As many have read today, United Airlines was caught, again, in an embarrassing incident. This time having the police forcibly drag a doctor off an over-booked flight. They offered $400 and then $800 to re-accommodate and only got two takers when needing four seats. They used a computer to randomly select two other “volunteers.” Unfortunately, one of the “volunteers” refused and he was removed by police. The cell phone video of his removal has gone “viral.”
United’s CEO has apologized and offered to get to the bottom of it. I can save him the time. Lost in the many words written was who they needed to place in the four seats: United employees who needed to be at the destination to fly another flight. That’s right, they bumped four passengers to accommodate employees. Customers first, I don’t think so.
However, let’s assume that not getting those four employees to the next airport would inconvenience over 100 other customers. Fine, I’ll buy that, but then why did they stop at $800? Certainly there was some price that would have gotten two more people to say yes? $1,600? $20,000? Certainly they could have bought off two more people for a lot less than it will cost them in bad PR. And they are an airline for goodness sake, they could have chartered a plane if need be, again for less than this incident is going to cost them.
How did this happen? Simple. At United and most other airlines, passengers are an inconvenience to the movement of airplanes. Nobody really cares about them or the solution would have been easy. Hey, I know a UPS employee who rerouted an entire plane to make sure Christmas packages were delivered on time. Cost a fortune and he got praised, not fired.
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United is, unfortunately, not unique in the airline world with this culture. So, for those planning to “never fly them again,” good luck with that. Most other airlines, would have done the same thing.