United: So Sorry, We'll Do Better Next Time

United Airlines has issued this apology for dragging an unwilling passenger off an overbooked plane to make room for some employees. His lawyer says he is now in the hospital recovering from his injuries. (No link to news articles because I could not find a single one without video.)

I stopped flying years ago -- it simply was too unpleasant, time-consuming and not worth the hassle or expense -- so I had no idea the airlines could do what United did: After offering $400, then $800, without getting enough takers, it can pick four passengers "randomly" and make them deplane, using police if necessary. First, that's no better than buying a stand-by seat. .

Second, I don't buy that the selection is random. Does anyone believe the airline would kick off a first class passenger already seated? I wonder if they didn't just pick the four passengers who paid the least for their seats and were not frequent flier members.

What's next? Will hotels overbook rooms, and when you're fast asleep in the bed, come knocking at the door with a cop in tow, telling you to vacate your paid-for room for another customer? I wouldn't be surprised. When you allow a few rich companies to dominate an industry, whether it's airlines, cable tv, internet or gas and electric companies, John and Jane Citizen get screwed. [More...]

The problem, as the New York Times says in an editorial (no video) lies in the nature of the oligopolistic airline industry.

There is no mystery why air travel has gotten so ugly.

.... This is an oligopolistic industry that has become increasingly callous toward customers as it rakes in billions in profits thanks to strong demand and low oil prices. In recent years, big airlines have squeezed seats in coach closer together, forcing average-size Americans to become intimately familiar with their knees. In addition to checked-bag fees, which have been standard on many airlines for years, more passengers are being required to pay extra for early boarding, more legroom and, in a recent insult, the right to stash bags in overhead bins.

As of February 2017, there are 186​ gates at O'Hare. United leases 77 of them, and American Airlines leases 67.

As for United, shame on them. Even more shame on the airport security cops who pulled the guy from his seat. One has been put on leave, but they all should be fired. This is the Commissioner of the City of Chicago's Department of Aviation. Their website says no tax dollars are used for their activities.

The Chicago Sun Times has this non-video article with the rules on what the airlines can and can't do.

Memo to media: You don't need to add a line to every article on every topic with whether Donald Trump has weighed in. No one cares what he thinks about anything, let alone something that has nothing to do with him. Go interview the man or woman on the street, it would be more relevant and interesting.

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    United admits they screwed up (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Repack Rider on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 12:58:34 PM EST
    ... an admission produced by unrelenting pressure and plummeting stock values.  

    Okay, I lied about the pressure.  It was the stock values.  But their defenders on this blog have not given up on United, defending the action and smearing the victim.

    This event, like every police shooting of an unarmed Black man, would never have been known outside the cabin if not for cellphone cameras.

    Big Brother did not realize we would be watching also.

    It was only a matter of time, ... (none / 0) (#20)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 07:49:45 PM EST
    ... before someone who loves Southwest Airlines would create the appropriate meme.

    The key word is "seated." (none / 0) (#1)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 09:33:58 AM EST
    United Airlines will no longer use law enforcement officers to remove overbooked passengers from aircraft in the wake of a video that showed a Chicago passenger dragged from one of its flights on Sunday.

    "We're not going to put a law enforcement official... to remove a booked, paid, seated passenger," United Continental Holdings Inc Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz told ABC News on Wednesday morning. "We can't do that."


    The key word is "seated." Gotta watch their lips and listen very carefully. ;-)

    Next time they will do what they should have done this time.

    Know that they are over booked and need to transport aircrew to this flight's destination so they can operate another flight.

    They will hold boarding until they have enough volunteers to accommodate air crew going to the destination to operate another flight.

    If they don't get enough volunteers what will they do?

    Announce the flight won't depart until they do?

    Pick names and tell them they can't go? And then block the door if they try and board?

    One thing is for sure. They aren't going to stop ferrying air crew to where/when they are needed. The logistics now are complex enough. Something like this would scramble the whole system every time a full flight had no "volunteers."

    More than likely they'll issue a ticket that says you can't board if they decide they need your seat.

    The thing I have never figured out is that hotels demand payment for a reservation if you don't show up/call and cancel and then sell the room you reserved but didn't use. And people accept that. Some hotels require cancellations a day in advance, or more, or you pay.

    The basic philosophy of air travel was that they needed to lure people to hop in an aluminum tube and risk life and limb to save time. Most of the travel was business related and missing a flight happened frequently. So overbooking was developed as a way of filling the seats with an expectation that everyone wouldn't show up.

    Now fewer seats and more people have exposed what has been a bad business practice for years. UAL is getting what it deserves.

    I don't know why htey can't tell who (none / 0) (#24)
    by ruffian on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 12:46:10 PM EST
    were the most recent people to 'purchase' seats....ie purchase a contract to maybe get a set. Bump the most recent purchasers: Last in, first out.

    I guess that would run afoul of frequent fliers and last minute business travelers.  


    Probably. (none / 0) (#33)
    by jimakaPPJ on Fri Apr 14, 2017 at 10:32:22 AM EST
    Of course almost everyone is a "frequent flyer" member of one sort or the other.

    I agree that the person paying the most should receive the best. But here again a FF flying a 100,000 miles, or more, a year is most likely spending more on an annual basis than an an occasional flyer.

    Donald commented someplace that he flies 3 times a month for business. When I was in sales I averaged around 130 flights a year and over 100,000 miles a year. Yet the airlines probably made more money off of Donald because it cost them a lot less to fly him round trip HI  than my Den-SeaTac-SFO-LAX-Den trip.

    Which is why International flights are so profitable.

    There is no real answers. UAL screwed the pooch when they could have sent the needed at Louisville UAL employees another more expensive way.

    Another point is that the police appear to be getting mostly a free ride. Yes UAL is guilty, the police were their agents, but UAL didn't say attack and brutalize the passengers.


    ... and don't involve an overnight stay. I fly out in the morning and return in the evening.

    That said, since Hawaiian Airlines enjoys a near-monopoly on interisland travel, air fares are not cheap. A round-trip ticket between Hilo and Honolulu can often run over $300, even though the distance between points is only 220 miles and the flight itself is only 45 minutes long.

    Contrast that with a $600 round-trip coach ticket on Hawaiian between Honolulu and San Francisco or Oakland (the airline serves both airports with daily flights), which is 2,400 miles and five hours in length per trip segment.

    Airlines likely reap an enormous profit on those short-haul routes where they're the predominant or only game in town. A few years ago, we had to pay $250 each for a one-way ticket on Alaska Airlines from Fairbanks to Anchorage, which is the equivalent of Hilo-Honolulu in distance and flight time.

    And in 2015, I forked over $175 to American Airlines to fly from Miami to Tampa. Three months ago, I booked a $456 round-trip ticket on Southwest Airlines for my (computer-illiterate) uncle between San Diego and Las Vegas.

    Further, none of these trips involved last-minute decision-making; they were all booked weeks in advance. Not everybody has the time, luxury or opportunity to drive to their destination, even if it's only 300 miles away. And that's where the airlines get you.



    Last minute pay more for their ticket generally (none / 0) (#34)
    by Militarytracy on Fri Apr 14, 2017 at 12:06:36 PM EST
    Don't they?

    And now it turns out there are 2 Dr. David Dao (none / 0) (#2)
    by Militarytracy on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 09:49:20 AM EST
    We don't know if the right one was smeared now

    Smear campaign is right (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by Aspidistra on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 10:38:05 AM EST
    That guy's name wasn't even released to the public when smear stories had already started circulating in the media.  Gee, who did have the injured passenger's name at that point?  Oh that's right United.

    What a toxic, toxic corporate culture.  The day after the assault the CEO sends out an email to United staff blaming the passenger (!) and also siccing private investigators on this random person to dig skeletons out of their closet from over a decade ago.  Truly no shame.


    He's doing quite well in the court (2.50 / 4) (#7)
    by McBain on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 03:18:09 PM EST
    of public opinion while United is taking way too much of the blame.  

    I hope Dao's injuries aren't serious.  I also hope he doesn't get a 7 figure civil settlement.  His behavior was childish and if he's overly compensated, it will only encourage others to do what he did.


    The incident as it unfolded at Chicago-ORD last Sunday evening was the direct result of a situation that was entirely of United Airlines' own making. O'Hare International Airport is United's primary hub for its flight operations. Almost 50% of the carrier's entire fleet of aircraft will pass through ORD at some point on any given day.

    The airline's operations management at ORD, who are responsible for flight crew scheduling, should have known well prior to the flight's departure that four seats on that particular aircraft would be needed for purposes of crew repositioning / redeployment to Louisville. And if they didn't, well, it was their responsibility to know it. There's no valid excuses for not anticipating and addressing just such a requirement before the point of no return, so to speak.

    As such, it was the scheduler's responsibility to block off those four seats for crew use on that flight's passenger manifest far earlier in the day that it was, so that any issues resulting from the prospective displacement of passengers could be handled in a more professional and competent manner, either at the lobby check-in or the gate itself, and resolved to everyone's relative satisfaction well prior to boarding.

    Why wait until passengers are boarded and seated on the aircraft itself, before finally acting to seat those four non-revenue crewmembers at the obvious expense and indignation of the company's paying customers? That's just an invitation to trouble and not surprisingly, that's exactly what United got for its operations management's logistical neglect and / or incompetence.

    More to the point, Dr. Dao had purchased his ticket, checked in, boarded the aircraft, and taken his seat that evening with every expectation of being back home in Louisville some 60 minutes hence. Unbeknownst to him, however, United Airlines had decided to convey the burden for solving its own crew scheduling problem to the passengers, as though they were supposed to decide amongst themselves who has to stay behind in Chicago.

    How exactly, then, do you perceive the good doctor to be in any way at fault here for management's decision to treat its own self-manufactured dilemma as something akin to an episode of "Survivor"?

    You have a history here, McBain, of going well out of your way to disproportionally fault civilians in any particular confrontation with authority figures, but in this specific instance, that propensity of yours is totally misplaced and completely inappropriate.

    The blame for this wholly unnecessary fiasco is entirely on United Airlines. Its corporate management needs to man up here and take ownership of what happened, and further implement some concrete steps and procedures in order to greatly mitigate the likelihood of just such a recurrence in the future.

    And if the prospect of a multi-million dollar settlement with Dr. Dao is what's required to light a fire under United's corporate a$$ and compel UAL CEO Oscar Munoz to acknowledge his company's own indifference and incompetence in the face of an obvious problem, then so be it. Otherwise, where's the incentive on the company's part to actually improve its performance, if any failure to do so doesn't necessarily hit it in the pocketbook?



    We still don't know everything yet (none / 0) (#15)
    by McBain on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 05:58:40 PM EST
    but here's where I place blame right now.

    Airline industry:  25% at fault for the practice of bumping passengers

    United Airlines:  25% for bumping Dao and others after they were seated

    Chicago police/security: 25% for allowing Dao to be injured

    David Dao:  25% for acting like a drama queen and refusing to obey police security. I feel bad for any children who had to watch his performance.

    As far as my "history", I'm one of the few people in here who see through the BS high profile/ media driven stories.


    Have you ever in your life (5.00 / 4) (#17)
    by Chuck0 on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 07:04:27 PM EST
    ever stood up for yourself in the face of an authority figure? You seem more than willing to roll over or bend over when told to do so. And you seem to expect others to do the same.

    From (5.00 / 1) (#25)
    by FlJoe on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 12:47:26 PM EST
     the he's no angel files
    Crucified man had prior run-in with authorities
    The gentleman arrested Thursday and tried before Pontius Pilate had a troubled background.
    Born (possibly out of wedlock?) in a stable, this jobless thirty-something of Middle Eastern origin had had previous run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace, and had become increasingly associated with the members of a fringe religious group. He spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals.

    He had had prior run-ins with local authorities -- most notably, an incident of vandalism in a community center when he wrecked the tables of several licensed money-lenders and bird-sellers.

    Feel free to worship Dr. Dao as your messiah (1.00 / 1) (#27)
    by McBain on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 01:11:40 PM EST
    I'm going to continue to see the entire story in which everyone involved looks bad.  

    ... wearing blinders and discounting anything which doesn't comport to your particular worldview. Even the United CEO's full if belated admission of culpability in this regrettable matter isn't enough to dissuade you from blaming the Asian-American victim for refusing to kowtow to police authority.

    And once again, you've proved yourself to be impervious to reason.


    Feel (none / 0) (#30)
    by FlJoe on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 03:09:57 PM EST
    free to grovel at the feet of authority.

    I've spoken out against wronful convictions (none / 0) (#31)
    by McBain on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 08:11:01 PM EST
    unnecessary prosecutions, unethical police and other abuses of power.  When "authority" is wrong I call them out, just as I did in this case.

    Dr. Dao had a right to be upset but not a right  to disobey police and act like a spoiled child.  


    That's absolute nonsense. (none / 0) (#32)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 10:49:11 PM EST
    McBain: "Dr. Dao had a right to be upset but not a right to disobey police and act like a spoiled child."

    Show me the statute or ordinance which authorizes police officers to issue an unlawful order to a civilian or make an illegal demand, and then further requires civilians to comply with such.

    Don't waste your time -- and ours, by extension -- because there is none. Further, one has not only the right to ignore an unlawful order or demand from the authorities, but in appropriate circumstances perhaps even the obligation to defy it openly and call them out on it, as well.

    This, I would offer, includes a ticketed passenger aboard an airliner telling officers that they have no right to order him to vacate his already-paid-for seat, so that someone who's been arbitrarily perceived by airline employees as more special than him can take his place on the aircraft, while he's left behind.

    Dr. Dao did nothing wrong that evening. He didn't threaten the officers, and he didn't abuse them physically. He simply sat there and refused to comply with their directive. We all saw what happened next.

    Remember now, United's management has already admitted that the airline's employees were entirely in the wrong here, and has further offered to refund the fares of every passenger who was on that flight. And all three Chicago Aviation Department officers involved in this incident have now been placed on administrative leave, pending further review.

    Per Dept. spokeswoman Karen Pride after the first officer was 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. That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation." (Emphasis is mine.)

    Look, McBain, if you want to kiss a police officer's behind and do whatever he or she tells you to do, that's entirely your prerogative as a person of free will. That doesn't mean anyone else should necessarily be compelled to follow suit if they determine it to be inappropriate -- okay?

    (I would also note here that city officials have since clarified that Chicago Aviation Dept. police officers are NOT under the jurisdiction and authority of the Chicago Police Department. The initial confusion was due in large part to an unauthorized issuance of an unofficial summary of the ORD incident, which had been prepared by an unidentified CPD spokesman in response to reporters' queries last Sunday night. Both O'Hare and Midway airports are owned by the City of Chicago and managed by the city's Dept. of Aviation, which has its own autonomous police force.)



    I know what I saw on those videos, ... (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 07:35:04 PM EST
    ... and as a frequent flier, I know enough about airlines rules and protocols to realize when I'm bearing witness to a situation that's gone terribly awry and is not at all right.

    United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has since finally acquiesced to mounting public pressure and admitted the painfully obvious, which is that: (1) What happened to Dr. Dao aboard UA3411 at ORD Sunday evening was wrong on so many basic levels as to be entirely self-evident; and (2) As company head, he now needs to take full (if belated) responsibility for both the incident itself and the subsequent and extensive public fallout following his earlier attempts to defend the indefensible.

    "The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way. I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right."

    Dr. Dao had every right to not comply with such an overblown and wrongful demand of Chicago police officers (given Munoz's subsequent admission of guilt), who then proceeded to handle the company's self-inflicted problem with all the usual grace and finesse one would expect of a hammer in search of a nail.

    As for your own history of inordinate personal deference to public authority, it is what it is and I stand by what I said about it. If that's where you want to come from, then it's also entirely your problem.

    As such, you ought to anticipate resistance and blowback both here and elsewhere to your notion that others should kowtow before The Man without prompting even when they're in the right, just as you would kowtow accordingly. Speaking for myself only, I bristle at the very thought that I should somehow behave with all the moral authority of someone else's doormat.



    not chicago police (none / 0) (#21)
    by linea on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 07:51:52 PM EST
    Dr. Dao had every right to not comply with such an overblown and wrongful demand of Chicago police officers

    police should not be muscle for corporations or corporate profit or scheduling. it seems as if airport security was responding to united's percieved urgency as if there was some sort of emergency to quickly force this person off the aircraft.


    That's a good point. (5.00 / 2) (#22)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 08:39:16 PM EST
    As you correctly noted, those CPD officers were used / misused by UAL personnel to enforce an immediate directive which flew in the face of the company's protocols and rules. That said, the behavior of the officers on board that aircraft in this particular situation did leave an awful lot to be desired.

    When confronted with Dr. Dao's adamant refusal to vacate his seat, those officers should have backed off and inquired with superiors whether physical coercion to enforce the passenger's compliance with the UAL personnel's directive was actually the right thing to do in this instance, while further requiring that UAL personnel do the same with their own corporate management.

    Instead, everyone went all gung-ho on removing Dr. Dao, come hell or high water, to the airline's eventual chagrin and now-very profound regret.



    "allowing him to be injured" (none / 0) (#23)
    by jondee on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 12:12:41 PM EST
    more like, for allowing him to dealt with by apes whose unspoken nod nod, wink wink code is "any resistance whatsoever is more than enough excuse for an old fashioned ass-whippin'."

    I see what you did there (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Repack Rider on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 06:39:36 PM EST
    United is taking way too much of the blame.

    They accepted the blame.  Obviously they do not agree with you.

    I also hope he doesn't get a 7 figure civil settlement.

    That statement will keep you off the jury, so you don't get a say in it.  I hope he does.

    His behavior was childish and if he's overly compensated, it will only encourage others to do what he did.

    The journey toward justice starts with the first step.  The problem here is that the bean counters decided that it was cheaper to deal with the fallout from these events than to book seats that will not be used.

    If you recall, this was the same argument auto companies made, that it was cheaper to deal with the wrongful death suits than to fix the problem leading to those deaths.  I'm sure you're fine with that.


    The wrong one, MT. (5.00 / 2) (#11)
    by caseyOR on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 04:35:23 PM EST
    The David Dao who was manhandled off that United flight is not the same David Dao whose personal history was shouted out btbtgecLouisville newspaper and countless other news outlets.

    The media smeared the wrong Dao. I anticipate a lawsuit against the newspaper as well as United.


    Are you sure about that? (none / 0) (#12)
    by McBain on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 05:28:01 PM EST
    Have a link?

    Here's an article claiming Dao was  
    planning a lawsuit before being pulled out of his seat.



    And your point here is -- what, exactly? (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 05:44:48 PM EST
    You cannot sue a newspaper in this country (none / 0) (#18)
    by Peter G on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 07:26:10 PM EST
    for being wrong, when addressing a newsworthy subject of legitimate public interest, unless they acted in reckless disregard of whether their story was true or not.

    In addition... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 09:50:24 AM EST
    to the oligopolistic nature of the business, the "War on Terror" has been a contributor as well in my opinion.

    A guy I worked with nailed it when we were talking about around the water cooler..."this is just more proof that Osama Bin Ladin won his war".

    I understand your bud's point (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 03:35:18 PM EST
    but police have been available and used to take people off airlanes long before 9/11.

    Second, I don't buy that the selection is random. Does anyone believe the airline would kick off a first class passenger already seated? I wonder if they didn't just pick the four passengers who paid the least for their seats and were not frequent flier members.

    I read somewhere that the selection is made based on (lowest) price paid for the ticket, whether or not they have checked luggage, etc.

    Selcection is not random (none / 0) (#9)
    by Towanda on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 03:47:31 PM EST
    And United lied about that, too.  Stories are out that explain the priority system.

    But the story is out about an exec flying home a week ago to LA on United, first class, already seated and sipping his first class orange juice, who was ordered off because a more important -- more miles -- exec showed up.  The first guy was told that the crew would handcuff him, if needed, to get him gone.  He finally got a seat in economy class, but had to ask for a refund, after a week.  He is thinking of suing, too.


    I believe federal law mandates that ... (none / 0) (#10)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Apr 12, 2017 at 04:03:04 PM EST
    ... no checked baggage can remain in the cargo hold of an aircraft without a corresponding passenger seated in the cabin above. Thus, removing a passenger with checked baggage would also require the airline to remove the baggage itself from the hold, which could cause a delay in departure. So, it makes sense that an airline would first target a passenger who's traveling alone without checked baggage. (Although "target" is probably not a good word in this instance, given what happened to Dr. Dao in Chicago.)

    Personally, from a standpoint of company policy, I believe that if it's required, any removal of a ticketed passenger from a particular flight manifest should occur well before that passenger is boarded and seated, either when that passenger checks in at the airline lobby outside the security area or at the very least, at the gate area during the pre-boarding stage. There is no reason whatsoever why United Airlines could not have identified their need for four seats on Dr. Dao's flight for purposes of crew deployment in Louisville, before passengers were boarded and seated.

    In all the many years I've flown, and I fly at lest three times a month for work, I've been bumped from a flight a fair number of times. In each instance, though, I volunteered for displacement because I was traveling alone, I had sufficient time to spare and didn't need to be someplace right away, and the incentive offered by the airline was such that it made the subsequent delay in my departure clearly worth my while.

    I presently have a free trip to the west coast courtesy of United Airlines, because I voluntarily gave up my seat last November on an afternoon flight from Sacramento to LAX, which in turn caused me to miss my connection in LAX to Hilo. United refunded me half the cost of my ticket, further gave me a $600 travel voucher, and then rebooked me to Hilo on a flight the following day. (I turned down the offer of a hotel voucher, opting instead to fly to LAX and head to my mother's house in Pasadena to spend the night there.) I was a day late in returning home, but because it was a weekend, it didn't matter to me, and I was about $900 richer for it.

    Los Angeles Times business columnist David Lazarus wrote a great story yesterday about the recent experience of wealthy businessman Geoff Fearns, whom United attempted to remove from a first-class seat last week on a flight from Lihue, Kauai to LAX -- a seat he had paid over $1,000 for, BTW -- to make room for a "higher-priority" first-class passenger. They even went so far as to threaten him with arrest if he didn't comply with their directive. So, first-class and business-class passengers aren't at all inoculated against this sort of occurrence and / or inconvenience, if there's a "higher-priority" passenger waiting in the wings.



    By the way, hotels do overbook (none / 0) (#26)
    by ruffian on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 12:47:41 PM EST
    But with hotels is is easier to turn away people at the desk - get them another room locally, transportation there, etc. At least that is what my mom used to do when she ran a hotel.

    Ruffian, thought of you last night (none / 0) (#29)
    by caseyOR on Thu Apr 13, 2017 at 01:53:56 PM EST
    while watching the Cubs ring ceremony. The Cubs had fans come out one at a time and present the ring to the player. Very sweet.