Why United’s Incident Is A Much Bigger Deal Than You May Think

Seems like at least a half-dozen times a year Ben reports on an unruly passenger being escorted off a plane, sometimes forcibly, sometimes not, almost always involving a fellow passenger recording the incident on video. It’s become, for better or worse, pretty routine. It’s easy enough to glance at a headline and scroll down.

Being in the OMAAT world as a contributor, commenter or regular reader, and being involved with the miles-and-points and aviation world directly or even tangentially gives you a certain bit of distance from this kind of situation, a certain inside-baseball-y “oh, well you have to obey a flight attendant’s orders!” kind of knee-jerk reaction.

This is not that kind of incident. It’s doing this incident an injustice to say it’s “gone viral.” Prank calls, parody music videos and misguided Pepsi ad campaigns go viral; this is an example of citizen journalism in action. What was a line-item news story on some miles-and-points blogs this morning has now dominated my social media news feed, and, in very quick order, become the topic of discussion in offices and in public.

United

This is no longer the kind of altercation you can nitpick with a technical interjection about “well, he should have asked for $1,000 in vouchers” without sounding tone-deaf. Because the conversation has moved on. It’s no longer about involuntary denial of boarding (or being kicked off a plane to accommodate United crew).

It’s about a massive overreach of corporate authority, a horrifying use of violence when utterly unnecessary, and generally thuggish behavior that’s tolerated because, through years of (rightly) valuing our collective security above all else, we have given airlines authority backed up with the tools of law enforcement to handle business matters with the subtlety of a bludgeon. When an airline’s revenue management task force can enforce their bottom line with physical violence and a non-threatening older man is bloodied as a result, people pay attention.

United

So what’s the point of this post? Just to say that this is (or is becoming) a much bigger story than it might have appeared at first glance. That a lot of people are upset, and offended. Does the video show a race issue? Probably not, but if people on your social media feed or in this comments section believe it is a race issue, and you disagree, listen to them and ask why rather than dismiss them: given that traveling in the United States as a nonwhite person or someone of a different nationality or ethnic background has gotten more… complicated (to say the least) in the last 100 days, it’s no wonder so many people have their antennae up.

Social media and iPhones with video cameras have changed the nature of breaking news in our world in recent years. No longer can you predict what story will resonate and what story will fizzle out.  (I mean, literally after months and months of a presidential candidate spewing offensive crap, it took the discovery of a ten-year old Access Hollywood video to gain national outrage.)

This story is resonating, big time. It’s more than just about overbooking or technical regulations or obeying the crew’s orders.

It’s resonating because these videos show a shocking and horrifying lack of empathy that, for many, encapsulates 2017 in a nutshell.

About Nick

Nick brings the perspective of the infrequent but savvy traveler who finds that getting there is actually less than half the fun, but you might as well fly business class on the way and get a good night's sleep. Despite a relatively sparse portfolio of flown miles and hotel stays per year that would never otherwise qualify for status, Nick manages to leverage credit cards, promotions and points to secure elite status and increase his chances for that sought-after upgrade.

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Comments

  1. Exactly. If the airlines can now use “the police force” or “what look like Blackwater-style security forces” to drag you off the plane and rough you up in the jetway, well we have some serious problems in the system. Load factors are at an all time high, so if private companies can use the police force as their bouncers we all ought to be nervous.

    This was basically a private, civil dispute among private parties. If the vendor can come have you beaten for this, how far are we away from the day they can do the same thing in a Denny’s or a movie theater?

    Chicago PD has had a rough few years already. The last thing they need is rogue goon squads with badges beating up paying customers out at O’Hare.

  2. It’s possibly also a mostly American problem. I honestly cannot see this happening anywhere else in the world. But guns and freedom, right?

  3. @Tachyon Ryanair and Easyjet are also discount carriers with high load factors and cheaper than bus rides. I don’t see it being a problem across the pond. It’s not an issue of ticket prices at all.

  4. I’m never EVER travelling United again. I’d rather walk to my destination than fly with such a disrespectful, arrogant airline. He deserves public apologies and a couple million reimbursement. Like really, I can’t be more upset.

  5. Quite frankly the race issue really does not resonate, at least with me, at all. Sure the passenger seemed Asian but it is a detail. Law enforcement has lost their collective egomaniacal mind. Terrorism is being used for storm trooper behavior. And the gate agent(United) implied cover for these knuckle draggers to go hostile. Then Munoz et al went tone deaf. This scene was the result of so many stupid actions it’s hard to believe.

  6. Make note according to the Chicago Police Department, the man fell on his face and injured himself.

    Yup. Let that sink in. This is how cops respond when questioned about their methods.

  7. Exactly. United using law enforcement to realize their operational business needs and hiding behind anti-terrorism and safety policies that can’t be questioned. Clearly this person was not a threat to the flight. This could’ve been handled entirely differently. And United’s PR team and even Muñoz’s statement totally tone-deaf.

  8. Thank you Nick! I believe you are correct in stating this is a much bigger story than people and United realize and that it will get much bigger and worse for United. I believe that, in part, “this could have been me” feeling is is driving a lot of people’s disgust and horror at what happened. What if I was on my way to a wedding that was tomorrow, or to the Hospital where a loved-one was seriously ill, or on my way to a serious job interview, would I too refuse to give up my seat and, if so, would I too be beaten, bloodied and dragged off the plane? United is a particularly tone-deaf company that tends to treat its customers with a particular intense disregard and carelessness that borders on the sadistic. So the fact that United is in the middle of this “sh#*-storm” probably bothers fewer people than would otherwise and they kinda deserve all that they get.

  9. If it were not for cell phones, this stuff wouldn’t be so widely known. The average source of revenue for United does not care about the distinctions people on the blogs make. They don’t care that it wasn’t really a United flight but instead a Republic Airlines flight. They don’t care whether it was technically overbooked or not. They don’t care about the distinction between VDB and IDB and vouchers vs cash. What they know is that a guy paid good money for a product and the company he paid the money to treated him with contempt and force. The average airline customer is reacting because we have ALL been treated by contempt by airlines in this country and that is why this is such a visceral and disturbing image to the general public. The police were not called in for passenger safety. They were called in by United because that was cheaper to use force than paying more cash for volunteers. Thank goodness for cell phones.

  10. @keitherson

    Oh, I TOTALLY agree. This is totally a lack of legislative-safety-net issue that is unique to the USA. Every time (and I mean EVERY) time I’ve been a displaced passenger on a European airline I’ve been treated extremely well. And, that’s everybody from national carriers like LH and BA to bottom feeders like Norwegian, Icelandic and airBerlin. The regulatory climate is SO much better– hotel accommodations, passenger compensation, free meals, upgrades. It’s never ended badly.

    With the AA, UA, DL oligopoly here (and a compliant Congress) it’s a kick-in-the-teeth-in-the-jetway apparently. This video only proves what we already knew:
    We need a passenger Bill of Rights in this country.

  11. I fly QANTAS and Virgin Australia every day domestically in Australia. I can say this would never happen here. The police would never drag anyone nor the airline act which such authority of a dictator. This is America for you. The land of the “free” and the most oppressive police/people in the world.

  12. “I mean, literally after months and months of a presidential candidate spewing offensive crap…”
    Did you really need to bring your political views into this article, I mean… really? You couldn’t have found another example? Yes, he obviously said some offensive things, (not disagreeing with you) but this isn’t the place to post them. I go to One Mile at a Time for great travel deals and reviews, not your personal opinion of the President. Thank you.

  13. Nick,
    I think you bring up an excellent point which has been poorly stated by many groups over the past few years.

    This isn’t about race. This isn’t about country of origin / heritage. This isn’t about sexual preferences. This is about human decency. And how corporations and our government are dehumanizing citizens via intimidation and violence. And it’s only getting worse. We have the TSA fingering 65-year-old vaginas and sexually assaulting special needs children. We have police officers “apprehending” suspects in ways which cause death before a trial. We have corporations forcing mandatory arbitration, stripping citizens of all their legal rights. People have no power now.

    Even in the city I’m writing from today, I remember the property manager going through absolute hell trying to get rid of ~25 stray cats which had infested the property. When I say property, we’re talking about a 16 space parking lot and the 2′ wide area of shrubbery surrounding the building. She tried to get rid of the cats only to find that you weren’t allowed to. You were now the proud owner of a “feral colony!” Animal control would give you traps and you’d have to trap the cats yourself, take them to animal control, they’d spay/neuter them, then you were expected to put the cats back on your property. Now, compare this to a homeless guy passed out on a bench behind the building. Call the police, homeless guy’s gone in 15 minutes.

    An interesting read on the subject is Playing by the Rules: How Our Obsession with Safety Is Putting Us All at Risk by Tracey Brown and Michael Hanlon. We live in quite possibly the safest world ever, but are too paralyzed by fear to do anything about it.

    The next question becomes, how to change this? I’m still horrified that the TSA/DHS are still around. I was hoping that after 5 or so years we’d come to our senses and severely cut back on this madness. I don’t think Americans have what it takes to reclaim their country, especially the millennials who never had the fortune of knowing what this country USED to be like. I’m just glad my grandparents have passed as they would be saddened and ashamed to call this the same country they fought for.

  14. @RF

    Actually the security officers were not dispatched by CPD. They are from Chicago Department of Aviation. And according to the announcement from CDA, these officers were suspended already.

  15. What no blogger has addressed is “Is it even legal to disembark someone after they have boarded?” IDB rules cover DENIED BOARDING not DISEMBARKATION. The gate agents , the flight attendants and the cops might be breaking the law by “Interfering with a scheduled commercial flight” by trying to pull an already boarded passenger off and holding the rest of the passengers hostage till 4 passengers comply with their illegal orders. Besides the civil suit, will we see a criminal prosecution with Jail time for the United employee criminals?

  16. Why do we tolerate UA, under the color of the Chicago Aviation Police no less, physically beating a paying passenger because it allows them to maximize their bottom line?

    I thought we were the “land of the free?” What does it say about us that we’re willing to put up with this?

  17. The reason why you would not see this happen in EU, if they have overbooked the plane you are entitled to a compensation if they dont get you to the destination within certain thresholds depending on the travel length – surely money talks.

    As other commenters I dont get the idea that a private corp. can “use” law enforcement for this, especially when he gets on the plane again.

  18. THIS POST IS AWESOME. Yes, I’m shouting it.

    Well said. Indeed. When you have apologist posts from Pizza in motion dude basically saying…. hey look people, see what happens if you talk back, know your place… we are well and truly screwed. Oh and chubby from the wing also pompously blowing bluster, he knows it all of course, normalizing it.

    And yes it is a reflection of authoritarian aggressive draconian America.

    Well and truly a disgrace… when did this become the norm?

  19. I thought the airline has nothing to do with airport security staff. They ask them to remove someone from the plane, and that’s the end of their control of the situation. They don’t issue guidance on how much force to use.

    Is that not correct?

  20. Did anyone’s employer today have the police physically arrest one of your customers that was walking in the door, so you could get to work on time because the back door was locked?

    Seriously.

  21. YES! I think A LOT of bloggers are missing the point which you stated so clearly. At its core this was a contract dispute between a corporation and a customer. The customer had every right to dispute that United hadn’t tried its best to resolve the situation (offering more) or mitigate the damages to the customer (arranging ground transport or another airline to minimize delay). United shouldn’t be able to call in law enforcement to rough him up!

    If a landlord and tenant have a dispute over some aspect of the lease, the landlord can’t call in the police to force them out by force without going through the court system to do a proper eviction!

    ***Remember when the airlines claimed they had the right to keep you locked up in their planes sitting on the ground for 6, 7, 9, or MORE hours…they kept promising they would fix things…but the behavior only stopped when the law was changed!***

  22. I’m sure United will find a way to “unbundle” this service:

    NEW PROMOTION!

    Sign up now to upgrade to Economy Peace Plus! You will get 1) welcome cocktail of your choice 2) a guarantee that you will not be struck by the closed fist of any law enforcement officer, and 3) in the event that you are tased by law enforcement, we will place our new, comfortable Polaris-branded Saks Fifth Avenue pillow under your head as you’re roughly dragged out by your feet. Use miles to upgrade today!

  23. @WMLA44: That’s such a key point, and thank you for bringing it up (and it’s something I regrettably didn’t include in the post): that could have been any of us.

    It’s one thing to sit there and say “he should have complied,” but how many of us have ever been denied boarding or kicked off a plane for no reason other than inventory management? I cannot imagine how dreadful and how impossibly out-of-control it must feel to have bought a ticket, planned a schedule, made appointments with patients only to be told that sorry, a computer has kicked you off. Years ago I was flying a now-defunct airline from Spokane to Los Angeles with a once-a-day frequency, on a Sunday. Monday was a work meeting in LA in which my attendance was required. I had been told at the gate that I was chosen randomly to be involuntarily denied boarding because no volunteers had come forward. I felt panicked, and I felt like someone had punched me in the gut — mostly because I realized I’m powerless within “the system.” Luckily, another passenger kindly offered to switch places with me and I got to my destination as scheduled. But that feeling of powerlessness can be devastating, and I have the utmost empathy for the passenger on the United flight.

  24. Also threatening the rest of the plane’s passengers, nobody is going to get to their destination unless 4 people volunteer. Isn’t that holding people hostage? Can the Flight Attendant be charged with illegal confinement?

  25. Prabuddha – legally, almost certainly not. However, it’s a spectacularly crappy way to treat people, let alone your own customers.

  26. This is a good example to show people that the police state in America is an equal opportunity oppressor.

    I have long known that the state has gotten way more oppressive and violent since 9/11 and it doesn’t matter which phony D or R is in power…isn’t it funny that Trump only became presidential after he lobbed some bombs on Syria after saying in the campaign that he wasn’t interested in foreign intervention?

    Anyways, the local police forces across America have been staffed by returning vets from our endless overseas wars (Police dept especially like ex combat vets) DHS has given them lots of money, toys and training to keep the American scum in place.

    So enjoy it America, this is what you get.

  27. This pretty much seems like a standard situation that spiraled out of control. Based on the contract he had with the airline, they were perfectly within their rights to ask him to get off the plane. Later than usual (post-boarding), and handled poorly, but still a standard situation that we’ve probably all seen happen. Most people in this situation would grumble, sure, but they would get off the plane and take the compensation. What is the airline supposed to do in this case, where the passenger refuses to get off the plane? Sure, they could up the offer for volunteers, but to what point? Offering unlimited compensation every time something like this happens just isn’t feasible, and while this is going on the plane is being delayed, inconveniencing every one on that plane, and potentially creating a ripple effect delaying or cancelling flights for thousands of other people. At some point it’s just expedient to pick someone and follow the procedures laid out to deal with exactly these cases.
    Okay, so now that’s happened and the guy still refuses to get off the plane. Now what? Now we’re in the same situation as a guy who violates his lease terms and refuses to move out of his apartment, or even a guy who takes off his shirt and shoes in a 7-11 and refuses to leave. If someone absolutely refuses to comply with the law what then? At what point is it okay to physically remove someone? If you had a house guest, and you asked them to leave, but they refused, would you call the police, or would you just have a new roommate?

  28. Nick how about a little less political views and a little more actual reviews.. I’m sick and tired of everyone on here with their spouting social justice warriors, racism, brutality, fear monger first world type elitist attitudes.

    I don’t come here to read nick, lucky, Tiffany or anyone’s else political or social views. But feed the fire I guess is what It has become
    This site has become nothing more than a billboard for your political views.

  29. If the Captain decides that someone shouldn’t fly, the person doesn’t fly. If that person refuses, it becomes a police matter.

    Disputes or negotiation are not handled on an airplane.

  30. @Zymm: He wasn’t “refus[ing] to comply with the law.” He was refusing to comply with a crew’s order. Don’t conflate the two. (For what it’s worth, it’s not a crime to go barefoot in a 7-11 or to holdover on the terms of your lease – it may be against corporate policy or in violation of a contract, but those aren’t criminal acts and the police don’t get involved.)

  31. I don’t know how we can assume it isn’t a race issue. Similar to the young black doctor on that flight a few months back who wasn’t believed when she said she was a doctor…

    These people already have it in their head who is “important” and who can wait for another day to travel. If it isn’t racism, it’s ageism… it’s prejudice in any case. They’re just looking at you and deciding they already know who you are, even if they don’t.

    If he was a white male age 40 who explained he was a doctor and had patients waiting in the morning, would he have been treated the same? I don’t believe so.

  32. @SJW outrage: What are “spouting social justice warriors”? Are they like garden gnomes? Do you put them around your freedom fountains?

  33. I hope someone, perhaps one of you at OMAAT, will take the lead and perhaps work with lawmakers, to create a new law to ban airlines to remove any passenger involuntary after he/she is on boarded. Btw, “forcing” someone to “voluntary” leave the plane is not consider voluntary.

  34. The guy seems mentally unstable and a wanker.

    If I was on that flight I would feel uncomfortable having him onboard.

  35. I completely agree this is about money and abuse of authority. If UA had simply offered a larger sum…say $1000 to get off the flight people would have run for the exits. I do suspect some racism here too. I would like to know the exact “algorithm” they used to determine this was the person who had to get off.

  36. Zymm has the first rational argument. Forget the emotional and the “what if it was me” argument. When we fly we take the chance that we will not get on our flight. Ok, get on the next one. Life goes on. Don’t be a jerk.

  37. “If the vendor can come have you beaten for this…” Calm down Nancy. The situation is grave enough without such ridiculous statements.

  38. @Kingnukem: Well, life goes on, except maybe for one of the doctor’s patients in Louisville? I don’t mean to be glib, but if he really had patients he was seeing the next day there really is some urgency to it. “Life goes on, don’t be a jerk” works great when you get an extra day of vacation and are simply missing a day of school, but some people have funerals, surgery, weddings, their grandmother’s 100th birthday celebration, christenings, whatever to attend. Just saying, just because you don’t experience it doesn’t mean other people don’t either.

    Empathy.

  39. Nick — I most certainly do not come here for your political views. Is it possible to keep them to yourself, please? Also, your writing needs some work. It might be new age prose but it took me too long to figure out what actually happened to the poor man given all your political rhetoric and odd asides not relevant to the topic. Maybe Ben could edit you?

  40. @dave

    Oh, that’s right. He was bleeding profusely from the mouth “because he slipped and fell in the jetway”….

    In Chicago, a city known for gentle policing and strong empathy for civil rights…
    “he slipped and fell in the jetway and landed on his face…”

    Riiiigghhhttt.

  41. @Christina Crescenzi

    Or, you could go read the CNN, NY Times, Washington Post, Sun-Times or Trib news coverage of this– assuming all you want is the news.

    Most of us come here because we like Nick and Like Lucky and appreciate their take on current travel events. It’s a blog not the Associated Press Newsfeed.

  42. @Christina Crescenzi: Appreciate the feedback! Will definitely work on my writing, agree that all my new age liberal politics have made my syntax, along with the environment, tax code, healthcare system and general rule of law, suffer in this new presidential administration. Sometimes it really hard 2 spell and make sentences wurk with my librul derangement, so perhaps you could print out my blog post, redline it for me and send me a PDF with your comments?

  43. Next we will read the United Apologists suggest that it was the passenger’s fault for not offering the police officers a Pepsi. I hear that works.

    When you decide that it makes more sense financially to drag a passenger off a plane instead of upping the volunteer ante, then you definitely view your customers with contempt.

  44. If I saw my “doctor” do this on video, I’d have a new doctor faster than the cops could pull him off the plane.

    Chris

  45. Nick your political diatribe is very un-dude like. Perhaps you should just mellow and enjoy the splendor or air travel. Maybe leave all these “news stories” behind and start a little blog where you
    1) take a trip somewhere
    2) report on how that trip went
    3) repeat

    Just a suggestion. This site is bumming me out so I got some sativa to help.

    The Dude

  46. Nick is there a fund I can donate to for the removal of the sand in your vagina?

    I can use Apple Pay, PayPal, venmo whatever you need.

  47. Flying United isn’t like clearing TSA security points. You don’t have to fly United. Vote with your feet (and your butt).

  48. 2017 problem ONLY? Are you telling us that in the past 10 years there was nothing like this? Just suddenly this year it popped up? You’ve got to be kidding!

  49. I think its poor that the writer takes a backhander at the current US administration trying to link it to their fault in some underhanded way. Very poor form.
    Don’t blame a very poor corporate attitude and some would say illegal use of force to try and make a political point.
    What United did was absolutely disgraceful however having sampled US airlines, I don’t expect much more out of them and pity anyone that has no other options.
    US airlines in general are the pits and if it wasn’t necessary for my work i would never use them.

  50. I think UA handled this horribly, but reading some of the comments here, on a very limited basis, once the passenger was asked to deplane…

    Seeing patients the following day really does not qualify as an urgent need. If you are delayed there are other medical providers that can cover for you. If he were providing true emergency/urgent care then he would not be traveling and would be “on call” at home with a pager and/or being at the hospital performing his duties.

    Even if we assumed he was telling the truth I don’t see why we should say that his time is more valuable than everyone else’s. Such an elitist mentality is exactly what most of the comments here seem to be railing against anyway.

  51. @peachfront EXACTLY

    F*** this police state bullshit. Just because you pick someone to leave the police isn’t a carte blanche to start pushing people’s face into armrests so they start to bleed. I hope the Dr sues the ever loving hell out of United and wins. Absolutely unacceptable.

    @The Dude If the news triggers you, I recommend reading Cosmopolitan while you drink your stevia. Nothing political or substantial that will “bum” you out there.

  52. Would they remove a group of 4 or a group of 3 plus 1 or 2sets of 2 or 4 individuals? Which one would be the best outcome for all parties?

  53. It would be interesting to see some attorney’s weight in on this.

    I’ve not seen any case law regarding this but the plain reading of the CFR’s would seem to indicated that once the passenger is on the plane i.e. boarded, that this section no longer applies. I’ve not reviewed the COC’s but refusal to transport seems like the appropriate place to look. So the first unresolved question is whether this is even an IDB issue.

    Second, in general the police are not permitted to get involved in contract disputes. Unless the passenger was committing a crime by refusing to leave then the police should not have agreed to get involved. Of course we don’t yet know if it was the police, or an entity with police powers that pulled the man off the plane, but that’s a separate issue. The question is if someone’s only offense is to refuse to leave a plane are they committing a crime? I’d suggest the question is a sticky one and not at all clear. A vendor’s right to ask you to vacate the premises are not unlimited. Even a clause in the COC’s requiring a passenger to leave an aircraft due to overbooking, if such a clause was part of the COC’s, might not be held by a court to be enforceable or held unenforceable only under some circumstances.

    My take is that UA would need to show that the passenger committed some crime in order for them to be within their rights to have them forcibly removed. I suspect the crime they would claim is trespassing. The logic would be that UA has the right to IDB and that a passenger who is denied is no longer entitled to be on the plane therefore if they refuse to leave they are trespassing and that’s the crime right there.

    If so the that raises two questions. The first is can an airline claim IDB after a passenger has boarded. The second is can an airline claim that a passengers right to be on board the aircraft can be terminated by them if, at their sole discretion, the plane is overbooked (sole discretion since the airline decides how many seats to sell or in this case allocate to passengers whether sold or not since the four seats at issue where provided to UA’s employees.

    I’m guessing there is a fair amount of case law in which a merchant chucked a customer off the premises for all kinds of reasons and that some of those involved situations where the customer hadn’t done anything other than the merchant wanted the guys seats (imagine a play or a concert). If the courts have permitted the vendor to revoke the right conferred by the ticket then I suppose he can call the police if you refuse to leave. You’d have legal recourse for damages, but not within your rights to refuse to stay. Alternately if the courts have refused to enforce the right of a vendor to unilaterally revoke the privileges conferred by the purchase of the ticket then refusing to leave would not be a crime. You’d be within your rights to stay put in your seat. The police would be exceeding their authority if they asked let alone forcibly asked you to leave.

    As this article points out its generally the citizen who is charged with knowing the law. In this case the shoe is on the other foot. UA and the police, or whoever was asked to pull the passenger off the plane, needed to know if they were legally permitted to do so.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/07/23/sandra-bland-and-the-lawful-order-problem/?utm_term=.e8acb19461df

    That they did not know, or even that they could not know, is no excuse. Without the knowledge they had the authority they should have just told UA they weren’t going to act and it was up to UA to decide what they wanted to do.

    If they couldn’t determine if they had if they had the legal right to remove the passenger prudence would have dictated not doing so.

    So the question remains. It’s probably fair to say a passenger with a confirmed ticket can’t force their way onto a flight if they have been told they are being IDB. But is a passenger committing a crime if they refuse to leave a flight when an airline says they have to because they want to give that person’s seat to someone else?

    Inquiring minds would like to hear what some lawyers have to say about that

  54. This is a very astute take on the incident. I am amazed by how many people are willing to rationalize this incredible act of corporate thuggery. This needs to be nipped in the bud by legislators.

  55. Sadly this is not so much the “latest” incident but perhaps one example of what happens every single day at United and legacy carriers. US3 airline employees these days will cry wolf (police) because they can’t and don’t want to resolve simple issues, and when put into the spotlight, it’s always about a bureaucratic “regulation” or another to hide behind.

  56. @keitherson ryanair does not overbook.

    certainly they have calculated that this improves their bottom line.

    first, their proportion of flexible ticket/ walkup traffic is much smaller. second, the amount of compensation they’d have to pay in an overbooking situation would be high relative to their average fare that they charge (what they would gain from overbooking). And second, overbooking adds complexities and costs resources, both in technology and people, that they simply completely cut out.

  57. “Ryanair is the only airline in Europe that does not overbook its flights; therefore Ryanair has eliminated the possibility of passengers being denied boarding due to overbooking. However if for technical or immigration reasons, it becomes necessary to accommodate passengers on another flight, Ryanair will try to prioritize the needs of and minimise the delay to those passengers effected and provide compensation in line with Regulation EU261/2004.”

    https://corporate.ryanair.com/about-us/passenger-charter/

  58. Nick, I welcome you to come and review out luxurious travel on our award winning Air Koyro here in North Korea. Please make travel arrangements soon and we will show you how we deal with oversold flights.

    Yours truly

    KJu

  59. United, offer the guy a couple of free domestic tickets (coach) and two one time entrance passes to any domestic United Club and the problem should be solved.

  60. First of all @Nick, while I do not read this blog for political musings I do appreciate very much some of the things you say here. Indeed as others have mentioned it was very well written in a ed/op manner.

    I agree with some of what you say but not all. I honestly (though I heed your words on my not being a candidate to know racism personally as a white man) don’t see this as racism or a result of targeting or behavior that stems from some sort of white empowerment. It comes down to culture and basic respect for human beings in general.

    Two airlines in the U.S. seem to be standing out in my mind in building a structure (or allowing it to develop) of utter disdain for all of their customers. American and United are those airlines. While others may have occasional failings I do believe that there are two who try…Alaska and Delta stand in my mind…with trying to work towards building a culture that believes that respect begets respect. And as an executive platinum with American I can speak from experience on an almost daily basis. As such I have been moving much of my business to Delta and Alaska as a result lately and feeling lost as a decades long American client who always pays for first and business and has a very high revenue spend with them.

    I had a convo with someone at American about it who said “you can’t train it…we are hiring the wrong people.” I disagreed. You can train people in common sense and you can establish operations that assist them in making the right decisions. I see Delta and Alaska doing that. Just today I misconnected on American with the plane still at the gate. The agent closed the door and for 14 minutes I stood there with no other agent to assist. Had another agent been there there was no reason for me to not board. Her response upon appearing was, “hey, we are fired if the plane is not on time…write management.” This is the attitude that is building from the top down. It’s no wonder we see what we did in this incident.

    I also agree with others here that you don’t find this anywhere near as much overseas. It’s stems from a basic respect for your customers. Airlines in Europe especially (perhaps with the exception of BA) properly train and breed a culture that realizes that airline travel is stressful, hard for some, and to be compassionate to this experience.

    All in all it doesn’t matter who you are. And I am experiencing almost daily a very equal treatment of disdain and poor training with those two airlines (as I do also fly United occasionally…and reluctantly). Respect from the top, respect from the middle, respect from the troops on the ground…it all leads to a mutual respect within and from the customers who will most certainly give it back as a result.

  61. This statement by the author sums it up best: “It’s resonating because these videos show a shocking and horrifying lack of empathy that, for many, encapsulates 2017 in a nutshell.”

    Is this what we have become? Is this more of a product of our current environment, or have we as a society lost the ability to empathize or rationalize? My only question would be did all the people involved in this decision-making process to forcibly remove a PAYING customer even stop to consider whether it was the appropriate action given the circumstances? There was no threat of violence from the passenger (at least that we know of), no verbal assault, no hint of aggression other than the individuals who forcibly removed him against his will.

    At to the people at United and the especially the spokesman, who failed to acknowledge the fact that all this occurred because United messed up. United overbooked. Rather than diffuse a difficult situation, United made it worst and caused a PR headache. Keep in mind this was a paying customer, not someone who illegally trespassed onto the plane. It could have been anyone of us, and I think if 2017 has taught us anything, it’s that it is no longer ok to stand idly by while those in authority wield their power on helpless victims. I will never fly United again because of this. #neverunited

  62. I disagree with “…is a much bigger deal than you think.”. Nothing new here but rather it touches several of the common hot buttons for part of the population (corporate profits, potential profiling, everyone deserves a blue ribbon for participating, etc.). Very few people will choose a different airline based on this in the next two weeks, and nearly no one after that – people have very short memories about things like this that affect others but not them, and they aren’t willing to spend an extra $25 or take a connection to “prove their point”. Welcome to this week’s liberal bitch & moan session.

  63. Watch the video – quite clearly he sustains the injury to his face by having it forcibly slammed into the armrest across the aisle. I hope he forces a public apology from United along with significant compensation.

  64. Why didnt he walk off the plane by himself, before anyone had to call the cops?
    I assume he was asked in a very friendly tone at first, then at a stricter tone, then in a commanding tone, then warnings, etc, etc. But he just refused, and the outcome had to end with him being forced off the plane. I’d say he is himself to be blamed.

    United should have found out of the overselling before boarding, but these things happends once in a while. Somebody had to leave for the plane to be able to depart.

  65. Nick, thanks for your excellent take on this matter. To those who are protesting about your making a “political statement/views” are missing the point, which is that you’re simply stating the facts as they’ve unfolded in the election with the resulting current societal atmosphere of intolerance and thuggish behavior. It’s when the president who bullies and threatens as his MO is when others (individuals or corps) are emboldened to do the same and that is the link here for those who fail to see it. It legitimizes the bullying attitudes for those who are in “authoritative” positions including those who work in transportation like flight attendants for example, and elsewhere. I do hope that United and those directly involved in this incident pay dearly for it, we need to stand up and fight!

  66. As a UA 1K member, but more importantly as a human being I am dismayed snd disgusted by these situations that keep happening at UA. Has management lost control of the operations and common sense in their running the rapidly changing and scattered airline? On all of our international travels, it is instantly obvious that we are back in the U.S. by the complete drop in service friendliness, finesse, quality and attitudes of airlines…but the public seems willing to put up with it.

    Note: The continued amateurish, stupid, idiotic and bullsh*t handling of the recent U.A. situations by their P.R. dept. is ridiculous! They have totally screwed-up the clarfying/explaining of events and underestimated AND worsened the situations’ impacts horribly. Heads need to roll in P.R. and the much-vaunted “friendly skies” attitude needs to be instilled in many more of the employees. It’s sad that polite and friendly service is the exception – not the rule.

  67. YEGPSP – but you have status on UA so you’ll continue to fly them, right? As will virtually everyone else with any status or that travels where it’s most convenient to take UA. As for the others, UA probably says “so what” – we weren’t making any money off them anyway.

  68. Now your allowing this blog to get political? That’s why I stopped following, reading and generally enjoying TPGs posts. Too bad.

  69. This is a very long list of comments, so I doubt anybody will ever read this other that myself, Nick and maybe Mark, Bill and oliver; but

    Nick, you nailed the absolute outrage that any reasonable person feels in America today.

    The way this man was treated was unacceptable, a disgrace to freedom, liberty and free enterprise and criminal (IMHO).

    But I guess those lucky enough to see the inside of an airplane now know how members of the greater Black Lives Matter community feel.

    I know that nobody was mortally injured here, but the feeling of helplessness, shock, horror at this injustice to that doctor is palpable.

    I am neither black nor attend protests, but I at least now know a tiny hint of the outrage that others may have felt over the years. Certainly not what someone who has lost a loved one, but rather just a member of a community wronged.

    Let me repeat. This use of force was unacceptable and criminal.

  70. Just occurred to me…this is probably similar to casinos that ask card counters to leave. I know they used to beat people up, but they don’t do that any more, so how is that handled now?

  71. Grotesque- you would have expected UA to simply up the compensation to the point someone is enticed to accept? Incompetent gate personnel, airplane staff didn’t look after their people- the customers. Shame on UA!

  72. @Mark F.: recording the incident on your phone and posting it online to spread the outrage are nice, but I’d be more heartened if all (or most) of the passengers had also collectively raised a ruckus to protest the police’s actions and, by extension, United.

    It appears to me that too many Americans have been cowed by authority.

  73. i just read this report below…i wish it were a “fake news.”

    *****************************

    http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/10/united-ceo-passenger-disruptive-belligerent.html

    United CEO in email to employees says passenger was ‘disruptive and belligerent’

    – In an email to employees, United CEO Oscar Munoz addressed an incident in which an overbooked passenger had to be forcibly removed from a United plane.
    – Passenger described as “disruptive and belligerent.”
    – Munoz: “I emphatically stand behind all of you.”

    CNBC 4 Mins Ago (4:49pm PST)

    UNITED CEO Oscar Munoz doubled down in a letter to employees on Monday evening, claiming that employees “followed established procedures” when removing a passenger from a plane because it was overbooked, and calling the passenger “disruptive and belligerent.”

    United had to ask several passengers who had already boarded a flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday evening to leave, as the airline had sold too many tickets. One man refused to leave, and United called airport officials, who forcibly removed him from the plane.

    Video circulated of the incident earlier in the day, showing the man being dragged from the plane and later returning with blood on his face. The incident drew scorn on Twitter and other social media, especially when Munoz used the euphemism “re-accomodate” in a public statement to describe the customers booted from the flight.

    According to the letter, which was obtained by CNBC, when crew members first approached the passenger to tell him to leave, he “raised his voice and refused to comply,” and each time they asked again “he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.”

    Crew members “were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight,” Munoz wrote, and at one point the passenger “continued to resist – running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.”

    Munoz acknowledged to employees that the company could learn lessons from the incident, but said: “I emphatically stand behind all of you.”

  74. Buck – you think the current “societal atmosphere of intolerance and thuggish behavior” just started in November 2016? Based on that, I guess you thought everyone was getting along fine up to then and there was no bullying ?

    Modesassion – thanks for being our reasonableness assessor. Is that an elected position or self-appointed?

  75. Excellent article, Nick! Right on point. Totally agree with Stuart, above, too. UA has become increasingly aggressive in their treatment of customers over the years. When we lived in CO, it felt like “doing time” being subject to United’s monopoly there. This story, while tragic, is not entirely surprising. I have experienced them threatening to call security before as a way to enforce their bad behavior. AA is going that way, too, although they are not quite as blatant about it. I almost consistently feel abused on UA when forced to fly them, and I break into a cold sweat before even arriving at the airport. I thought you were right on target with pointing out the “social climate” at the moment in the US in the aftermath of this latest election. Thugs win. Just got back from an international trip using miles. We accidentally went into the UA lounge at Narita. It was strikingly drab. Then, fortunately, we recognized our mistake and found our way to the ANA lounge. What a DIFFERENCE. Thank you for everything you do to help make travel better. It’s such a shame about the American carriers.

  76. If we had a government that protected consumer rights, we would see rules and legislation that gives priority to paid tickets over employee transports in cases of overbookings.

    Hope United writes a big check over this one.

    There is nothing about United that attracts me to their flights.

    I fly about 80,000 to 90,000 miles a year. I understand flight complications. My main domestic carrier, Alaska, has handled those I encountered very well.

    United could have just offered a free round trip ticket on any domestic itinerary, good for one year, and they would have gotten four volunteers quickly. Alaska made that offer over 15 years ago on an overbooked flight. I hurried to be first in line. They had no problem.

  77. I agreed that this incident is not about race, not about his age, not about his occupation and it is certainly not about $400 vs $1,000 voucher.
    It is about violence against human being.
    You shows a much higher level of decency than The Point Guy.

  78. 100% agree. The horrific violence inflicted by the police far outweighs the overbooking/IDB issue writ large or United’s terrible handling of the situation (although it should be repeated that this could have totally been avoided by the gate agents had they IDB’d passengers before boarding started or at least stopped boarding to IDB passengers who hadn’t boarded yet). Yes, I get the need for safety and the importance of following crew member instructions, but when FA’s/other airline employees are empowered to call in the police to physically (and violently) remove a passenger as a way of dealing with their own failure to handle the situation properly up to that point, something is seriously wrong. You shouldn’t have to cede all due process rights in order to board an airplane. This wasn’t the case of an unruly passenger or even one of those bs situations where a racist idiot throws a fit because they have to sit next to a Muslim. The victim had done nothing wrong besides getting randomly chosen to be thrown off a flight he had already boarded because the United employees screwed up. They probably made no effort to explain or defuse the situation, or find an alternative solution, they simply closed ranks and sent in the police to drag him off. Totally unacceptable behavior on all fronts.

  79. This is making the leading news here in Australia & I imagine the rest of the world.
    I hope the big 3 Middle Eastern airlines have a field day with this, expressing the ‘customer service experience’ on a US carrier.
    Here we have the US airlines complaining about the EK, EY & QR – the face UA. It’s more UA’s fault demanding people to off load. Maybe don’t over book your flights so much. Worst PR of 2017!

  80. I respect this post. Much more well reasoned and thought out than the garbage @Lucky was peddling earlier.

  81. I think everyone is missing out the bigger issue here.
    UA 3411 departs at 5:40pm and there are several flights leaving after 5:40pm on same day including AA and DL, with both one or non-stops. They could have easily send off those crews or passengers on different flights on the same day.
    If the gate agents couldn’t find anyone to give up their seats before the boarding, I’m guessing they knew it before 5:00pm, they could have called the HQ and get an approval for compensating on other airline’s seats since no one wanted $800 worth of UA voucher. I can’t call back the price of the day it happened, but I’m sure it was less than $800 for one-way ticket on AA or DL.
    Instead, UA decided to use their power of IDB even if it was after the boarding to save some money or not to pay for other airline’s ticket.
    I could be wrong, all of the seats on UA, AA, and DL on that day could have been sold out or overbooked. But at least we should find out before we discuss any further on UA’s behavior.

  82. @NICK – no one is asking the right question – DOT rules require that an IDB be given a WRITTEN statement of the IDB passenger’s rights AND the airlines policy for determining who gets to fly and who doesn’t. The requirement is clear as day at transportation.gov. The removed passenger should have been given this WRITTEN statement and one of the media or bloggers needs to ask the company if it complied. All the accounts I have seen said that the passenger was approached by manager or gate agent and told to deplane – if the written statement was not provided , then the DOT procedures were not followed as the rule requires UA to tell the passenger in writing how he was chosen to be removed.

  83. United should never have to resort to violence or police for this incident especially as the passenger in question did not give any trouble except refusing to give up his seat which is normal. I am just curious though, did anyone corroborate the claim that the passenger is a doctor?

  84. Just another overreach, with the paranoia of security and terrorism to justify these acts.

    Almost laughable. In the past, I would be burned up by full revenue passengers being upgraded to business class, while the first class ( 3 cabin) was full of non paying airline employees.

    Why should we be surprised. What, you want a bag a peanuts ? Did you raise your voice when asking ? Are you being hostile towards a flight crew ?

    More US hysteria, overreach, fascist behavior. What a country the US has become.

    Meanwhile, at the non customer service TSA, be careful , or worse things will happen. Only to be be topped by police forces, and the ultimate, ICE (border control) who have absolute authority and no accountability, violating the constitution on a daily or hourly basis.

  85. @Bill – ha ha soooooooo true ! All these keyboard warriors will be flying United again by Wednesday, as soon as a different blog says they can save $0.13 and earn 1 mile / $10 spent by making 6 connections. They won’t care if they have to stand in the aisle as long as they save $3 …

    “Very few people will choose a different airline based on this in the next two weeks, and nearly no one after that – people have very short memories about things like this that affect others but not them, and they aren’t willing to spend an extra $25 or take a connection to “prove their point”.

  86. Great post Nick. Just don’t think you need to bash on our President and include politics or say it’s a race problem, because this wasn’t a race problem. People need to stop playing the race card on everything it’s getting old.

    Besides that, great article. @lucky should read this.

  87. Great post, Nick. I read this while watching it as the lead item on Don Lemon. It’s a huge story.

    You make a good point about how through fear we’ve given away too much authority, and that’s partly how we’ve landed in this morally bankrupt situation.

  88. Shocking to see. United would be sued by the European Union if they tried this in Europe. About time there was more consumer protection in the USA.
    I will use DELTA from now on when I can – my Gold status with United is not worth seeing a fellow traveler treated this way. SHAME ON YOU UNITED AIRLINES.

  89. Sucks to be the guy who “refused” to leave his seat even after cops were called. Yet the more I read these sort of hysterical responses that ignore the facts, the more disgusted I get. Sure cops over reacted – but the nimrod who refused to leave his seat, delaying all other passengers, (and potentially another series of flights for a delayed flight crew) deserves a swift social media kick in the balls, not being portrayed as some defenseless child being abused by corporate greed and a police state.

  90. No matter how they try to spin it , this is a real screw up by United . There should be legal sanction for denying this man what he paid for and for the phony police thugs who battered him . I am suggesting that jail time is called for . Fines are too easy .

  91. @Mser – so the guy who paid for a ticket expecting to fly is at fault? Not UA? Not the heavy handed police?
    So when you buy something from a shop and are told to give it back with no offer of a refund, just a voucher you may not want, and you refuse that offer and are dragged out of the shop by the police, you’re OK with that? Didn’t think so.

  92. Next they’re going to ask passengers to jump off the plane mid air because pilot wants to take a nap!!!

  93. Nick, you’re the one fanning the fire! The computer chose him, so race is not an issue. He REFUSED to leave, therefore he was forcibly removed. The passenger was entirely at fault, NOT United!

  94. I’m sorry, this incident has nothing to do with politics nor the Chicago police department! This was simply a United Airlines issue and if they think that this will not come back and bite them, they are in for quite the surprise! In this going public they have garnered more bad press than they could have ever imagined. It’s a good thing the “boss” has their back because no one else will!
    Regardless of why this occurred, any statement of defense on their part will be a waste of time and energy. They knew before that plane was boarded that they were overbooked.
    I don’t care if this man was a plumber! What he does for a living is irrelevant. He bought and paid for a ticket, assigned a seat and boarded.
    If passengers on that plane believed he was truly abused it fell to them to stand up and protest! That plane would have been on the ground unable to leave.
    So I guess we will have to wait and see how this plays out. I am sure we are bound to get “the rest of the story” when others passengers start to speak up.

  95. “That situation could have been largely diffused ”

    I’d say it has been diffused quite significantly.

    Of course, diffuse means “spread or cause to spread over a wide area or among a large number of people.”

    Maybe you meant “defused”?

  96. @Bill: “Very few people will choose a different airline based on this in the next two weeks, and nearly no one after that – people have very short memories about things like this that affect others but not them, and they aren’t willing to spend an extra $25 or take a connection to “prove their point”.

    I just booked 12 flights (not segments, flights) on DL today. UA was cheaper, but no way in hell am I or our company’s travel department going to even bother with UA for a LONG time, at least 3 years.

    Sadly, it’s not making as much news as the UA fiasco, but DL had issues this weekend, BUT handled it much better. DL paid a family $11k in VOLUNTARY bump cash. See this article in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/laurabegleybloom/2017/04/09/why-delta-air-lines-paid-me-11000-not-to-fly-to-florida-this-weekend/

  97. The best article by a blogger I have read on this issue.

    Too much power in the wrong hands, and this power is being abused far too frequently, and the magnitude of the power abuse is getting higher and wider, and too little recourse for victims when the abuse of power takes place.

    Look at United’s CEO’s response. No responsibility. It is not their fault. It is the victim’s fault (wow).

  98. How does everyone know that the man was being belligerent and refused to leave after repeated attempts? Because the airline said so? We all know that the airline greatly exaggerates passenger behavior. For all we know he may have asked for some better explanation besides get up now and leave now. I would surely expect some decent discussion. I doubt all the shamers on here would just get up and be gone in 10 seconds without batting an eye. Not everyone is so savvy that they’ve “be personally bumped many times.” It is reasonable to want a satisfactory explanation before collecting your belongings. Most of the flying public aren’t experienced regular travelers and most have probably never even heard of being removed from a plane. I seriously doubt he was informed in a respectful and educated manner and as soon as he questioned it then boom! The thugs were called. I doubt is was a long drawn out process. I agree that he was probably not given his written rights, not told why he was selected other than the “random” bs, and not given any expectation of reasonable compensation. What if this had been my hard of hearing elderly grandpa who wouldn’t have understood what was happening, would they have done the same to him or would they have found a better solution with proper face to face discussion before resorting to violence? I’m sure there is video somewhere of him refusing to deplane and being “belligerant.” I would really like to see that.

  99. Nick
    While well written your article misses the point because in my opinion you have muddied the waters by mixing in your barely concealed dislike for the legally elected President of the United States. What you seem to project is a lens that focuses on your perception that the right to refuse or remove passengers has not changed since the transition from the past President to the new one. Neither has the responsibility of the general public to respond to the lawful orders of a member of the crew of an aircraft. It ceases to be civil disobedience and can and may become a Federal crime, depending on how they choose to proceed. No matter how much you think as a blogger this issue is simple over booking, and request to deplane, and declining to acquiesces to their request, it is not. Federal law provides that regardless of the reason if a member of the crew requests you do a specific action you must. Be it change seats or get off the aircraft. Fair, unfair it is not open for debate at the time. Weight and balance, over sold, just don’t like the way you talk act or look, and they feel threatened, if asked to deplane they can force the issue.
    Perhaps you would feel different if he were on the no fly list, or at 36 thousand feet and refusing to get away from the emergency exit and threatening to open the door. Should we coddle him then? How about if they have a weapon or a bomb. What about then. Sure the video does look very damning, and clearly other courses of action could and perhaps should have been taken, but inside that tube, before during and after the flight the crew is the Judge, jury and police force. The captain is just that and his crew an extension. Its OK, and I understand even if you do not, good order and discipline are now just words one reads, but rarely sees. Perhaps I am too old to accept many of the new concepts such as turning stubborn actions and making them appear heroic and strong.

  100. @schar @Tmart: And I quote: “Does the video show a race issue? Probably not, but if people on your social media feed or in this comments section believe it is a race issue, and you disagree, listen to them and ask why rather than dismiss them.”

    In other words, does the video show a race issue? Not in my opinion (but don’t be a dick if you’re a white dude and you disagree with a person of color thinks it does).

    Reading comprehension would truly be a big step in making America great again IMHO.

  101. BILL – Yes, I have status wuth UA but the vast majority of earned miles are accumulated on other Star Alliance carriers. We take United ONLY when absolutely necessary – and after a couple of tries with UA international flights, never again internationally paying the same $$ for UA’s amateur ‘service’ as it costs for superb service on SQ, LH, Swiss and CX. We ARE looking at our alternatives for status membership and will be transferring at our earliest opportunity…so UA is losing our financial contributions.

  102. “I would have much rather read a story about the best way for passengers to handle a situation like this, than an incoherent left wing political rant.”

    United and American take a pretty cavalier attitude about these kinds of incidents or flight cancellations. That is part of the problem with the corporate culture at those airlines.

    I would much prefer if postings and the original article could clarify how airlines could proactively communicate with passengers and provide significant incentives for volunteers for later flights, particularly when the airline itself is the primary beneficiary of the volunteers who agree. Years ago, I volunteered to give up a seat for a later flight on the same day and was given a free round trip to anywhere Alaska Air flies. I used the free ticket for a ticket to fly to San Diego a couple of months later. I liked the area so much I bought a condo there for a second residence and fly about 10 rounds trips there per year. I came to like flying Alaska a lot and have flown to many other cities and golf trips. Over time I learned about their mileage program and fly with their international partners all over the world, logging 80,000 to 90,000 miles per year for the past few years.

    So there is upside to being a volunteer and there is upside to the airline for being generous with benefits to volunteers.

  103. Well done guys – absent of Ensenhower’s “well informed citizenry” you slept walked into a corporate deep state coup, you allowed them to hood wink you with false flag terrorism, you willingly gave up your rights, and now you’re treated like cattle. Well done. Now fix it – use your constitution before it evaporates completely !!!

  104. How can you be denied boarding AFTER boarding? I don’t see how the CoC rules for this kick in here at all. So it is a clear breach of contract now. That much for United.
    And the police has made itself an accomplice, where they should be upholding law and order.

  105. How can black people being violent to an Asian man be Trump’s fault?! Black on Asian violence is covered up, all the damned time, I dont care for Trump (was more for Bernie) but this began under a black president and my family have felt this first-hand. Sleight-of-hand always lets the black perps walk free and I see this here in this report, black people are always innocent even when footage shows otherwise, it’s terrifying to be the invisible race who get it from black and white alike.

  106. I might have agreed with the article until I got to the part taking a shot a Trump. Really? I thought this newsletter was about air travel… Nick should go back to 1st grade and throw his childish tantrums there.

  107. “I mean, literally after months and months of a presidential candidate spewing offensive crap,” You shouldn’t talk about Mrs. Clinton like that. I thought this blog was about aviation, not YOUR politics.

  108. United Airline should be sick today. This is unacceptable behavior from any business. You don’t treat customers like an animal. I will never book with United Airlines again. I will also make sure everyone knows how you treat your customers. You should just close your doors today. And for the CEO to take a stand that it was the passengers fault. Sorry, dude, we all seen the video. Talk about viral marketing – you just lost the game. You suck.

  109. Thanks for the great post! Could have been any of us! Other passengers didn’t do much to stop this rape of civilisation… we need citizens self help!

  110. Did anyone else already mention this simple solution to airlines? For passengers who have not yet boarded, keep doing what you’re doing and upping the amount of the voucher until you get enough people to accept. But for passengers who have already boarded and then have to be asked to leave, which should be a very rare event, starting offering actual cash, not vouchers, and keep upping the award until you get people to leave. If someone offered me $5,000 cash to get off the plane, even if it was in the form of a check that I would not receive for two weeks, and I didn’t have a business meeting to catch, I’d take it. In that case, you might have the opposite problem, namely, people running over each other in the aisles to grab the opportunity to get the cash. Cash is king, not some voucher for some uncertain future flight that no doubt has restrictions and that you might not ever take anyway.

  111. I am sorry, but seing the images I felt the urge to beat the crap out of that passenger.
    He was fighting for that seat as he was on Titanic. GTFO of the plane and take the other one. Here, take $800.
    “Racism”… I would have beat the crap out of him just for using that word. “Racism” is in your mind. Here we have A PROBLEM. Nobody cares about your color, motherfucker, don’t try to feel important.

  112. Then they have the nerve to dig out this mans past almost to discredit what happened . He paid for that seat. He shouldnt have had to voluntarily give it up. I read that the flight wasnt even over booked they needed the seats for employees who had to catch a kentucky flight!!!!

  113. I will never fly United again ever ill pay more to fly any other airline there are too meny choices out there to support UA. He bought and paied for his seat boarded was in his paied seat bags on board its total bull what was done to him, REMEMBER IT COULD BE YOU NEXT i assume every one on this blog is a frequent flyer.

  114. The compensation program for United is wrong and doesn’t need cash for volunteers. It needs redesign. Something like this would be easier to employ at United:

    When seats are needed, pick a seated passenger whose baggage is the easiest to offload. Call the thugs onboard to hoist that random passenger and stand him/her up front of the cabin for all other passengers to see. Use restraints if passenger does not comply. Indicate on the PA (Captain or FA is ok) that unless someone volunteers to give their seat this passenger will be bloodied for all of you to watch. Punch, kick or smack as necessary, making sure the sounds are carried over the PA so they reach the back of the airplane.

    Some bleeding heart traveler will no doubt comply and provide a seat and United will save millions each year in compensation. Hey, don’t laugh, the first trials were just undertaken in Chicago and proved very successful. Just keep some extra bandages in the kit onboard.

  115. This is not a UA overreach problem. The airline was operating within its long standing policy and in accordance with the terms of the travel agreement issued and accepted by Mr. Dao. The traveler was informed that he would be rebooked per that same agreement, but was unwilling to comply with the request the airline had made to exit their asset. Essentially, he refused to abide by the terms of the agreement, and the airline had every right to revoke the traveller’s ticket (which, FTR, they did not). The unfortunate means by which the passenger was removed and the physical injury that resulted were the responsibility of the Chicago Aviation Department’s security force (I am unclear if they are an actual LEA.) Your anger should be directed there. And, I assume at least the parties involved as individuals will be looked at harder.

    Again. I hate that it happened, but the airline was operating within its rights, and the passenger refused to comply with the agreement he had entered into, and then refused to comply with a security force that had taken over the situation. As a result, he got hurt, and a whole aircraft full of people were two hours late to their destination.

    If he had complied, he might have been late. (Maybe. I count at least five flights that would have put him in Louisville that same evening or very early the next morning). But, his whole aircraft and the aircraft that the crew were trying to get to wouldn’t all have been severely delayed. Frankly, I understand his frustration, but I see it as selfish.

  116. Absolutely not, Mark- have you not read any of the legal pronouncements on this, or taken a cusury glance at United’s CoC, or looked at any other comments before spewing off?

    Rule 25 covers IDB, and compensation and rules for determining who gets to board a United flight that is overbooked.

    Rule 21 covers United’s right to refuse transport to customers, and is what is used to walk off disruptive passengers, etc.

    The passenger abided by the rules of the contract, showing up on time, boarding in an orderly fashion. Maybe he didn’t turn off his phone, but the door was not shut yet, nor was he requested to do so by an airline employee.

    United broke its own contract in asking a non-disruptive passenger to get off the plane so that they could give the seat to their own employee instead. They don’t have the right to evict, anymore than a landlord can evict a tenant that has paid their rent on a timely basis and has not caused a disturbance.

    You might argue that by refusing the flight attendant’ instructions, he violated Rule 21. But refusing to obey an unlawful order is not an unlawful act- if the flight attendant tells you to strip naked, is refusing to do so legal grounds to eject you from the plane?

  117. I’m here for the travel advice, not your liberal political views. Keep it up and you’ll lose at least 1 subscriber: this one.

  118. Forgot to mention- thanks for the apology, Ben- I feel it’s heartfelt and has won you a loyal reader. I deleted VFTW, and will be giving you my affiliate signups from now on…

  119. Not a new problem, this happened to our Family 20 years ago on a Sri Lanka flight London to Sri Lanka via UAE. My father had paid for his 10 month old Grand daughter to have a seat, she got booted to a crib, so a crew member could fly to UAE for a Christmas Wedding. We were offered no compensation at all.

  120. I had a similar situation in Chicago in 2007 and sued the Chicago police department. The crew lied and the police were abusive. I had to pay a fine two years later (it was just easier than fighting it) because I didn’t sue the airlines and got arrested because of the passenger next to me. I was 51 and just had bilateral knee surgery and was pulled down wrought iron unstable stairway. I was arrested in front of the whole flight and even the one steward said I wasn’t involved. The policewoman said she didn’t care. Shame on the airlines but also shame on the man provoking the situation. I just cried and was chained to a cement pail at the police station, detained for hours, and interrogated by the FBI.

  121. I’m lucky to have switched to an Asian airline leaving all my status with United behind a few years back. The stark contrast could not be more apparent (also taking into account different economics as well as the US aviation industry as a whole post 9/11).

    My bad experience: EWR gate agent boarding a 757-200 bound for SFO asks me to check my tumi carry on. It was clearly discrimination as I asked him for a reason and he said we don’t have enough room (and I ducktaped one edge cause I knew the 757 overhead bin ive scratched it before). They tagged my bag, I was able to fit my luggage because I didn’t want to check it in, but he ends up holding the plane for 10 minutes to search from front to back my bag. Then forcefully pulls out my bag and I argued my case without raising my voice, to which he said: if you don’t listen to me you can leave the flight.

    I state this because it is consistent with the fact that agents and employees stretch their muscle to over exaggerate and use the “UNITED contract” to make themselves venerable / take the shortcut in resolving an issue.

    I wish the doctor and his family well. Also I believe that at the very least this has everyone discussing and sharing their negative (at times positive) experience with the United and by extension the US major carriers. I am glad that there are more options for people to travel (the big 3 have a very very very long way to go for customer service). Time to stop telling us in your boarding video how proud you are of your United family and us as loyal customers.

    Like any other industry, you earn our business. Munoz got it right in his recovery to save face interview: he paid, he was boarded, then asked to leave involuntarily…. so you call authorities who ALWAYS use force when they feel like they aren’t in control.

  122. Nick I LOVED your article and agree 100%!!!! The first article I have read that actually goes in to the “WHY?” I’m amazed at some of the comments from people who, in my opinion, just don’t get the deeper ramifications of actions like this and a trend in America’s corporations of total power, greed, and abuse. Keep reporting like you are.

  123. If you attack others solely because they have a different skin, its wrong.
    but if they happen to be irritating, disobedient to “justified rules” by the authorities, cause chaos, etc, etc, dont be afraid to take actions. I am an asian and I totally think this Viet man is to blame.

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