need to get. We screwed up here & someone did a crazy thing to a doctor. We’re gonna do better, but enough with the hysteria!

    Or words to the effect-

    • #13
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:08 am
    • Like2 likes
  14. Profile photo of Skyler Member

    Damocles (View Comment):
    And I thought United was hard on guitars!

    Was there cultural appropriation in that video?

    • #14
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:09 am
    • Like2 likes
  15. Profile photo of Miffed White Male Member

    Ryan M(cPherson) (View Comment):
    Well… I suppose they could start by only selling the number of seats they have available. If people don’t show up, then people don’t show up and you fly with an empty seat. Because you’re paying for the seat, it should be yours whether you’re in it or not.

    I’ve never seen a case where multiple boarding passes were issued for the same seat. Once you have your boarding pass, you’re golden. If you don’t have one, you’re not getting on the plane, so you won’t get dragged off.

    What appears to have happened in this case was not overbooking, but bumping paying passengers in favor of giving the seats to a crew that needed to relocate.

    • #15
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:15 am
    • Like7 likes
  16. Profile photo of Vectorman Thatcher

    What else would do you expect from a company headquartered in Chicago?

    • #16
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:18 am
    • Like5 likes
  17. Profile photo of MarciN Member

    If I were the doctor, I would have said, “OK, you may proceed in dragging me off this flight. It will be recorded while you are doing so. Then we will all meet my lawyers.”

    I would love to see what information is on the ticket. If it does not say specifically, “In the event that we have overbooked the flight, you may be bumped off this flight once you have boarded and taken your seat,” then I would imagine the airline has a legal problem today.

    Let the lawsuits fly. 🙂

    A $1,000 error will turn into a $1 billion headache. 🙂

    The Ritz-Carlton would not treat people this way. They empower all of their employees with actual cash to make things right. The management says, “We want happy guests. We’ll settle with you later.”

    But then they “hire for attitude and train for skill.” Mostly they treat all of their employees with the utmost respect, and their employees pass that respect along to the guests.

    • #17
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:28 am
    • Like6 likes
  18. Profile photo of John Hanson Thatcher

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    I’ve been in overbooking situations before, but never after people have actually boarded the plane. It’s just that somebody’s not getting a boarding pass.

    I’ve seen other reporting that indicates they had four crew dead-heading to the destination that they were bumping for. Pretty stupid on United’s part. They could have put the crew in a car to Cincinnati and gotten them there in time.

    I tend to agree. In my experience if more people get on than there are seats (a rare occurrence) then the person in the seat wins, and the ones without a seat get off. Again, usually handled at the gate not on the aircraft, but they will offer the compensation to individuals on the aircraft, to see if they can accommodate the passengers still at the gate, without seats, to try and keep everyone happy. I have not seen a case where they forced someone off the plane. (Except were someone was being arrested for reasons unrelated to the flight, or ill.). I understand the financial need for over-booking but they should not be bumping paying passengers to meet their own crew/staff shuffle needs, but here again a delay at one point will snowball into big disruptions, but usually they can find crew/staff in multiple places, and make do. If they had time to get there by alternate means, then they should do that.

    • #18
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:29 am
    • Like3 likes
  19. Profile photo of Bryan G. Stephens Reagan

    Keep upping the payment until you get takers. Period.

    Airlines have a monopoly of sorts, because of the barriers to entry. It is classic case of being able to screw over passengers because, they have to use someone, and if they all are lousy, what are you going to do? Drive? (Yes in many cases, I will). Therefore, in order to fly, you have to put up with all sorts of unfair practices. I cancel at the last moment? I am screwed. They cancel at the last moment? I am still screwed. I am late to the gate? All on me. They are late to take off? Not their problem. Air travel appears to be an area where the free market does not work very well.

    • #19
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:33 am
    • Like14 likes
  20. Profile photo of Bryan G. Stephens Reagan

    And Crap! Because United is who we are flying out West with in June. I did not book the flight. Grrr. I hate they will get my money.

    • #20
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:35 am
    • LikeLike
  21. Profile photo of ClosetSubversive Member

    There is probably some policy that enforces a maximum with no exception process that United is allowed to offer to passengers to give up their seat and take a later flight. If they had continued to increase their offer, they likely would have had takers and some very satisfied customers who would become loyal United flyers. Instead they have multiple videos, social media (the internet is forever) and likely at least one lawsuit. Every decision-maker involved should be disciplined, if not terminated.

    • #21
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:35 am
    • Like5 likes
  22. Profile photo of KC Mulville Inactive

    You hire a guy for $300 to act drunk and sit in the section. Tell him to annoy everyone around him. Then, just when they’re about to punch his lights out … that’s when you make the offer to re-assign the tickets for a reasonable price. That, or you get a toddler to start crying.

    You’ll get plenty of takers.

    • #22
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:37 am
    • Like3 likes
  23. Profile photo of Kozak Member

    I’ve been bumped multiple times, despite booking many months in advance.

    When it happens, I always tell them, so you didn’t sell me an airline ticket, you sold me a lottery ticket..

    I also always have a copy of the rules for bumped passengers and make them live up to the letter.

    I spread my arms, take up as much counter space as I can and politely refuse to move until i’m satisfied….

    • #23
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:39 am
    • Like11 likes
  24. Profile photo of GroovinDrJarvis Coolidge

    I wonder if there’s some kind of arbitration clause in every ticket you buy from United that would somehow protect UA from a law suit. I predict some big out of court settlement for the passenger…

    • #24
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:43 am
    • Like2 likes
  25. Profile photo of Bryan G. Stephens Reagan

    Kozak (View Comment):
    I’ve been bumped multiple times, despite booking many months in advance.

    When it happens, I always tell them, so you didn’t sell me an airline ticket, you sold me a lottery ticket..

    I also always have a copy of the rules for bumped passengers and make them live up to the letter.

    I spread my arms, take up as much counter space as I can and politely refuse to move until i’m satisfied….

    That’s the problem. Their contract gives them all the power. A decent company (which rules out airlines and cable companies) would work hard to make it right. Instead, they lie, they won’t tell you your rights, and work as hard as possible to make you go away, with less money.

    • #25
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:43 am
    • Like2 likes
  26. Profile photo of Kevin Creighton Contributor

    With the benefit of hindsight, maybe United shouldn’t have used this movie clip as part of their employee training program.

    • #26
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:45 am
    • Like10 likes
  27. Profile photo of FS Contributor
    FS

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    United faced real-time pricing for the seats. They offered $400 then $800 and still had no takers. They should have bid more. They overbook to maximize revenue from each flight. But, on the occasions it backfires they should either keep bidding for the seats until they get takers or put the extra passengers on a private plane.

    This is exactly right. The airline should keep upping the amount until they get takers.

    • #27
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:53 am
    • Like5 likes
  28. Profile photo of Pilli Member

    Devil’s Advocate:

    1. The guy “said” he was a doctor and that he had patients to treat. Is that true? Could another doctor have treated his patients?
    2. Airlines are under some very strict rules regarding crew rest time. If crew were needed in Louisville, they have to be in Louisville well before they fly in order to meet rest requirements. I have been on flights that had to wait over an hour for a crew because of rest requirements. Their inbound flight the night before was weather delayed.
    3. Do pilot union rules allow a crew to be driven to another airport many hours away?
    4. Do Flight attendant union rules allow the crew to be driven to another airport many miles away?

    I hate flying these days. It’s a P.I.T.A. I dislike airlines and the way they are operated. I dislike the boorish attitudes of many passengers. This story illustrates why.

    • #28
    • April 10, 2017 at 11:55 am
    • Like3 likes
  29. Profile photo of Gumby Mark Thatcher

    Interesting business model most US airlines have; they hate their customers and their customers hate them.

    On the other hand, they’ve conditioned us well. We expect to be lied to and misled.

    • #29
    • April 10, 2017 at 12:04 pm
    • Like9 likes
  30. Profile photo of Paul Dougherty Member

    In a weird, anti-social way, I kind of like the way United handled this. Stop coddling the clientele. The customer is not always right. This isn’t a government agency owned by”the People”! Who’s airplane is it, anyway?

    (You can probably tell I don’t fly often)

    • #30
    • April 10, 2017 at 12:05 pm
    • Like5 likes
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8
  9. 9