United Airlines Order Police to Yank a Doctor Out of His Seat because They Need It For Their Staff

I woke up to a slew of raging posts on my Facebook regarding how United Airlines had committed a treachery to a passenger and those who had placed their faith in them.

I have never been on a United before but I have heard so many horror stories about American carriers when compared to the services and like of Asian or Middle-Eastern carriers being world’s apart. I think twice when I have to take an American. Ironically, I have been on is American Airlines and I thought they ain’t that bad as I imagined it to be… only because they belong to Oneworld (Hey, I am a Oneworld supporter).

I guess you must have had read them somewhere too? No? Otherwise, I have included some of the content below. Anyhow, here is my 2cents regarding this unfortunate incident that should never have happened. 

1. Overbook

Overbooking is pretty common for airlines and hotels. They want to squeeze every penny they can out of the seats or – in the case of hotels – rooms. However, the fact is, United had to remove 4 passengers who were already on the plane because they had to fly 4 of their own crew to another city so they could get to work the next day. 

This is akin to telling me after I had checked into my hotel room comfortably to give up my room because someone needs it more than me. Well, the truth is I would if that was a genuine needy case and I would not mind waiting for a few more hours before you turn over the next room for me. However, this should be communicated to me before you give me my room and not after I was in my room. Got it? So what were United’s ground staff thinking? Should not this be sorted out at the gate before boarding?

2. First by Carrot, then by Force

After asking for volunteers and offering US$800 to those who were willing to give up their seats had fallen on deaf ears, United announced that a computer will randomly select four passengers to be the unfortunate ones. Sounds fair?

Well we all know that not all seats on an aircraft are created equal. True that everyone should be treated equally in say economy class, but the calculation of the fare is divided into fare class, fare basis, fare whatever. In short, the earlier you buy the fares, the cheaper they are and when seats get scarce or closer to the date of departure, that’s when it gets expensive. Economics 101. 

So no one bit the carrot and what could United do? Nothing? No. They used force. This act is not only barbaric but also plain childish. United is getting dis’United’. Again, what were they thinking or rather what were the police thinking? What was going on inside their head? If a passenger refused to budge, even if the condition of carriage allows you to do so, doesn’t mean you can forcefully yank someone out of his seat by sheer brute logic. This is very unbecoming of a big company especially so a commercial carrier as it portrays a poor reflection of the country.

3. Damage Control

So what happened next when you get a public backlash and videos of your ‘mistreatment’ went viral on news site and social media platforms? Please don’t tell me bad publicity is a form of publicity for the airline. Yes true to a certain extent, but this is not the kind of publicity where it is so bad that it is good. This is atrocious where some people are now on a verge of #boycottUnited.

Furthermore, United CEO Oscar Munoz released a statement,

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologise for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened,”

No, Mr Munoz. Having to ‘re-accomodate’ is not helping and is also not doing any damage control for your own good. I am not a social image expert but having spent a few years in the education sector to deal with demanding/unreasonable/over-protective parents, I know how to first put myself in their shoes before telling them how their child should behave. This is empathy. Admit your mistake, apologize and move on. Not explaining your position or take on this issue now when almost everyone is outraged by your lack of professionalism in handling the case. Now, is definitely not the time. 

Here are some tweets…

This is hilarious…

You can read more about it here at news.com.au.

In retrospect, the ground staff could have made an announcement that there was a technical glitch with the aircraft and all passengers to disembark. When you had all the passengers on the ground already, you could then reissue a new boarding sequence and the unlucky ones, to be offloaded.

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