The Root Cause Of United’s Denied Boarding Fiasco

United’s situation involving the passenger who was forcibly removed from a plane this weekend was despicable. In short, United needed to accommodate four crew members on a flight from Chicago to Louisville that was already full. In these cases, there are fairly well established procedures to follow that usually result in passengers either being voluntarily or involuntarily denied boarding. Or in common parlance, they are bumped from the flight. It happens every day, on every legacy airline.

But getting bumped from a flight isn’t supposed to involve physical contact, let alone assault. Yet that’s exactly what happened when the gate agent working the flight was unsuccessful at soliciting enough volunteers and resorted to involuntarily denying boarding to several passengers, one of which wanted no part of it. That’s when the cops showed up and forcibly separated him from his seat.

United

It’s common in situations like this for us all to feel some remorse and wish there was something we could have done. Though I disagree, some have suggested that those on the plane should have intervened rather than recorded the event. Well, I can say with 99% certainty that if I had been ticketed on this flight, none of this would have happened.

You see, I would have been happy to take the $800 — oh who am I kidding, I’d do it for $400 — gone to the hotel and flew home the next day. And I’ve done exactly that dozens and dozens and dozens of times before.

I’ve been bumped while flying internationally, domestically, in first class, in economy, you name it. I’ve been bumped as early as a week before the flight, and (rarely) after I had already boarded the aircraft. I’ve been bumped from a flight I never intended to take (because I was flying a hidden-city itinerary) and “bumped” from a flight where they ended up not actually needing my seat (I got my original seat back, and they let me keep the voucher.). I’ve been bumped when they needed just one seat and when they needed as many as 17 (they didn’t get them.). Once I was even bumped seven times from the same flight segment, which is my record.

So yeah, I’m pretty sure I could have helped the good doctor out.  

A brief history of oversold situations on United

By most accounts, United started soliciting volunteers for this flight by offering $400 in travel credits. That didn’t shake loose enough seats so they upped it to $800. That didn’t produce the desired result either, so they… stopped.

And that’s the maddening part.

Ten years ago, prior to the Continental merger takeover, United agents were empowered to do the right thing. In situations like this, they could adjust the compensation amounts based on how they perceived the local market — namely the 200 or so people in the gate area. Back then, the opening offer for a bump requiring an overnight stay such as this was typically $600. And it went up from there.

Then the merger happened and Continental took over. All of a sudden it was the computer that decided how much a gate agent could offer. Jeff Smisek and his crew believed they knew more than the agents on the floor, and that they could save a few bucks by limiting the compensation amounts.

Jeff-Smisek

I had gate agents tell me that they would love to offer more compensation, but the computer just wouldn’t let them. It was frustrating to them.

So whereas a typical bump requiring a delay of a few hours would have once paid $400, it often dropped to $200 during those years. And sometimes only $150. Well, it turns out that people aren’t stupid. If you don’t make them a compelling offer, they’ll just keep their seat. But Smisek didn’t care. He’d just Involuntarily Deny Boarding (IDB) to folks. Too bad, so sad. Sure he never presided over anyone getting ripped from their seat, but the culture was established under his watch.

But there was a second complicating factor. Continental used an archaic passenger service system that, although functional, required an insane number of keystrokes to accomplish just about anything. But they owned it, whereas United only leased theirs. Guess which one survived?

Although there have been improvements and overlays, the Continental system still makes it cumbersome to do pretty much anything out of the routine, which includes rebooking passengers on alternate flights. That means that if you’re rushing to get a flight out on time, it can be a lot faster to IDB someone than to process volunteers. So that’s what gate agents do.

Sure, the airlines are required to report the number of IDBs to the DOT, but during the Smisek era they didn’t care. I mean, who else are you going to fly?

Even though Smisek is long gone, much of his small-ball thinking is still in place within the depths of the organization. And that is the root cause of this disaster.

A parallel story on Delta

Delta was operationally horrible last week. They cancelled thousands of flights and made a real mess of a lot of people’s travel plans, my in-laws included.

One of the interesting stories that came out of that though was of a family that pocketed $11,000 in bump vouchers by giving up their seats on oversold flights. Delta offered $1,350 per passenger and the family took it. And then did it again when their rebooked flight was also oversold.

Delta-Livery

How would this have played out if United had offered $1,350? Would an extra $550 have been enough to move the needle? We’ll never know, but my hunch is yes.

How much would CEO Oscar Munoz have paid out of his own pocket to have avoided this fiasco? I’m guessing you could add a few zeros to the right of that number. Heck, I bet he wishes the gate agent had called him to help sort it out rather than the police.

Bottom line

I’m convinced that this was Smisek-era small-ball thinking at its finest. Under his leadership, United believed that cutting costs was the path to profitability, and that extended right down to bump compensation.

Sadly, some of that mentality is still prevalent at the company today despite Munoz’s best efforts. We still see front line agents that aren’t able to fix reservations and instead resort to calling the mythical help desk. Unfortunately, in this case, they skipped the help desk and went straight to the cops.

United got away with low-balling for years. And now they’re reaping what they’ve sown.


This has been a quickly-moving story with myriad updates. The full coverage of the United incident from the One Mile at a Time team is as follows:

Crazy Video: Passenger Forcibly Dragged Off United Flight
What United Really Screwed Up With Their Latest Viral Incident
The Horrible Video I Hadn’t Seen Of The Guy Being Dragged Off A United Flight...
Why United’s Incident Is A Much Bigger Deal Than You May Think
Pathetic: United’s CEO Makes The Denied Boarding Fiasco Even Worse
What Are Your Rights If You Get Bumped From A Flight?
United’s Removal Of Passengers May Not Have Been Legal
The Root Cause Of United’s Denied Boarding Fiasco
Wow: Emirates Throws Major (But Fair) Shade At United In New Video
FINALLY: United’s CEO Issues A Real Apology For What Happened
I’m Sorry: My Initial Reaction To The United Situation Was Wrong
Fascinating: Good Morning America Interviews United’s CEO
United Is Refunding The Fares Of All Passengers On Flight 3411

Comments

  1. “there are fairly well established procedures to follow that usually result in passengers either being voluntarily or involuntarily denied boarding.”

    He wasn’t denied boarding he was removed from a flight. The contract of carriage says nothing about being removed from a flight once you have boarded for an oversold situation. If the airlines want to stick to the letter of the contract of carriage the passengers should be able to as well.

  2. I would not have taken their vouchers. If you are IDB on a domestic, they owe you up to $1,350 CASH (or check) plus whatever food and hotel were offered, but I;ve been on flights where I wouldn’t even take cash, I just wanted to get home.

  3. “I bet he wishes the gate agent had called him to help sort it out rather than the police.”

    No he didn’t. His e-mail to staff praising them for how they handled the incident clearly shows that Munoz clearly doesn’t have any remorse about what happened at all.

    F— Munoz and F— United. I will gladly give my business to other airlines who perhaps see passengers as customers rather than an annoyance to be dealt with by police thugs.

  4. the root cause is a bunch of holier-than-thou hypocrites who never bother reading the full story and jump to conclusions so they can pretend to have a caring heart

  5. Since you guys are on a roll with these posts, why not do one about the impact from the Chinese market, where people have choice to not fly United. United is bigger there than AA and DL. The founder of JD.com has called for a boycott of United.

  6. It’s great that you’re so flexible with your travel, but many aren’t. And it’s one thing to volunteer at the gate, but quite another on the plane. Once I’m sitting in my seat, I want to take off. And since the IDB compensation is a few times the cost of the one-way portion of the ticket, they airline considers it cheaper to do that.

  7. “You see, I would have been happy to take the $800 — oh who am I kidding, I’d do it for $400 — gone to the hotel and flew home the next day.”

    Therein lies the flaw in your premise, which is: “I do this all the time and it’s no big deal, why doesn’t everyone else?”

    I’ll be blunt: you clearly have more time than money. Many, many people simply have to be places, at a specific time, and there’s just no amount of money that’s going to compensate for not being where you need to be. Sometimes it’s because of work, for other people, they don’t need the money, points or any of that other crap, because it’s a token sum, even though they’re flying coach.

    The second half of your analysis, identifying the management processes at fault, is correct – there likely were other people who may have responded to a higher offer. In the end, airlines need to build a possible case where they simply can’t find enough people to volunteer, and just not allow a person without a defined seat to board.

  8. I understand that there may be procedural issues on how this played out. Was it illegal? Is it good customer service even if legal? I feel for the people who were bumped. I know when I travel, I often can afford to be a day late. I do understand all that. But to me it comes down to this – if the flight crew asked you to do something…you do it. Even more so, if law enforcement asks you to do something…you do it. It really boils down to that. The couple before this man were probably equally unhappy about having to deplane, but they did not create an incident. The man made a bad situation worse by resisting and having to be carried off the plane. I saw the video and I thought, I have too much dignity to let cops have to carry me off a plane. I might rant all the off, I might get on social media or my blog, but I am GOING to obey a police officer. While overbooking is a practice I do not like, it happens, But we can’t ignore the fact that this man made this far worse than it had to be with his behavior.

    http://www.debriantravels.com/blog/2017/4/11/thoughts-on-man-drug-off-united-flight

  9. Not to mention this was not an “oversold” flight. This was a fully booked flight that Republic wanted to put crew members on instead of the folks that bought tickets for it. Unluckily for Republic/UA, one of the passengers refused to be thrown off the plane for the benefit of the crew. Resulting in physical injury, leading to the video going viral, creating massively damaging bad PR.

    This is the wanton disregard that Republic/UA imposes on their paying customers daily; that the public typically doesn’t hear about. Now we all know… 🙁

  10. And this also happened on a United Express flight operated by Republic Airlines – something that seems to be left out on all reporting. Time and again these embarrassing situations occur on the commuter jets operated on behalf of the parent – yet the parent gets all the negative publicity. At the end of the day it’s the parent’s problem sadly.

    One thought on all of this – the 4 seats were required for UA crew for another flight the next day. Why not get a reserve crew for that flight – happens all the time – or just delay that flight.

    I wonder what the procedure is when the computer randomly picks a Global Services or 1K passenger to be subject to IDB…? This would have NEVER happened at the old united.

  11. I side with United Airlines on this matter. The rules of carriage are there for a reason. The man removed was acting in true drama queen fashion. There are many examples of Asian behavior that this immigrant showed. He had to be removed in the fashion by the police as he himself caused it. Had he simply cooperated with the rules of carriage none of this would have happened. Sure, overbooking happens, but it doesn’t mean that you act like a 7 year old child with a tantrum. Good on the Chicago Aviation Police for their professional handling of the matter. None of the other folks who had to give up their seats exhibited such outrageous cultural traits a that of this Asian. There is confusion as to whether he is Chinese or Vietnamese, but both cultures exhibit this kind of selfish and boorish behavior. Google youtube videos for more of the same. Stick with some facts and don’t let ’emotions’ get in the way of thinking. United handled it correctly.

  12. The very best thing United can do right now is fold. Wrap up shop and bring it to an end.

    The massive effort it would take to:
    a) change the culture in that organization;
    b) alter the perception of the flying public that UA is there to serve customers, not themselves; and
    c) be sincere in the effort
    would take more effort than it would to shift the earth’s axis.

    Few mistakes are fatal in this world, though the many mistakes UA made leading up to this disaster this past weekend should be to that organization. Shareholders should hold Munoz, his leadership team and the board accountable.

  13. You would have helped this gentleman. Fine. But what if one has a vital commitment to attend? A funeral? The job interview of his life. Some family member hospitalized? Sorry in such cases I wouldn’t even accept 20,000 although I’d be also happy with 400 in normal circumstances. This chap is a doctor and had to attend to important commitment next morning. We can’t make an example valid for everyone I guess.

  14. @Alan S, may I ask your cultural background and/or heritage please, so we can also stereotype you.

  15. I think what United caused to happen here (notice my different word selection vs. Oscar M.) was horrible. There were so many easier ways to resolve this–as Travis points above, a market/auction like approach to this problem would have eventually produced enough volunteers as the compensation went up.

    However, if you want a bit of comic relief from this serious situation, Jimmy Kimmel’s new “commercial” for United is hilarious. Sad but hilarious:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/jimmy-kimmel-united-commercial_us_58ec7654e4b0df7e2044b81e

  16. The Chinese have every right to boycott United. How could United staff so mistreated a doctor? Asians highly respect medical professionals, and this kind of barbaric treatment is an insult to Chinese people.

  17. I don’t know if Alan S. is just trying to bait us, but his racism has no more to do with the “facts” than the emotional responses of others.

    Travis, I agree with the content of your post, but can we stop using the term “denied boarding” since we all know that’s not accurate in this case?

  18. Why is UA only offered the 3pm flight on Monday for VDB? There is a flight in the evening. There are flights in the morning. There are flights on AA which UA does interline. UA is being cheap for only VDB with Y>0. yet it has no trouble to put crews on plane with Y=0. If they offer the evening flights, and then seek volunteer on the evening flights and roll over, it would be much easier and more costly. UA is cheap. that is the story.

  19. @_ar

    I even saw images on twitter of shredded UA mileage plus credit cards and status cards lol Chinese travelers were really upset.

  20. I too would have voluntarily agreed to be denied transport. I once scored a rare double cabin upgrade, E+ to F, on United’s now-defunct premium service (p.s.) between JFK and SFO. I’d already cleared a GPU from E+ to J, then at boarding there was a call for volunteers to be denied boarding because the flight was overbooked. I promptly volunteered for the VDB, which offered a $200 voucher and rebooking on the next p.s. that departed just an hour later. After I got the voucher and the new ticket, I decided to push it a bit and asked the agent — an older lady — if she would consider bumping me to first class in recognition of my ‘good citizen’ deed. She looked at me, smiled, reprinted the ticket bumping me to first class, and then handed it to me saying: “You still have enough time to use the first-class lounge.” Kool.

    The bloodying of the passenger could have been avoided in so many ways, but once UA brought on the scene all-muscle, no-brain Chicago Aviation agents, the bloodying became inevitable. This incident would have been a non-incident if more professional and better trained “bouncers” had handled it:

    “Late Monday afternoon, the Chicago Department of Aviation said one of the officers involved in the incident had been placed on leave. “The incident on United flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department,” the agency said in a statement. “That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation.””

  21. Top 10 New United Airlines slogans:
    1. Board the plane as a doctor – leave as a patient.
    2, Would you like a neck pillow, or a neck brace?
    3. We have Red Eye and Black Eye flights available!
    4. We have an offer you can’t refuse. No really.
    5. Did you want a window seat or a concussion?
    6. If we can’t beat our competitors, we beat our customers.
    7. We put the hospital in hospitality.
    8. Tell us your safe word at check in.
    9. Now serving punch on all fights.
    10. No volunteers? Unseat -> Beat -> Repeat

  22. And therein lies one if the issues: the public is so willing to accept $400. Long ago, we would organize with people at the gate to hold out for $2000 (which many airlines are still able to authorize) — CASH. 20 years later, people think $400 is a lot.

  23. “The root cause of United’s denied boarding fiasco” is that IDB compensation is set too low at $800. If it were higher (say, $1500), UA would probably have offered more than $800 to volunteers, and someone would probably have accepted.

    It would be great if this incident makes clear the need for IDB regulations to be revised. I’m not sure if it’s the FAA or Congress that sets them, but either way, I’m not terribly hopeful that either body will do anything, given the current makeup of the executive and legislative branches.

  24. What I don’t get is why didn’t United just send the crew on another flight or another airline, even if they had to buy the damn seats. Their flight wasn’t until the next day. 4 bumps at $400 is $1600, plus 4 pissed off customers telling their friends. One way flights on AA or SW are less than that.
    Hell, Chicago probably has a couple of UA’s executive jets sitting around, or they could charter a private. It was only Chicago to Louisville, an hour flight.
    A whole lot cheaper than a PR nightmare, potential lawsuits and a big stock hit. Dumbasses.

  25. Take that 800 USD, rent a car and drive down to Lousiville, KY undder 5 hours. This is that simple

  26. @Chris – Couldn’t agree more. I travel for work and my work is a Transcon and TATL flight away and getting bumped from either of these flights results in, at a minimum 24 hour delay, a hotel room charge at destination, missed appointments, ground transportation, etc. It’s bad enough that these delays happen due to weather and other factors but to be bumped and offered a (often times useless) $400 voucher doesn’t come close to compensating for the other expenses.

    Odd thing is, there never seems to be a shortage of volunteers in these situation on the flights I take.

  27. I hope Asian customers boycott United and send a message to the entire American industry. These type of acts wont be tolerated.

    Will I fly United in the near future?
    All things being equal, hell NO.
    They are going to have to sweeten the pie until they fix their attitude.

  28. @Lucky. What about Republic Airlines, are they bound by the same rules? I think they pay lower salaiies all across

    I avoid them like the plague , (AA Eagle) their service is horrible.

  29. Jorge et al: I don’t actually see this being a Republic issue. The gate agent would have been a United employee, and would have been in control of the situation until the door shuts. I’m just speculating here, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect the Republic crew to have had anything to do with it. Again, just my speculation based on my experience.

  30. Joey — Thanks for the link. I’m not sure it matters whether the flight was overbooked originally or not, but forcing four crew members onto the flight created an oversale situation. So to me, this is just semantics.

    Now as to whether it was a denied boarding situation…. I definitely agree that once you’ve boarded a passenger, it changes the dynamics. Perhaps legally it’s the same, but to most people, once they board the plane, sit down, stretch out, they are good to go. So I agree it’s not really a case of denied boarding, but I’m not sure what to call it.

  31. @John – I don’t think @Alan S.’s comments re: Asians are appropriate, but let’s not deem it racism. He was talking about culture and that is not the same thing. The distinction is important.

    As for whether the aircraft was oversold, that does change the calculus as to whether the airline’s policy enforcement was appropriate or warranted. However, the fact remains that Mr. Dao behaved in an absolutely inappropriate manner. Not wanting to get off the plane, even possibly being right that the airline was out of bounds. When you are asked to leave, especially by law enforcement, you comply with their instructions. Even if you don’t quietly go along, you do not refuse to stand or walk out and force those officers to carry you out. That was childish and a lot like a small child who throws a tantrum in a store and has to be carried outside.

  32. Thanks Ben for for the analysis and background. That could be the reason not not excuse for the event. Oscar ‘s internal letter as well as the first “apology” are the real issue here!

  33. I’m surprised the racists put down the finger chili long enough to type out their inane comments.

  34. @Travis

    Are you *sure* the gate agents are mainline UA employees? I used to work for a different UAX carrier at IAD, and all of our agents in the A terminal were UAX employees.

    I really have no reason to know one way or the other, but I wouldn’t “be pretty sure” about that statement without any sort of first hand verification.

  35. I think not enough attention is being focused on the airport “police.”
    1) It shouldn’t be law enforcement’s job to handle a business’ problems.
    2) How much training did they have?
    3) He got away from them and reboarded the plane. Was he not arrested?
    4) The customer did not cause a commotion, the police did. So again, what’s their training?

  36. the rules of contract of carriage are reasonable wrt to overbooking and denying boarding.
    (https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriage.aspxare)

    Why should a customer be forced to leave the plane due to overbooking? You made the reservation, paid the money and got to the gate on time and have now boarded?

    Do restaurants ask you to leave when you are sitting at the table waiting to order because someone more important has shown up?

    Or hotels remove you from your hotel bed for similar reasons?

    Of course not. It’s unreasonable. And they would go out of business.

    They have been able to get away with it for too long.
    And so when there were not enough volunteers, they picked on someone (as the contract of carriage say they can – rule 25). Once he said no and refused to move, they used physical force as they say they can because he wasn’t following directions.
    I read the conditions of carriage. rule 25. It’s shocking what they can do. Remove an unaccompanied minor if they want too.

    It all comes down to the conditions we all agree to when we buy a ticket.

  37. I bet the good doctor is regretting all this now as his past is coming to light. Now everybody knows (including his kids and grandkids) that he traded drugs for sex with a male patient after enjoying doing an exam on him. Med board suspended his license too!

  38. @Dan Exactly. There is always the chance that they are outsourced. However, to @Travis’ point, there usually is one mainline employee in a supervisor or above role in the area.

  39. Having had been in the situation of contemplating volunteering my seat, I wonder how quickly they went from $400 to $800. If they did it quickly, the passengers might have thought “oh, they’re going higher let’s wait and get more since nobody is budging”. I’ve had that greed mentality of “they’re going to offer more”. And yes, I would have taken the $800 in most cases. But if I my trip is extended a day and that meant using an extra vacation day or lose a day’s pay then it’s not worth it.

    But the problem is once people board the plane nobody wants to bother giving up their seats at that point unless the gift was ridiculous.

  40. People can become jerks on planes, and we all know it. Of all the passengers who looked so disgusted and posted their videos on social media, not a single one volunteered to go in his place. Not a single one. They are all Scott from SNL!

  41. The Delta story says that the author’s bags departed to FLL even though the author wasn’t on board. It’s horrifying to think terrorists could bump themselves off a flight if they had bombs in a (totally-passenger-filled!) airplane.

  42. Just out of left field: didn’t United have a 9pm departure from Chicago to Louisville (4771) which presumably hadn’t yet boarded, so they could have done the “denied boarding” process BEFORE anyone was already on the plane? Didn’t that occur to anyone? Or was there some reason the UA crew couldn’t have taken the later flight? After all, apparently the flight they were going to service was the next morning. Just curious.

  43. I think the root cause was well stated in one of the bullet points in the United CEO’s second communication about the incident:

    “On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United’s gate agent were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight. “.

    They asked for volunteers to deboard, which seems reasonable with compensation. But when that didn’t work they decided to choose people to bump off the flight involuntarily. That’s the really surprising and problematic part of the story to me.

    In what other industries…cinema, live theater, hotels, etc would it be considered OK to involuntarily eject paying customers so that employees can take their place? How can that possibly be a fair and good way to proceed? It seems pretty crazy. Surely if you can’t get your employees in the right place at the right time, you shouldn’t be allowed to try and solve your issue by forcing paying customers off the plane, especially if, in order to do that, you have the power to ask airport security to help you do it.

    I think it might be a nice gesture if United said they are changing their policy so no passenger will ever again be asked to involuntarily leave (or not board) a flight because an employee needs their seat.

  44. So, Mr Schlappig, most people work or a living with day jobs, so $800 is “uninteresting”
    Now, the major I with this incident is that this one was caught on video.
    The Bloomberg article quoted a prominent lawyer saying the passenger forcibly removed does not have legal recourse, since his refusal to involuntary deplane “posed a threat to the flight crew” and therefore the forced physical removal by “police” was “justified”, if not legal!

    Furthermore I am sick and tired of rude and condescending (threatening to throw you off the plane) cabin crews, particularly the senior flight attendants who know that it will take an act greater than God to firethem. And those 4 dead head crew, we’re they asked if they could use the jump seats? They probably would have refused since union rules say they have ride in comfort inspite of The situation and negligence of ground staff boarding all the passengers.

    Also, why do airlines have such sway with directing police forcibly remove the passenger (and by the way NBC Today Show interviewed nother passenger who said initially the Doctor got up o volunteer, but declined when informed next light was not till next day fternoon) and ow was “randomly selected” for IDB.

    One final note. Is Louisville airport in the middle of nowhere? I bet e next flight was the next United flight with availability. How bout other carriers? How about other neighboring air and ground transport to Loisville, this s the total negligence of and the billion dollars stops with the CEO

  45. @Lucky/Ben,
    “Delta was operationally horrible last week. They cancelled thousands of flights and made a real mess of a lot of people’s travel plans, my in-laws included.”. Does this mean congratulations are in order? 😉

  46. Since some of us are perpetuating stereotypes, here’s one: this would never happen on an Asian carrier. Period.

  47. @Alan S Interesting analysis especially considering the “boorish” behavior that led to the colonization of the globe by white people. Try to censor me mods, while you let this racist spew his Anti Asian racism, it will demonstrate the double standard and bias you have.

  48. I just read the article. Like the author of the article says, “There are two sides to every story “. I say three sides… your side, their side, and the truth. 30 years in the airline industry and I never saw someone dragged down the aisle of a plane for involuntary denied boarding. I have also never heard of some magical “algorithm” that tells the gate agent who to take off the plane. My take is as follows….1. If United knew they had positive space deadhead crew going to be on board, they should have booked them and solicited for denied boarding BEFORE ever putting anyone on the plane. Once people are sitting in a seat it is extremely difficult to get them to give up their seat. Bad move on the gate agent and bad on United operations if they just sent a deadhead crew to a full flight, unannounced. 2. The magic “algorithm”…. Easy to blame the computer, instead having the agents look for people who were willing to deplane, and then go on board with a new itinerary and a pocket of cash (vouchers). The agent should have called a supervisor to handle the situation, not immediately hide behind the police. If I got into a situation like this, which I have many times, money talks. To recap, they should not have boarded the plane before finding people to give up seats. Someone dropped the ball if they did not give a heads-up about the deadhead crew. They could have upped the price to way over $1000.00 to get seats, and finally, that doctor did have the right to change his mind since it appears that his new itinerary would not work. This sounds to me like a tornado hit the gate. Really poorly handled. My new hires could have done a better job.

  49. Peter is right! I too looked into the cost of a Private Jet from Midway (O’Hare did not come up as an option) to Louisville and 4 people one way was about $9700!!
    Far less than what United has already refunded to passengers and what the Dr. Is going to sue for.

  50. On my last flight to SFO, people were asked to give up their seats for vouchers. Never saw anyone volunteer. After boarding, we waited nearly an hour sitting in the rather hot plane and finally, several airline crew members boarded and sat in the only empty seats available.

  51. United should have known they needed to get crew to Louisville. If the airline knew the flight was full either put them on an earlier flight or have the get to the airport 5 hours before that plane was going to land. If it was a hours of service reason. Then put them in a limo or an Uber to Louisville. It would’ve been cheaper than the lawsuit and refunding everyone’s airfare.

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