Top 10 United Airlines Excuses

April 11, 2017
               Top 10 United Airlines excuses:

 

              1)  We had been told that he had farted on the airplane.

              2)  We had no idea that dragging a 69-year-old man down the aisle would look so bad on a cell phone video.

              3)  Mistakenly thought the man was an illegal immigrant.

              4)  We asked nicely.

              5)  What, you’ve never done this?

              6)  His luggage was returned to him in perfect condition.

              7)  He was told repeatedly not to use the bathroom in the first class cabin.

              8)  This is Chicago, man.  

              9)  It was nothing; you don’t even want to know what else is in the fine print.

              10)  But the pretzels on this flight were delicious.  

 
 

COMMENTS (61 Comments, most recent shown first)

MarisFan61
Settlement reached.
Terms secret.

A guess on the amount: $9 million.
I figured United would (1) be thrilled to get rid of this ASAP, and (2) they'd be thrilled at any figure that doesn't go into double digits.

No word (I don't think) on whether there's an additional suit against the police, which if so, might still be out there.

United also increased the possible compensation for passengers giving up their seat from $1300 to $10,000.
That's pretty good and it ought to take care of it almost all the time, but I'd say it's dumb and unnecessary to have any limit. Let there be no official limit, and let it be at the discretion of the personnel. If once in a while they have to pay mega-thousands to get what they need, that's just part of the cost of doing business.
3:16 PM Apr 27th
 
CharlesSaeger
bjames: There's a phrase for all of this: "security theater." By way of extra hassle, the government and airlines remind us to be afraid. Neither of those parties is interested in making things any easier.​
6:35 PM Apr 17th
 
bjames
The government tells you you are supposed to be at the airport two hours before your flight leaves. Am I the only one who thinks that it is massively inappropriate for our government to simply waste two hours out of our lives any time we are flying, because they are too lazy or too disorganized to take care of their business in a more appropriate time frame?

What the government SHOULD say is, If you get to the airport ten minutes before your flight leaves, you should be able to get on the seat. There is no reason this can't be done. You just need (1) adequate staffing of the ticket counters, (2) adequate staffing of TSA checkpoints, (3) less physical distance between gates and ticket counters, and (4) a few process re-designs to make boarding more efficient (such as boarding through multiple gates at the same time.)

We can't do this NOW, because we have created a boarding process that is massively inefficient. We can do it in the next generation, if we point the process in that direction. But instead, the government posts electronic billboards near the airport that say "Get to the airport two hours early, because we intend to waste two hours of your life for no good reason"--and people act as if this was normal and appropriate. It ISN'T appropriate. It's government running roughshod over the populace.
5:09 PM Apr 15th
 
Marc Schneider
Old Backstop,

That makes sense I guess. Thanks.
2:00 PM Apr 15th
 
OldBackstop
Marc, you can change last minute for a change fee....I think it is $200 on United. And if you miss a flight, I don't know if you are wiped out on the entire cost. If you buy flight insurance, and your cousin's kid Danielle in Fort Myer's will say you had an ear infection, the insurance kicks in.

I mean...I guess.


5:38 PM Apr 14th
 
Marc Schneider
I would not have resisted if security came to take me off the plane. I would, however, have yelled and made it clear I would sue. It's not clear to me why airlines overbook because, once the person pays for the seat, the airline has the revenue regardless of whether the person is actually on board. Just like if a fan who paid for a ticket doesn't show up for the game (but even less reason because the team gets additional revenue usually from the fan buying concessions.) I guess there must be a reason; I can't imagine that flying with fewer people on board increases the costs-seems like it would reduce the amount of fuel used. Does it have something to do with pricing?
2:30 PM Apr 14th
 
evanecurb
I hate flying. I have no fear of flying, just complete and utter contempt for the process involved. I have to travel a lot for work. I have a 400 mile rule - if the trip is less than 400 miles (i.e. 6 hours) one way, I'll drive or take the train. It's not a matter of expense - my employer is paying for the trip either way. It's the hassles and uncertainties involved with flying vs. the independence and reliability of driving.
11:02 AM Apr 14th
 
MichaelPat
More on the legal issue of United's "right" to evict a seated, properly boarded passenger...

www.natlawreview.com/article/united-airlines-dr-dao-and-contract-carriage

Two things:

1. Is this why the United CEO originally referred to Dr. Dao as "disruptive and belligerent"? United would have the right to remove a passenger behaving that way.


2. How long will it be before the Contract of Carriage gets amended to allow airlines do whatever the hell they want with properly boarded and seated passengers? Over/under anyone?
10:31 AM Apr 14th
 
evanecurb
UAL stock price dropped 4% the day of the debacle. Market cap is $22.6 billion. 4% of $22.6 billion is.....a lot of money. almost a billion dollars.
9:04 AM Apr 14th
 
OldBackstop
Michael, I confess you make a good point, and it isn't like Dao precipitated the whole mess by throwing a punch.

I would hope that the same result could be achieved by offended passengers banding together with some legal help.

I've had frustrating experiences with United myself. Last year, on a flight to Florida the flight attendant ibsisted that a passenger with a small dog tuck it down under the seat. That dog literally barked for three hours. The young girl next to me videotaped it and complained to United, to no avail (she contacted me). However, I did sympathize that United was required to book dogs and I'm sure they have broken lose and caused problems.
6:29 AM Apr 14th
 
MichaelPat
An even better analysis of the legal situation is here....

www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/united-passenger-removal-reporting-management-fail.html
10:57 PM Apr 13th
 
MichaelPat
"United's booking policies and gate decisions and ordering security personnel onto the plane for removal of the guy...indefensible. Changing that will be a victory for all of us."

But if Dr. Dao had gotten up and left the plane with security, there would be no victory for all of us.

United would have been rewarded for its use of security forces... and would have been ever more likely to use security again. Why offer an $800 voucher if all you have to offer is $300... along with the threat of calling security?

I believe United CEO Munoz changed his tune on Tuesday primarily because United's legal team had come to realize they had no legal right to even try to take Dr. Dao off that flight. (See www.newsweek.com/why-united-were-legally-wrong-deplane-dr-dao-583535)

Airlines can deny boarding when they need seats, either for their own crews or because of overbooking, but once a paying passenger has been granted boarding, then the Contract of Carriage specifies when a passenger can be removed - and the airline needing the seat is not listed as a reason for removing a passenger who has been granted boarding.

When CEO Munoz said United will never again call security to remove a passenger who has been permitted to board because they need the seat, he isn't making a concession. He is saying United will obey the law.

(At least until the airlines can get the law changed...)


10:53 PM Apr 13th
 
Fireball Wenz
My 18 year old daughter was taken off a plane they overbooked. She was flying to college after her Christmas break, flying alone for the first time, and has anxiety issues. They took her off after a middle-aged businessman balked. We had purchased the ticket months in advance. She was alone in a strange city, with no credit card.

They tried to do it to her again on her next trip until I told the airline rep (via phone) that I would sue the crap out of them for discriminating against her on the basis of her sex and age.

Overbooking your flight should be an illegal practice. I don't know how they ID who they are removing if they are still allowed to do it, but I would suggest it be by date of ticket purchase
3:08 PM Apr 13th
 
OldBackstop
I just watched some of Dao's attorney's press conference.

United is really screwed. He says that Dao suffered a severe concussion, lost two front teeth, a broken nose, and doesn't remember running back on the plane.

He nicely and savvily dodged questions regarding Dao's past drug and behavior issues and anger management, saying it was remote in time and legally irrelevant in a jury trial.

I wrote out a longer post and lost it, so you are spared that :-). My issue here is that nobody should ever physically resist credentialed security personnel, including cops on the street, and if they do risk physical injury. I don't want to travel with a bunch of empowered angry people looking to pick fights. I believe one of the posters here who advocated physically resisting also referred to it as a lottery winning situation. Next time a passenger is asked to leave and digs in he might be a 300 lb professional wrestler, or a drunk or crazy guy who is a threat to other passengers, or shoebomber. And empowering them to where they win the right to take-off is a problem.

United's booking policies and gate decisions and ordering security personnel onto the plane for removal of the guy...indefensible. Changing that will be a victory for all of us.

Nobody here apparently teases that out as their issue, which is fine, I invoke the lone wolf clause in my BJOL contract all the time :-)

1:18 PM Apr 13th
 
MidnighttheCat
First of all, I agree with Bill James on the whole issue of the violence used against a passenger, regardless of the legal contracts involving the airline's "rights".

It now turns out it was not overbooked, that four United staff showed up after boarding at the gate and wanted seats. This makes it worse of course, of course, on the part of the company.

But...even IF the flight were overbooked, on what basis are the people who apparently showed up or got in line last getting priority over those other passengers who also have tickets who were first in line and are already in their assigned seats on the plane? Why wouldn't the offer go to those at the gate, not those on the plane? Since when is being last on line what makes you win?

Of course, we know that the reason that this entirely unlikely and illogical scenario did not happen is because the flight was not really overbooked. We decided to take you out of your paid seat for our own convenience and will use violence to enforce that. Nice customer service policy.

As to those who want to auction everything all the time in a "free" market - as usual the transaction costs are forgotten - it takes too much time to have to constantly bid for everything (who will give me $4.50 for this hamburger I just cooked for the guy who ordered it for $4 here at the diner?). And that is time that is not paid for. No fun at all.
9:15 AM Apr 13th
 
OldBackstop
I dunno, Maris, he acted more like a Hillary mourner...lol.

Anyway....as Bill alluded to in his new article, it's more complex than the initial headlines. Comping random passengers....actually not random, apparently most airlines factor in connections, etc. And I'm sure it is meant to be done before boarding.

Anyway comping chosen passengers may be a good enough bump policy 9,999 times out of 10,000, But policies and laws have to change for unforeseen circumstances and.....nutjobs.

What happens with airlines is there is a cascade effect when a flight is disrupted, say for mechanical or weather. I dunno what happened here, but then you have to scramble crews around.


10:46 PM Apr 12th
 
MarisFan61
MelHubbell: You've got me dying laughing.

You trumped OBS's pretty funny thing.

BTW, the fact that some passengers are nutjobs is an extra reason for airlines and police to take extra care in how they handle crises, not a defense for their handling them badly.
10:29 PM Apr 12th
 
sansho1
Damn, OldBackstop, you're going full black teenager on this guy.
9:59 PM Apr 12th
 
MelHubbell
Actually Dr Dao was The Donald's advisor on medicare reform ...
9:38 PM Apr 12th
 
OldBackstop
So, not that there is anything wrong with this, but Dao was the recipient of many complaints at his work and was sent to counseling for disruptive and angry outbursts. He lost his medical license and was sentenced to five years probation for trading prescription drugs for gay sex at a local motel.

According to tonight's Rasmussen report, he is currently third in the polling for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

8:43 PM Apr 12th
 
OldBackstop
Okay.....I'm focusing on the decisions made once the "cops" showed up.

At that point....I sort of go into the speech I would like to give Black Lives Matter:

"Okay, it is mistaken identity. It is some jerk that fingered you as a criminal when you aren't. It's a frat brother's pramk. It's....hell, let's say its pure prejudice."

"Fine, we are going to sort all that out. You are the wronged party. But when the cops show up and say get on the ground, or put your hands up, that's what you do. You don't grab the seat and say drag me out, and you don't turn and run, and you don't ignore him and scream."


4:49 PM Apr 12th
 
Steven Goldleaf
I'd like to question one of my own assumptions, which was that the airline should have kept raising the offer until someone (4 someones) took it. Is it actually true that someone who decided "Nah, $800 isn't worth my giving up my seat on this plane" going to do it when it reaches $1000? Or $5000? IOW if United keeps raising their bid, is it going to have the desired effect eventually, or is "eventually" going to be in the yearly-salary range? I have no idea, outside of "What would I do?" (which is to cave as soon as the money approached $1000) if it's even mathematically possible that you could get a whole planeload of passengers thinking, "I don't care what money they offer, I must get on this flight."
4:39 PM Apr 12th
 
MelHubbell
"a passenger openly defying security directives"

->Get off this flight, we want to give the seat you paid for to one of our employees<-

is a "security directive"?
3:26 PM Apr 12th
 
bjames

But....what do you think they should have done? Deplane? Take off with the precedent of a passenger openly defying security directives?


There are a million things that could be done or could have been done.

1) Resolve issues about who is going to be on the plane BEFORE you put people on the plane, not AFTER.

2) Don't prioritize your employees rights above your customers.

3) Don't sell tickets for seats that aren't available.

4) Don't put stuff in the fine print in selling a ticket that you think gives you the right to beat up your customers if necessary. Believe me, NOTHING YOU PUT IN THE FINE PRINT OF A CONTRACT GIVES YOU A LEGAL RIGHT TO BEAT UP YOUR CUSTOMER. That is just not the way the world works.

In fact, stop putting silly shit in the fine print of your contract, period. That would be good.
3:22 PM Apr 12th
 
OldBackstop
Some new video came out of Dao talking to security before it got physical. He basically keeps repeating that he wasn't leaving, was staying there, and said "You can drag me out."

Bill, your point is well taken. I think in a situation like this...say a sit in blocking traffic, cops/security surround and lift the guy out.

Of course, in the tight quarters that wasn't possible. I don't think security meant to bang his head.

But....what do you think they should have done? Deplane? Take off with the precedent of a passenger openly defying security directives?
2:33 PM Apr 12th
 
bjames

5. This will make a lot of people unhappy, including Bill, but our friendship has survived worse. We have here a situation comparable to Judge Gorsuch and the truck driver. (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about.) The airline either had the legal right to remove passengers under the terms of the ticket contract, or they didn't. If they have that right and a passenger resists they presumably have the right to enforce it by force.


EVEN IF the airline has that right and a passenger resists--which is questionable both legally and morally, but let's assume that is true--it is STILL excessive use of police force. EVEN THE POLICE cannot do this to someone who is not doing anything other than resisting. If I am refusing a police order but not endangering anyone and have not harmed anyone, the police cannot physically harm ME in the process of forcing me to comply. If I take a swing at the policeman, that's different. But if I don't take a swing at the policeman, then he CANNOT jerk me physically out of my seat and drag me down the aisle--even if he believes I am in violation of the law. That's why the Airport cop in charge has been suspended, I think.
2:18 PM Apr 12th
 
RangeFactor
When you book your flight, you key in a dollar amount that is a binding offer to relinquish your seat in the event of an overbooking.

Personally I don't want the inconvenience of having to reschedule my flight and rearrange my upcoming appointments, so I'd put in some outrageous amount, like $1,000,000.00 [OK, $25,000.00; I'm a cheap SOB]. Someone else might put in $800.00; others will put in $1,000,000,000.00. If they have to eject someone from the plane, they'd start off with the usual auction procedure, but when they reach the amount of the lowest offer, that passenger would have a contractual obligation to accept that amount, and deplane.

Hey, United, I just solved your PR problem. You're welcome
1:04 PM Apr 12th
 
OldBackstop
There is a "see the world" attraction to being a flight attendant, and you used to get all sorts of family travel deals. I've dated like three former stews in recent years, and they all spoke fondly of it. It seems like I date stews, teachers and former pharma reps and escorts.
12:52 PM Apr 12th
 
Marc Schneider
The airlines used to be more profitable because they were more regulated and did not face competition and fares were also regulated. Deregulation has, in general, made airline travel far less expensive. However, in recent years, consolidation of the industry, caused by the Department of Justice allowing many airline mergers has made the industry more profitable and led to higher prices. There was a time when the airlines were really struggling but not so much now. And, frankly, that's part of a competitive business. As it is, the airlines still have monopoly routes. No doubt, the airlines have gone through difficult times and the high fuel prices of a fuel years ago certainly made it more difficult. But I don't feel too sorry for them now. Air travel has become increasingly unpleasant; obviously, a lot of that is a result of 9/11 and the resultant increased security (TSA is a nightmare), but some of it is the airlines' search for additional revenue. I understand why they do it, but it has made airline travel more expensive and burdensome. Frankly, I feel very sorry for flight attendants and gate agents, who always bear the brunt of angry passengers complaining about issues that the employees can do nothing about. You get on a packed plane with people struggling to find some place to stow their luggage (because so many airlines now charge for luggage) and the poor flight attendants are having to scramble around. It just seems like a terrible job to me.
12:06 PM Apr 12th
 
OldBackstop

Okay, so….

1. Really, we are jeopardizing our relationship with Bill be disagreeing? He started with a joke, I don’t think he is Masada on this. ??

2. It is a good question about whether this was vouchers or cash. From what I can see at a quick look on the intrathing, you can negotiate cash in some instances with some airlines (that was from a 2015 frequent flyer blog). There also is sort of a secondary market for travel vouchers, so some seem to be transferrable, but you would not get the full amount. There are also people on some sites bitching about the vouchers having restrictions similar to using frequent flyer miles. However, just to clarify if anyone doesn’t understand, I am pretty sure these are on top of you getting your flight on the next available plane and a hotel credit and some expenses if necessary, even meals.

3. Obviously, there are situations where I really wouldn’t want to get off the plane…if I was heading to a wedding or important business or beating a blizzard in or etc. etc., but….

4. I would make my case, and if three security guys showed up, I would get up and silently leave with a pissed off look and a plan for media and legal revenge. I mean….Steve is up for some national press for protesting against The Man and getting dragged out….I can’t see myself chaining myself to the seat under any circumstances. To each his own. I’d be mortified. I can’t see Steve screaming at the top of his lungs and later breaking free and getting back on the plane running up and down the aisles.

5. Wait….

6. Actually I can totally see that.

7. There should never, ever be a situation where the airline couldn’t/wouldn’t shouldn’t just bid up the offer until there are takers. If you look online, there is a closet industry in people who angle how to get into overbooking situations for the deals. Go up in $200 increments and wait five minutes in between. When I was growing up my parents had two places in the Virgin Islands, and we took these bump deals all the time. My dad had it down to a science….booking the always crowded direct flight back to New York, being at the gate early to get on the volunteer list, stalling the rebook so we’d get two more days when he had the room in his work schedule, and submitting robust expense bills. We did it at least a dozen times.

8. I briefly did PR for Continental, which merged into United and I also represented a travel agency organization, before that industry went buggy whip. God bless anyone who wants to run an airline, because it is nothing but a mountain of stress….people bitch about everything without appreciating that you are flying them across country in their magic machine for the cost of a visit to the vet (which jumps to mind today.)

9. Since everyone in the US today seems to be confused about why airline travel sucks compared to what it used to, it’s because it used to be a lot more profitable. In the 80s, or before whenever it was that frequent flyer programs started years ago, the flight would be paid for by the business execs and high rollers shelling out the rack rate price of a first class seat. Now, we all go on Expedia and take the flight that is 30 cents less. First class is full of FF points and upgrades, not people paying $2,400. The business is a nightmare…. you’ve got unions, security, variable fuel costs and god forbid you have a plane go down. If you can think of a better business model to fly people to Florida for $240, you have a career opportunity, because every airline ends up broke.

10. The story that should be written about is how the guy somehow got BACK on the plane and ran up and down the aisle. He was already obviously agitated…he could have grabbed a pen and held it to someone’s neck and demanded you take off. Why am I taking my damn shoes off at security if a guy flipping out can just soldier his way right back onto the plane??

I don’t know the sequence of events that led to them having to get four people to Kentucky, but undoubtedly, they were looking at cancelling or delaying a flight and screwing up a few hundred people’s lives, plus causing a ripple effect in their schedule for days. It would be nice if everyone was okay with paying another $150 a ticket so they could have spare planes and extra flight screws scattered around the country. But you aren’t. It’s your fault.

After all that…..bottomline…they had a flawed process…nobody should ever be removed from a plane except for behavior. Someone can always be bribed.

11:48 AM Apr 12th
 
QimingZou
Steven Goldleaf

"I agree with Old Backstop to this extent; if security says get off, GET OFF. Argue later."

If he got off, there is no arguing, he would no longer be a problem, and no one hears from or give 2 cents about him and airline does what airline does (like people already do or the other 3 guys they kicked off). He on the other hand most likely will get a nice settlement.​
9:53 AM Apr 12th
 
QimingZou
5. This will make a lot of people unhappy, including Bill, but our friendship has survived worse. We have here a situation comparable to Judge Gorsuch and the truck driver. (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about.) The airline either had the legal right to remove passengers under the terms of the ticket contract, or they didn't. If they have that right and a passenger resists they presumably have the right to enforce it by force. Now that was awfully stupid, but if they can't make people get off, then they don't really have the right to demand the seat. Please understand, I am not saying I support them having that right. I don't think they should be able to take people's seats away. But they do. In the same way, Gorsuch wasn't arguing that the truck driver did something wrong to leave his truck and he wasn't endorsing the decision to fire him, he was just saying it was a decision the company was entitled to make.

They are probably within their rights legally, but that offers no protection from customer reaction. Same as freedom of speech, people are free to say dumb things and others are free to call them out on it.
9:47 AM Apr 12th
 
Steven Goldleaf
It would be kind of cool, actually, like winning the lottery, if they did adopt a policy of "we'll keep bidding until someone takes us up on it." I've occasionally been on flights where it really didn't matter when I got to my destination. (No one waiting to pick me up, no appointments for the next day, plenty of work to do in my carryon, etc.) It would have been cool to be thinking "Hell, if they offer me $500, I'll go for it" and turn down the offers for $300, and 400 (or whatever--I'm a whore, but with flexible pricing.) Every so often, you'd get a planeful of people who HAVE TO make this flight, and the bidding would go through the roof, and it would be a win-win-win-win. Beyond a point, I'm going to take the money and explain to the person I have an appointment with that something came up, sorry, let's reschedule. We're not ALL heart surgeons with a patient waiting on the operating table.
9:44 AM Apr 12th
 
steve161
David is probably right about the airlines' expectations when they issue vouchers. I was handed one last year, worth $300. I was sitting on a flight from San Jose to Denver, expecting to fly on to St Louis, when they called my name and told me the connecting flight was cancelled. I went peacefully: what would be the point of being in Denver without a connection? So they gave me a voucher and put me on a flight to Minneapolis that connected to St Louis, at a total cost of about five hours.

The voucher stated explicitly that it cannot be redeemed through a travel agent, but only online (free of charge) or on the phone (for a 'small' booking fee). So when I planned this year's trip with my agent, I left a hole for a round trip between Chicago and St Louis, which I then tried to book online. Worked fine, except there was no option to apply the voucher. If I entered through the interface that started with recognizing the voucher, all of a sudden there were no flights available.

So I called United (an 800 number is not toll-free from Germany to the US), spoke to a very pleasant young woman with a light unidentifiable accent, and the booking was made, the voucher applied and the fee waived. A customer with less perseverance would have been left shredding the voucher and sprinkling it onto his cereal, but after a while it became a matter of principle.
9:21 AM Apr 12th
 
MarisFan61
Yes.

You guys who say "just get off": Have you never been on a flight that you felt you HAD TO keep; maybe, to boot, a flight that you had to bust your ass to make, with all kinds of sacrifice and inconvenience and whatnot to your schedule?

Some of y'all are sounding like you've only taken flights that it didn't matter if you were on them or not, and your time belonged to the airline.
9:15 AM Apr 12th
 
Steven Goldleaf
If security says get off, and you get off, you've lost the argument. The only leverage you have is your ass in that seat.
8:46 AM Apr 12th
 
Marc Schneider
I think the only reason the airlines offer anything for overbookings (or similar situations) is that they are required by federal law. If it was up to the airlines, they would just kick people off the flight. Of course, that doesn't necessarily make good business sense, but an airline may be essentially a monopolist on a given route. There just aren't that many options; it's not as if you can say, I'll never fly United Airlines again. You may not have a choice.

I'm sure United will suffer some from this incident in the short run-and, I'm sure they will change their policies-but I would bet they don't lose much business.

I agree with some of the suggestions here that the airline should simply offer as much as they need to, including cash, if they want someone off the flight. I'm sure if they offered $5000 cash or a round trip ticket anywhere, someone would take it. If the airline loses money, tough.

I agree with Old Backstop to this extent; if security says get off, GET OFF. Argue later.
8:39 AM Apr 12th
 
MarisFan61
Big difference between the Gorsuch thing and this: Businesses don't (can't) just go by what's legally defensible; they can't survive that way. They have to take into account things like morality and what makes people reasonably happy, and perhaps most of all, what makes them unhappy enough to file and win huge lawsuits.
7:57 AM Apr 12th
 
KaiserD2
I see a lot of different questions here.

1. A lot of people are talking about the airline offering $800. I think that is wrong. They didn't offer any cash. The offered $800 credit on future flights. In the same way, my wife and I were offered some amazon.com credits after we ran into something similar (see below.) I'm sure the reason the airlines do it this way is that most of those credits never get used.

2. Even if they were offering cash, which they weren't, how many sane people would take a whole day out of their life just to get it? I wouldn't.

3. The airlines are getting away with murder in a lot of ways over issues like this. Two years ago my wife was bumped off our flight after a wedding because an error in her reservation, which had been discovered in the first half of the flight, was still there. That was Delta's fault. We were diverted to a line to fix it. The line was enormous and moved very slowly. I spoke to several people in the line. They tended to be families in which ONE person's boarding pass had been denied for no apparent reason. As a result, they were going to miss their flight (my wife missed ours) and have to rebook. I would bet $1000 that this was a solution to the overbooking problem.
Last summer I was delighted to book a very cheap round trip flight to Miami from Boston for SABR. But coming back, the flight was canceled on the eve of departure and I had to return via two different flights, arriving many hours later. Again I would bet that when the computer told them there was space on shorter flights to fit us all into, they just canceled the nonstop.

4. This flight--the United one--does NOT seem to have been overbooked. The airline just wanted seats for their personnel.

5. This will make a lot of people unhappy, including Bill, but our friendship has survived worse. We have here a situation comparable to Judge Gorsuch and the truck driver. (Google it if you don't know what I'm talking about.) The airline either had the legal right to remove passengers under the terms of the ticket contract, or they didn't. If they have that right and a passenger resists they presumably have the right to enforce it by force. Now that was awfully stupid, but if they can't make people get off, then they don't really have the right to demand the seat. Please understand, I am not saying I support them having that right. I don't think they should be able to take people's seats away. But they do. In the same way, Gorsuch wasn't arguing that the truck driver did something wrong to leave his truck and he wasn't endorsing the decision to fire him, he was just saying it was a decision the company was entitled to make.

DK
7:49 AM Apr 12th
 
MarisFan61
OldBackstop: Your personal examples are flucking up your logic on this.

Those examples having nothing whatsoever, at all, to do with a situation where the airline is asking a favor from passengers and they aren't able or don't wish to give it. All indication is that this would indeed have been completely "peaceable" if the airline had not decided to try to force a guy off the plane who simply needed or wished to keep the seat he had bought and in which he was seated for his flight.

There was some LIMIT on how much an airline could offer?

That's simply their own misunderstanding (I'd say) of the business model of their system. If their system involves overbooking (in order to maximize passenger numbers) and/or sometimes needing the get seated customers off the plane for their employees, that means they might sometimes have to take a loss on a flight, for the sake of carrying on their business and making money in the aggregate. You simply offer whatever it takes; if you lose money on the occasional flight, even a lot of money, that's negligible in the big picture.

If an airline were to find that they'd be losing money on flights too often for their business model to work well enough, they'd just need to look at some different policy decisions on overbooking and/or flying their employees.
7:43 AM Apr 12th
 
MichaelPat
And by auctions, I mean free and open auctions... where everyone understands the terms.

And when the airline chooses to offer flight vouchers, they should be required to be unlimited. i.e., same as cash.
7:19 AM Apr 12th
 
MichaelPat
Why should an airline have the right to remove a passenger simply because it wants the seat?

If the airline wants a seat, it should be required to buy it like anyone else, except in the most narrow of circumstances. (Say, having to switch to a smaller plane for mechanical reasons. Even then, there should be generous compensation rules for passengers.) Basic free market economics.

If airlines were required to hold auctions when they needed to buy seats on planes, this nonsense of bumping paying passengers would be greatly reduced.

If passengers competed in free auctions for the right to sell their seats - if airlines had to pay the real costs of bumping ticket-holders - then they would do it far less frequently.
7:16 AM Apr 12th
 
OldBackstop
Maybe born of personal experience, I don't have much sympathy for people acting out on flights, First, in 1996, I was airborne coming into Newark when Flight 800 blew up departing New York, thought at the time to be from a missile.

When my father died two weeks after 9-11, I was in the terminal from which Flight 93 had departed when someone boarding my plane objected to being searched, yelling he was being "blacklisted." (he was an older black guy) Four heavily-armed soldiers in full combat regalia dogtrotted down and walked him out, and NO ONE had a lick of sympathy for the idiot.

The next month I was on the tarmac in Las Vegas, bound for Newark, when Flight 587 when down in Queens. We sat for many hours until they cleared incoming traffic, and it was a very nervous flight.

United certainly should have kept raising the bidding up on the bribe -- just last month I was offered $1200 to give up a United seat from Fort Myers to Newark, and I have heard they can go up to $1300 and change in normal operations policy. At some point a guy would take the free night in Chicago...I'm sure United now wishes they spent $30 mil to open a seat, with all the damage from this.

The airport security was heavy-handed (they weren't United employees). I'm sure 99 times out of 100 the passenger will exit peaceably. It was a bad cascade of events all around....they shouldn't have laid hands on him. Once you are at that point, do you complete the flight with an openly defiant passenger who refused to follow the directions of security? I don't know. There is a lot going on in the world this month.

Flying is a pain in the ass as it is, I hope we didn't create a new climate of open passenger rebellion.
4:43 AM Apr 12th
 
mauimike
"If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever." George Orwell.







11:55 PM Apr 11th
 
guidedogjapan
Since 9/11, UA ground staff has become far less likely to brook any kind of disagreement. When my wife objected to our being split up on our flight from LAX to Tokyo, their response was: "You need to stop talking about this because we are calling security and you won't be on the plane."
11:28 PM Apr 11th
 
OldBackstop
Oh well, good clean fun. :-) Let's hope for a week where this is the biggest story.


9:40 PM Apr 11th
 
bjames
I think they did deserve it. Let's say that the guy is a ditch digger who forgets to blow his nose; doesn't matter. You don't do this. It's not relevant whether he's a nut job or not. You don't do this. Airlines are so routinely abusive to their customers that their customers mostly hate them--so when something like this happens, they've got it coming in spades, if you asked me.
7:34 PM Apr 11th
 
OldBackstop
It's all fun but....seriously, the guy seems to be half a bubble off. In America today, they tell you to get off the commercial jetliner....take the argument outside.

And those guys weren't United employees. You can't assume that when you call security to have someone removed they are going to go '68 Abbie Hoffman.

United deserved a ton of crap for the situation....but they didn't deserve the 10,000 ton story of the year.
7:22 PM Apr 11th
 
ventboys
Way to blame the victim there, Backstop. Your people will be proud.
7:06 PM Apr 11th
 
OldBackstop
..hmmm....auto correct changes nutjob to button. How banana.
5:59 PM Apr 11th
 
OldBackstop
And, on queue, the other shoe drops and he is a button. Like....that last piece of video didn't give that away....
4:26 PM Apr 11th
 
BobGill
I think everybody's missing the point. Look at this from the point of view of all the other passengers. They got to see a floor show at no extra charge -- and as we all know, the good of the many outweighs the good of the one. Case closed.
4:22 PM Apr 11th
 
ventboys
"Fly the surly skies ... "
4:16 PM Apr 11th
 
Brian
#11 - We HAD to get our employees on the plane. They were rushing to a training on improving customer relations...
3:57 PM Apr 11th
 
evanecurb

1. There's no friggin' way we're going over $800. I mean, c'mon, man. You could get two tickets to a Cubs game for that.
2. It's a 300 mile drive from Chicago to Louisville. We can't ask our employees to endure something as horrible as that. I mean, have you SEEN the Indiana landscape this time of year? The horror, the horror...
3. Speaking of Apocalypse Now, we're pretty sure the guy was VC at one time. 69 years old, plus look at how hard he fought.....
4. No, there are absolutely no other flights on any airlines from Chicago to Louisville tonight. None. At least we didn't think there were.....
5. It's much more important that our employees be on time for work tomorrow in Louisville than some Schmo who works some cake job in a hospital there.
6. Excuses? We don't need no stinkin' excuses!
7. Does that guy own this airplane? I don't THINK so! We OWN THE AIRPLANE, and we'll decide who flies and who doesn't!
8. Truth is, the United Terminal at O'Hare is so big, we were hoping no one would notice one tiny little incident on one insignificant flight.
9. He was in Boarding Group 5. He should be happy we didn't kill him. It clearly says on the back of all Group 5 tickets: UAL reserves the right....
10. Why are these lists always ten? What if we only have 9? Or 11? What then?

2:21 PM Apr 11th
 
OldBackstop
lol.....


10. We clearly said turn off all goddamn electronic devices.

9. Thought he was Jong-Un of the Pyongyang Jong-Uns.

8. The woman next to him complained that he was in the full upright and locked position.

7. We technically own all that cellphone video, strong letter to follow.

6. Reallllly needed a doctor at a nearby gate with a similar situation.

5. These physical removals occur on less than 8% of our 12 million annual flights.

4. Customers all look alike.

3. His passport wasn’t stamped “Little Bitch”

2. The safe word was banana.

And, the number one response….

1. C'mon, $800 is more than we make on a flight to Kentucky !!




1:49 PM Apr 11th
 
mrbryan
It seems that the easy solution to this is to inform passengers of exactly what they are entitled to for being removed from the flight. If people knew that they would get $1300 cash plus a refund (or being put on the next flight), it would seriously discourage the airlines from playing games like this. Not to say that this incident wasn't discouraging enough...
12:59 PM Apr 11th
 
bjames
Yeah, they really re-accommodated the shit out of him.
11:05 AM Apr 11th
 
MarisFan61
I don't think I've ever seen as much total unanimity of public opinion as on this thing.

My first thought, before I absorbed things like what it must have been like for the guy:
Why the **** didn't they just keep upping the offer for people to take a later flight till they got enough takers? As I understand, they 'only' got up to $800. That's a lot, but heck, $1000 or $1500 x whatever number of people they needed to get off can't be a dent in anything for them. It's beyond unbelievable they preferred this.

Second thought: wtf about everything about it.

BTW, this is being misreported in a lot of places as an "overbooking." Maybe some overbooking was part of it, but the real thing was that they wanted 4 seats as a last-minute thing (for some reason) for 4 of their employees.

I never would have thought that once you're in your seat, you can be taken off. I don't think anyone else did either.

Only good thing about this, besides that great support that the poor guy is getting and the likelihood that he'll get (I'd guess) millions in a quick settlement: the hilarious absurdity of the company's use of the term "re-accommodate."

(“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers....")
10:56 AM Apr 11th
 
Steven Goldleaf
11) We offered those damned passengers $800 and a hotel room to take a later flight, but no! None of them would take us up, and the next offer after "$800 and a free hotel room" is "We'll beat the mucus out of you and drag your dumb ass out of the plane." This happens to be true.

I woulda gone to $850, myself, but that's just the kind of person I am.
10:51 AM Apr 11th
 
MikeChary
He was Asian, so we thought he must know Kung Fu, wait, that makes us look bad because it's racist. Never mind.
10:34 AM Apr 11th
 
 
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