A Simple Solution for United
I’m no aviation expert, but I happen to enjoy boarding flights to explore new places and gain new experiences. I’ve also flown with United in the past and still have a MileagePlus account, which I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to boycott the airline as a result of the incident of the elderly doctor who was removed from United flight earlier today. I’m appalled as with anyone who has watched the viral video which reminds me that it could have been anyone of us. However, there seems to be a bigger problem nobody is talking about which is a breakdown in a system which involves the passengers and the company staff.
Assessing the Circumstances
The flight in question, UA3411 was operated by Republic Airlines. Republic Airlines is one of a few subsidiaries operating under United Express, a brand which United oversees and passengers can book flights under the United Airlines name. The flight, was operating from Chicago O’hare Airport to Louisville, Kentucky, and the ground staff followed company policy to offer a compensation package was offered to give up their seat for another flight. Another factor to consider which other airlines do is transport their staff to cities where they begin work. They needed four seats for their staff members, and they had the unfortunate task to pick who was going to lose a seat.
On the said flight, the passengers for the flight were told the flight was overbooked and were offered packages to be re-accommodated on another flight. Nobody took the offer, as they were already in their seats. Eventually, airline staff resorted to calling airport authorities who then asked the individuals identified by the airline to vacate their seats for the airlines staff. One passenger did not comply, and after repeated attempts still did not cooperate. The rest of the story can be seen all over YouTube and Twitter.
Don’t Board Yet
Airports and travel can be incredibly stressful, and this was a case where emotions got the best of normal people who would be calm in other circumstances. Based on the facts I’ve been able to read, I have to question if the ground staff knew prior to the passenger checking in and boarding the flight they would need the seats. Another point is if so, why were the passengers allowed to board the flight anyway. I understand the airline staff had a sense of urgency to get their staff on board. For the traveler who paid for their ticket AND already has taken their seat there is an expectation that they have the seat already.
For future flights and airlines, this serves as a wake up for a change in overbooking flights. There is a business reason to continue the practice (come on now, we’ve all missed some sort of meeting or appointment at one point in our lives, right?). There are more inner workings that come to play such as the use of aircraft for other flights and booking software, and as a member of the traveling public I would be interested what airline staff manuals say when dealing with this issue. People expect that if they pay for a ticket, they should get what they pay for. If the flight is overbooked or staff would need the seats, a policy could be in place to not board the aircraft until the situation is resolved.
No Crying Over Spilled Milk
What is done is done. There is also another issue surrounding the officers in question. There are many legal issues surrounding the action, which opens up the case to going to court. I’m sure the officers and the airline staff would not have wanted to have seen the incident end the way it did. This is something that now will open up more debate not in terms of the customer service side but whether force was necessary.
United may not be in legal trouble, but they are taking a hit on the stock market and in terms of PR. I would have rather seen the airline issue a statement, identify the problem, and without blaming their employees or the passenger, issue a policy to prevent a similar situation from happening again. However, if United doesn’t learn from this and work to prevent such incident, travelers such as myself will not hesitate to take our travels elsewhere. It’s one thing to learn of a mistake, but if it’s recurring after repeated and open statements without acknowledgement, then it will no longer a mistake. Then it becomes negligence.
This is also a wake-up call for we the travelers to be more aware of the terms and rights we have when we book our next trip regardless if it’s on United or any other carrier.