United, Obamacare and Big Coercion

 

Flying home recently on a United black-eye red-eye to Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but reflect on how the parallels between the airline industry and Big Government go a long way to justifying Americans’ contempt for both. The former has for years been shoehorning ten seats into rows which previously had only eight, which is fair enough: that’s the free market in action. But to then charge a fee for the “extra legroom” made scarce as a result? That suggests a scorn for customers normally associated with the political class for its customers.

As evidence, consider how both parties to varying degrees cater to those who receive health insurance subsidies as a result of Obamacare while largely ignoring those who have lost their health insurance as a result of Obamacare. Seen in this context, the ordeal of passing TSA inspection is a kind of boot camp to harden soldier-flyers for the real deal.

The fee-based model now favored by airlines becomes increasingly indistinguishable from a racket: “Nice carry-on you’ve got there, it’d be a shame to lose it.” Some are asking why don’t airlines simply institute a bidding system in which those passengers willing to cough up the most money can avoid an ass kicking altogether. The reason why not is simple: because government regulations place a cap on the amount of money airlines may compensate passengers booted from their flights in order to accommodate employees of the friendly skies. Gee, I wonder who came up with that idea, regulators or the airline industry? (Google “regulation capture” and see if an image of a smiling airline lobbyist waving back at you doesn’t appear on your computer screen.)

As if attempting to reinforce the disconnect between the corporate and political worlds from the lives of everyday Americans, the initial statement issued by United CEO Eric Munoz managed to accomplish a rare two-fer: at once revealing contempt for his customers while illustrating corporate jargon’s ever-more tenuous relationship with plain English. It’s United’s policy, he explained, to “re-accommodate” passengers, which raises the question of who (outside the GOP consultant class) even thinks in those terms? How did the first draft of his statement read, that it’s United’s policy to send passengers to re-accommodation camps? Everything Munoz has said in response to the incident makes the Obamacare rollout look like the debut of the iPhone in comparison. He might as well have said “At United, you can keep your doctor”.

Having backtracked on the insinuation that none of this would have happened had the good doctor simply “tapped out”, Munoz is now transferring blame for United’s behavior toward its customers on what he calls “the system” which he says “failed” in this instance. You’d think this might be the beginning of a death spiral… In any event, Munoz knows a lot about “the system”, given that its the offspring of an unholy alliance between his industry and government regulators, designed to protect both from being inconvenienced by inconvenienced consumers.

Air travelers, like Trump voters, are no dummies: they know when they are objects of derision. As United continues to deal with the fallout from the appalling treatment of its customers, one can’t help but wonder how awkward it will be the next time one of its flight attendants must ask if there’s a doctor on the plane…

There are 19 comments.

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  1. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

    David Deeble: one can’t help but wonder how awkward it will be the next time one of its flight attendants must ask if there’s a doctor on the plane…

    Well said!

    • #1
  2. David Deeble Member
    David Deeble
    @DavidDeeble

    You know something’s up when the pilot comes on and asks if there’s a lawyer on the plane…

     

    • #2
  3. LesserSon of Barsham Member
    LesserSon of Barsham
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your pilot speaking. If you’ll please give your attention to the re-accommodating of the passenger in Seat 28A. United would like to remind you that the beatings will continue until we have four volunteers..”

    • #3
  4. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    World class closing paragraph.

    • #4
  5. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    Don’t know whether to laugh or cry – or both – Dave; thanks, and keep on keepin’ on…Have fun and make it fun, too. :-D

    • #5
  6. ST Inactive
    ST
    @SimonTemplar

    on the insinuation that none of this would have happened had the good doctor simply “tapped out”,

    Many gems and laughs (as usual).  Dude, if only you had a sense of humor.

    • #6
  7. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    • #7
  8. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    United Airlines: Board as a doctor; De-plane as a patient.

    For me, this is comment #666…seems appropriate ;)

    • #8
  9. Lily Bart Inactive
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

    Mike LaRoche (View Comment):

    Ok, that’s funny!

    But, if you want your women beat up, you’ll need to book on American.

    Image result for american airlines woman crying

    • #9
  10. David Deeble Member
    David Deeble
    @DavidDeeble

    Thanks for your comments, everybody: I really appreciate it. As you can see, it was a bad week for many. 

    • #10
  11. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa
    @RayKujawa

    How difficult was it for United to figure out the the Doctor’s wife was traveling with him on the same plane? That the airline was unaware or uncaring about separating the husband and wife makes a big difference to me. The major airlines apparently have been gaming the rules of the system and it has backfired on them. They ought not have been such sticklers for the written rules when they broke one of the unwritten rules of removing passengers after they have been seated. There isn’t a sense of fairness in their actions.

    And the other thing they seem blithely unaware of is the bad reputation of police in Chicago wrt abusing people. I can’t believe the Chicago aviation police and the regular city police are all that far apart. Super bad judgment on letting things escalate to bringing police in on an airplane on the ground that didn’t even have a finalized set of passenger for the flight.

    • #11
  12. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    I don’t fly a lot these days (did back in the day when you could smoke on a plane and you weren’t treated like cattle)

    But there’s been a couple times in the last 10 years where if someone had tried to remove me from my seat, it wouldn’t have been me with the bloody nose.

    People don’t fly cause they want to. They fly cause they have to.

    • #12
  13. David H Dennis Coolidge
    David H Dennis
    @DavidDennis

    Someone who made a closer read of the regulations than I learned that the actual government regulation was a minimum payment based on certain rules.  So, for instance, it goes from double to quadruple the fare under certain conditions.

    The closer read of the regulation shows that those are both minimums under different circumstances, while many people had read one as the minimum and the other the maximum.

    So yes, they can pay more.  And normally will, just not this time.

    Looks like Delta is the only traditional airline left that doesn’t really mess up its passengers.  I already preferred flying Delta because their terminal in Atlanta has some great restaurants, but now that choice looks better than ever.

    • #13
  14. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    Excellent piece, David.

    • #14
  15. Chris Gregerson Member
    Chris Gregerson
    @ChrisGregerson

    David H Dennis (View Comment):
     

    I already preferred flying Delta because their terminal in Atlanta has some great restaurants, 

    They need the great restaurants ’cause your flight will be delayed or cancelled whenever there’s a thunderstorm, which is about every afternoon.

     

     

    • #15
  16. David Deeble Member
    David Deeble
    @DavidDeeble

    Ray Kujawa (View Comment):
    How difficult was it for United to figure out the the Doctor’s wife was traveling with him on the same plane?

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve boarded a plane and asked the fellow in the seat behind me if we could swap seats so that his wife and I could sit together…

    • #16
  17. David Deeble Member
    David Deeble
    @DavidDeeble

    Randy Weivoda (View Comment):
    Excellent piece, David.

    Thank you, Randy.

    • #17
  18. David Deeble Member
    David Deeble
    @DavidDeeble

    • #18
  19. Ray Kujawa Coolidge
    Ray Kujawa
    @RayKujawa

    Ray Kujawa (View Comment):
    How difficult was it for United to figure out the the Doctor’s wife was traveling with him on the same plane? That the airline was unaware or uncaring about separating the husband and wife makes a big difference to me. The major airlines apparently have been gaming the rules of the system and it has backfired on them. They ought not have been such sticklers for the written rules when they broke one of the unwritten rules of removing passengers after they have been seated. There isn’t a sense of fairness in their actions.

    I want to amend this remark with a fact that wasn’t presented in the original stories, which neglected to mention that both Dr. Dao and his wife were selected for deboarding, and also that the doctor’s wife did voluntarily leave the plane before the doctor refused. My remarks above indicate that I was under the false impression that the airline had goofed in not selecting the doctor and his wife together for deboarding. This has left me confused until now I recall that the doctor was traveling and had patients to treat. This could provide sufficient moral justification for the doctor to object to being selected for deboarding. But it might depend on the urgency of the treatment, something which we will probably never know.

    • #19

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