Flying Sucks - Enough is Enough

The least surprising thing about the insane United Airlines forcibly-removed passenger fiasco is just how shitty it makes flying sound. That’s because flying is an absolute nightmare shitshow dumpster fire of an experience in the U.S. and yet it doesn’t have to be this way.

It’s time to call bullshit on the airline industry: this is not OK. You charge hundreds of dollars per ticket and you treat your customers like shit and it needs to change NOW.

Much has been made of the fact that United overbooked its flight. Perhaps if they hadn’t, folks say, this whole thing never would have happened. AU CONTRAIRE say the visor-wearing bean counters. If they didn’t overbook flights, we’d all pay a little more for our tickets, so they’re doing it for US.

So let me get this straight:

  • The airline industry is so strapped for cash that it needs to overbook its flights such that it has to then pay customers $800 a piece when they kick them off?
  • They need more folks to fill the seats to maximize profits, yet they make it prohibitively restrictive to customers buying tickets on short notice by charging outrageous change fees and last-minute ticket prices such that folks are less likely to buy the tickets that would fill flights?
  • They receive the price of the ticket even if some passengers end up not taking the flight?

And yet somehow in this whole scenario, the problem is that United is losing profits because one or two passengers might not show up? And that we must defend that idea to the point of assaulting someone off of a plane? No, my friend. No.

And let’s just talk about what we are saying here. We are saying it’s OK to screw with other people’s schedules — delay them from their family vacations, their honeymoons, their important business meetings and kids’ graduations or just their days off — so that United can make the highest profit margins possible? That’s fucked.

Transportation is often framed as a luxury, but flying is not a luxury. It is oftentimes the only way to get from one place to another and the only way to connect people to their loved ones, educational opportunities, life-saving medical procedures and on and on. Making that experience more difficult and onerous is immoral.

I’ll give you a personal example: In the fall of 2012, my brother passed out in a swimming pool and became brain dead. He was on life support for a few days so that his kids could travel to California to see him. Knowing what a tough time it was, I tried to arrange a flight for myself. I called to see what the bereavement charge would be for a flight from Knoxville, TN to Los Angeles. It was $900. If I had booked in advance, it would have been $300.

I didn’t have $900 to spare, so I didn’t get to see my brother before he died. I didn’t get to be with my nieces and nephew when they lost their dad. Because whatever airline it was knew that they had something I needed — a last-minute plane ticket — and they knew they could charge accordingly.

It doesn’t have to be like this. It shouldn’t be like this. And it wasn’t always like this. As consumers, we have a right to demand more than this. Transportation plays too vital a role in our society to sit by and watch private industry fuck people over for profit.

Hey, United. Hey, Delta. Hey, American. Make a profit, sure. But stop making people’s lives miserable in the process. Grow a fucking heart.

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