Fly the UnFriendly Skies – United Drags Passenger Off Plane
After a rather terrible PR coverage a few weeks ago, United went ahead and screwed up even more. News broke today that a passenger was forcibly removed from an overbooked flight causing outrage among the millions who have seen the videos.
The issue came up after the airline, which is in the business of overselling their seats in hopes that they wouldn’t incur in any losses in case of last minute cancellations, found themselves in need of 4 seats to position four crew-members to cover a different flight. As is standard, they offered $400 in vouchers for future flights, and none of the passengers agreed. As they really needed the volunteers, they decided to double their offer in hopes that some opportunistic passenger would accept.
Two passengers did, but they still needed two more seats, and instead of upping their offer to incentivize travelers to ditch their plans, they decided to opt for what is known as being involuntarily denied boarding.
Except… the passenger was already onboard, and by involuntarily denied boarding we mean three policemen beat him, apparently left him unconscious for a while and literally dragged him through the aisle to physically remove him from the aircraft. After he was removed, all passengers were deplaned so that officials could “tidy up” the plane before being able to take off. I assume they tidied up the plane by cleaning the blood from his seat?
— Jayse D. Anspach (@JayseDavid) April 10, 2017
Several videos can be seen of the incident online, and while one can dispute whether the passenger had a reasonable justification for refusing to be voluntarily denied boarding, just like everyone else in the flight chose to do, what is undeniable is that United once again missed the mark.
The airline put up a press release apologizing for the overbooking situation, and not for the excessive use of force, as one would expect from anyone who wants to avoid a(nother) PR nightmare in the lapse of two weeks and has the slightest common sense. Its CEO, Oscar Munoz apologized for “having to re-accommodate these customers” and said they would be reviewing the incident with the authorities. What Munoz fails to understand is that the only thing that seems to have been re-accommodated was the customer’s face, and in doing so, everyone’s perception of United, who was already having approval ratings possibly lower than Trump’s.
I have read the Department of Transportation’s regulations on compensation for being involuntarily denied boarding, as I have been ‘re-accommodated’ a few times myself and have made a small fortune out of it. I am, however, really confused as to whether this instance qualifies as such. Is it still involuntarily denied boarding if it’s AFTER boarding is done? I know airlines can deplane any passenger if they deem them unruly, but I’m not sure this should apply to people who simply want to fly the ticket they purchased. I do know some airlines are much better at not overbooking as much as others, and most are much better are handling denied boarding situations. Here’s some numbers from Nate Silver:
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 10, 2017
I found this incident horrific, and I have to say I was totally on United’s side with leggingsgate (although their handling of the situation was, once again, incredibly amateur). I did find it pretty funny that, my personal super hero and spirit animal, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, published an article on the meaning of the word volunteer to enlighten United.