By now, most people living in America have seen the video of the forceful removal of doctor dao from United airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville,KY last Sunday. As someone who has extensively traveled by commercial flights over three continents over the last decade, i have long been of the opinion that for the last 10 years or so, flying on most large airlines in America or in Europe offers more and more similarities to “cattle transportation”.
Overbooking incidents are frequent in the USA but this specific incident will , I think set a precedent because it has FOUR characteristics probably never combined before in a single occurrence :
1/ When there is a overbooking situation Airlines tend to address the situation BEFORE the boarding process starts. Sure, being prevented from boarding a flight when you have paid your ticket is NEVER going to be a pleasant experience but it beats being removed from the plane after your boarded, put away your hand luggage and got seated.
2/ The violence used to remove the man from the flight was obviously excessive and inexcusable. On this point, it is worth pointing the stupidity of the Airline thinking that such a brutal act would go unnoticed and would not spread quickly over the internet. On the PR aspect alone, this was a very poorly managed situation
3/ This was not a classic overbooking. One could argue that in case of overbooking of paid passengers, there are no good choices in deciding who should not be able to fly. But in this instance the FOUR passengers who were removed from the flight were prevented from flying to allow employees of a sister airline to go onboard to be in Louisville for the next morning .
WHAT ? Yes you read me right. Four employees who did not pay for their ticket took precedent
over four paying passengers. This is not illegal as it is mentioned in the 40 pages or so contract that you enter with the airline when booking a flight and that nobody reads.
But the fact that the flight was to Louisville, which is about a 4 hour drive to Chicago, makes it wonder why the airline did not choose to get a shuttle to Louisville for these four employees
The airline had offered passengers $800 each plus hotel to give up their seats on this flight. I am pretty sure that a shuttle for the four employees would not have been that much expensive
After all considering what this fiasco is going to cost the airlines , they probably would have been better off reserving a special plane for these 4 employees. I am sure they would have been more comfortable too since these airlines employees were booed when they came to seat on the plane.
4/ There are obviously several people to blame but I hope they won t just punish the one guy at the bottom. Fact is : the reaction of the CEO really made the whole thing way worse. Saying that a passenger violently dragged off the plane was merely being ‘ re-accommodated” is so outrageous beyond words. Another ironic trait is that this CEO was recently awarded for his communication skills, which I think is telling about how the corporate word is thinking the whole company-end customer process.
I think that all pressure should be brought upon to force this CEO to step down.
The final irony is that on that same day there was another significant incident on United Airlines when a passenger traveling in business class on a flight from Houston to Calgary was bitten by a scorpio which fell on its head !!! The passenger was offered monetary compensation.
These incidents also bring a larger issue about choices we made when we purchase our travel providers. I will soon publish an article with some thoughts about selecting the companies that are supposed to make your travel pleasant …