We live in a tumultuous world, with a lot going on around us. There’s a lot that we can’t do much about. But I’ve always felt that corporate douchebaggery and abuse of power need to be called out whenever it happens.
- United Airlines flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. (That practice in itself is worthy of a lot of discussion, but it’s standard operating procedure in the airlines and hotel world.)
- Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday.
- Passengers were allowed to board the flight. (Notice: you’ve paid for your ticket, and you have your butt in a seat.)
- Passengers were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. (United feels that deadheading employees are more important than paid passengers.)
- Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats.
- The offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.
- A manager came aboard the plane and said a computer would select four people to be taken off the flight. (“The Reaping.”)
- One couple volunteered as tribute and left the plane.
- The man in the video was confronted. He became “very upset” and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning.
- The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly, and the man said he was calling his lawyer.
- One security official came and spoke with him, and then another security officer came when he still refused. Then, she said, a third security official came on the plane and threw the passenger against the armrest before dragging him out of the plane.
So here’s an elderly Asian doctor who needs to see his patients in the morning, who has a confirmed, paid ticket on a United Airlines flight, and because UA overbooked and wants their employees to have free seats, three armed thugs come on board and knock the old man out before dragging him, bloodied, off the plane, because he wouldn’t surrender his rights.
Great work, United. This beats breaking guitars six ways from breakfast.
This is what should have happened:
- United doesn’t overbook their flights (Not likely, it’s common travel practice.)
- United continues to bump the incentive – $1,000, $1,200, and free hotel, etc. etc. – until enough people take the offer. It would have happened quite soon, problem solved.
Here’s what I’m hoping happens:
- The physician in question does indeed get hold of a high-powered legal firm and sues the company for enough money to buy the entire European Union, plus Canada.
- United’s stock ends up in the Mariana Trench because nobody ever flies with them again.
- The three armed thugs (security personnel, cops, whatever) are fired and end up spending the rest of their days sweeping up after horses in Texas rodeos.
Here’s what’s likely to happen:
- Some sort of settlement, and the affair quietly fades away.
- United continues to abuse passengers because, after all, most of us are very comfortable and there will be a Starbucks to go to at our destination. (Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people continue to protest in Serbia and Ecuador and around the world because they are tired of government corruption.)
- “Proper procedure was followed.”
Disclaimer: I wasn’t there. I didn’t see the event. There are always more facts to any story than are being reported. But regardless, this looks really bad at first blush. If United’s corporate leadership were any sort of humans, they’d be filling their britches and entering DEFCON-5 damage control mode, but I sincerely doubt they’ll lose a minutes sleep over the event.
Don’t fly United. This is really sad in a lot of ways, because for the longest time United was the best of the best in airlines in the USA, and I have a long history of flying with them since the 50s.
The Old Wolf has spoken.