by Ben B. Boothe, Sr. | Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 10:13 AM (CDT)
United Airlines wanted to provide seats on a flight for four of its employees from Chicago O'Hare to Kentucky, so they forced four people who had already paid for tickets and boarded the flight to get off of the plane. One of them said he was a doctor and needed to be on the flight so that he could treat patients in the morning. United then called the police, who physically dragged the man from his seat, causing injuries to his face and head, and dragged him down the aisle of the airplane. Other passengers derided the United Airlines crew and the police saying, "Way to go" or "Look what you are doing to that man" and other comments protesting what appeared to be United Airlines strong-arming of a passenger, just to take away his seat.
Passengers filmed it with their telephones, and the incident went viral. This seems ironically relevant since BootheGlobalPerspectives just the day before posted an article emphasizing a rule of success for business: "RESPECT FOR THE INDIVIDUAL."
This incident reminded us of how people are treated in Third World nations, or in autocratic dictatorships -- not in the USA, and not by American companies.
We have wondered why a giant company like United Airlines has to resort to strong-arming paying customers just to give their employees preference. Surely United could have put its employees on another flight, in the name of "The Customer Comes First." But this type of incident, and United has bumped many passengers in the past at the inconvenience of its customers, calls for this company to apologize to its customers, but also to reconsider its policies.
We consider the scene a dramatic example, as we reviewed video footage of the man screaming as he was dragged on the floor, face bleeding, in a brutal and disrespectful manner. Passengers throughout the airplane were upset and furious at the tactics of United Airlines. It is hard enough to make reservations, arrange your life, go to an airport, pass through security, go through the stress of waiting and boarding, only to be forced to give up your seat in favor of a company employee who wants to ride on this flight.
The entire matter raises questions of industry practices on overbooking and how some airlines such as United are willing to go to extremes to get their way.
No doubt many flyers, including this writer, who fly millions of miles for business will avoid booking on United Airlines in the future. Uniteddenied boarding to 3,765 of its passengers who had paid for seats in 2016 and involuntarily gave them up. An additional 62,895 people voluntarily gave up their seats for money.
Charlie Hobart, a United spokesman, said, “We have a number of customers on board that aircraft, and they want to get to their destination on time and safely, and we want to work to get them there. Since that customer refused to leave the aircraft, we had to call the police..." We are led to believe that if United tells a seated passenger that they have to leave, even though they have paid for a seat, that they will be manhandled if necessary. Unfortunately, United Airlines by this incident clearly shows how much respect they have for their customers.
The Chicago Department of Aviation said that the incident, “was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure.”
A United employee told passengers that the plane would not leave until four people got off. The employee specified that the airline had four United employees who needed to get to Louisville, he said. Four passengers were selected to be bumped, and three left without incident but were unhappy because of the inconvenience.
A United employee first approached a couple who appeared to be in their mid-20s, Mr. Bridges, a passenger, said, and the pair begrudgingly got off the plane. Then the United employee went to a man five rows behind Mr. Bridges and told him he needed to get off the plane. Mr. Bridges said the man told the employee, “I’m not getting off the plane. I’m a doctor; I have to see patients in the morning.”
The United employee then told the man that if he did not get off the plane, she would call security. As she turned to leave, the man shouted after her, Mr. Bridges said. Specifically, he said, the passenger complained that he had been singled out because he was Asian.
United employees who then got on board and took the vacated seats were berated by passengers and told they should be ashamed. Obviously eye witnesses of the event were angered at the way United Airlines performed in this matter.
Oscar Munoz, the chief executive of United Airlines, called the episode “an upsetting event.” He apologized for having to "accommodate" customers. That sounds to us at BootheGlobalPerspectives like "executive spin speak" for physically dragging paying customers off of a United airplane.
Andrew D. Gilman, the chief executive of CommCore Consulting Group, a crisis communications firm, said the situation would probably make people reconsider whether they wanted to fly United. That could be particularly damaging with business passengers, a lucrative group that is “outraged as much as anybody,” he said.