“We wanted to get our customers to their destinations…”

I cannot be alone in feeling incredulity at the above statement. Not ALL passengers, apparently.

It was issued by a spokesman for United Airlines to justify the violent extraction and ejection of a passenger from one of their flights. This passenger had paid for his flight, had been boarded and seated, and was being bumped so that an airline employee could fly in his place. Setting aside any issue of whether he was selected for ejection on the basis of his race (not impossible), and further setting aside the subsequent lurid revelations about his past (irrelevant to the case in point), let us compare the spokesman’s statement with what actually happened. Saying they wanted to get ‘the passengers’ home was ludicrous. Clearly this passenger wasn’t going to make it home for quite a while. He was removed with totally unnecessary violence by police, injured and made a public spectacle, denied the flight he had paid for, and as far as I can tell from the newsfeed I’ve seen, so far has been denied the grovelling public apology from the airline he so richly deserves, quite aside from the fact that no compensation for his flight appears to be on the table any longer. The airline feels this action was justified in order to get its employees (oh, and the passengers) to their destination. No destination for Dr Dao…

He had committed no offence, he had not violated any rules of behaviour, he refused to get out of a seat he’d paid for because he needed to get home and see his patients the next morning. If correct airline procedure mandates the violent extraction and beating of an elderly man in this situation, I would not care to fly with this airline now or at any future time. And the police involved in his extraction from the aircraft are equally culpable for their quite excessive use of violence and their willingness to be used to serve the airline’s defective policy. Uploaded video footage shows quite clearly that the man was neither drunk, nor abusive, nor screaming (not until he was forcibly dragged from his seat), he offered no violence or threats of his own.

Other passengers were horrified and protested. Some went to the extent of staging a walk-out. In a vain attempt to manage the situation, United then evacuated the rest of the passengers so they could ‘tidy up’ the plane. Oh dear me, we can’t have it too obvious that the pax are unhappy with us, can we? Eventually, the plane left 3 hours late, and without Dr Dao, now in hospital and not in very good shape.

If United was able to offer large incentives to encourage passengers to get off to make room for the 4 last-minute United employee-travellers, why couldn’t it simply book its own people onto another flight or carrier? So they were a flight crew needed for another aircraft. Someone failed in the scheduling department, I think. And how is it that employees get priority over paying passengers? This has the stink of a company run for the benefit of employees rather than the paying customer. It seems the public is not entitled to what it has paid for, after all, and can look forward to being bullied if it dares protest… Another nail in the coffin of United’s already abysmal reputation.

United Airlines: Beating our competitors on price, and our passengers on non-compliance

This opinion is based on newsfeed currently available. Subsequent events may provide further information which renders the opinions I have expressed inappropriate. I reserve the right to my opinion based on the information to hand, but will retract any opinion subsequently shown by the facts to be at fault. 

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