They call in the brute squad

The United story is still running, and I’m still as disproportionately fascinated by it as everyone else. I guess that’s just because it’s so perverse – so [I would have thought] blatantly wrong and yet so defended. It’s like Trump that way.

In the US, that is. Outside the US people are pointing and laughing.

The Times and the Post both are still reporting the story as if the guy did something wrong in refusing to be thrown off the plane, as if it were just obvious and taken for granted that a plane ticket isn’t what it seems to be. This amounts to saying: just expect to be mistreated, even when you’ve paid for the service in question and arrived on time and combed your hair neatly. I don’t want to expect to be mistreated, thanks.

The Independent, on the other hand, is less inclined to see things from the airlines’ point of view.

if you’ve ever wondered what happens when airlines can’t bribe a single paying customer off of a flight, now we know: they call in the brute squad.

This morning, newsfeeds across the globe were flooded with viral videos of some poor guy getting dragged kicking and screaming out of a seat he paid to sit in. It didn’t matter that he claimed to be a doctor who needed to get home to tend ailing patients, and it didn’t matter that his fellow passengers protested his removal. A profit-driven airline company wanted to make room for employees, and so private security staff were more or less given the green light to beat somebody up to make it happen.

Now we know. I must say I didn’t know before. I didn’t know they would just order me off if they felt like it. I sure as hell didn’t know they would back it up with force if I said no.

And what was United’s stellar PR response? To claim its staff were all “following established procedures” and call the customer “disruptive and belligerent”. Translation: the shockingly violent treatment of our passengers isn’t that big a deal. Shares in the company are already starting to take a slide, and by day’s end, United Airlines very well may have become the most mocked company in the history of the Twitter. “Board as a doctor, leave as a patient,” said one contributor to the #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos hashtag. “We put the hospital in hospitality,” wrote another.

OK, so people are forcibly removed from planes all the time. United had to kick 3,765 paying customers off flights last year alone. But the scary thing is, this blood-soaked guy who simply wanted to go home and get to work the next day could have been any one of us. The newly emboldened security services have rendered our airports xenophobic battlegrounds, and emboldened those who might otherwise have stopped to think before resorting to violence or abuse.

Or perhaps even not have wanted to resort to violence or abuse in the first place.

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