Videos of a United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged from his seat on a Sunday overbooked flight at O’Hare International Airport have been viewed more than 1 million times, and the airline’s CEO on Monday called the incident “an upsetting event to all of us here at United.”
Well that’s sad and everything but what about that doctor they beat up? What about his patients in Louisville who had appointments to see him today?
Another passenger on the flight, Audra Bridges, told the Louisville Courier-Journal that United asked for a volunteer at the gate to take a later flight, offering $400 and a hotel stay. Bridges, of Louisville, told the Courier-Journal that passengers were then allowed to board the flight.
Once the flight was boarded, passengers were told four people needed to give up their seats for stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville for a Monday flight and the plane wouldn’t depart until they had volunteers, Bridges said. United increased the offer to $800, but no one volunteered.
So they should have kept going.
Instead they said the computer would select four people to throw off. A couple left reluctantly, but the passenger who said he’s a doctor said he’s a doctor and refused. (So far it’s only his word that he’s a doctor.) Security came along to talk to him, and he still refused. So United called the cops, who got violent with him.
“After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” United spokesman Charlie Hobart said in the statement. “We apologize for the overbook situation.”
But not for the calling the cops situation or the beating a guy up situation or the dragging a guy bleeding up the aisle of the plane situation.
Travel industry analyst Henry Harteveldt questioned why United didn’t simply offer a larger sum.
“Everybody has their price. If they had allowed the agent to offer a higher incentive, we may never have heard about this,” said Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group.
Hobart said United tries to come up with a reasonable compensation offer, but “there comes a point where you’re not going to get volunteers.”
At that point, United’s contract of carriage says the airline can select passengers to bump to a later flight, based on a priority system that can take into account how much passengers paid, how often they fly, whether missing that flight could affect a connecting flight and how early they checked in. People with disabilities and unaccompanied minors are generally last to be bumped.
Usually, passengers — however angry — comply with the airline’s orders. But even if it’s an unusual situation, it raises questions about what rights passengers have when being removed from a flight against their will, Harteveldt said.
Yes, yes it does.
I know it’s very first world problem and all, but the high-handedness and casual violence of it grabbed my attention.