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How could United Airlines have screwed up so badly?


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#1 steveboy

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 01:44 AM

We all probably read about the forceful removal of a passenger from an United airplane to free up a seat for one of their crew members who had to make the trip.  And we saw on youtube or elsewhere the video of the peaceful passenger lying on the isle floor being dragged out, and his bloody face.

 

I have been a passenger of United so many times!  And I have seen how ugly they can be.  I hope this particular man,  an Asian senior who is a doctor and needed to make the flight to see patients, will sue the HELL out of the airline.  They may have had the right to make him leave, but not to have it done the way they did.

 

I have my personal grudge with United.  Three times I made flight reservations months in advance to fly to BKK, and three times I had to cancel my trip due to medical problems with my BF.  So I had to change dates on my non-refundable ticket three times at a $300 penalty each, for a total of $900, and finally the ticket expired and I lost the $800 value of it.

 

I was looking forwards to fly to BKK last Monday for Songkran, but my friend still needs care and I cannot leave him alone for 10 days.  It breaks my heart!  but not my pocket so much,  because this time I made the reservation with EVA, and they already REFUNDED the cancelled flight with a penalty of (only) $150.  This is and will be my future airline to travel to S.E. Asia.

 

Originally I liked United because of their mileage program, but they started to steeply increase the miles required for a free flight and finally they made a change that drastically reduced the accrual of miles in economy flights.  Damn exploiters!

 

This incident of forcefully pulling out a peaceful passenger from his assigned seat is the last straw. I cancelled my "United Explorer" credit card and got refund of the yearly fee, and I will distance myself from "United Airlines" as much as possible and feel satisfaction for all the trouble they now face.   



#2 ryanasia

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 02:01 AM

They have made a horrible response PR wise. They made the wrong move with cameras on the plane rolling and it is clearly assault caught on camera. They should have attacked a white guy like me and made the mistake of picking a Chinese man who has more than a billion supporters. 

 

The fact that I will never give up my seat if they ask me because a precedent has been set that you can not threaten ticketed passengers to give up their seats, This is a win for travelers. Airlines have policies that say they can simply compensate you on any flight and kick you off any time they want to. Now they have to consider the rights of others. 

 

The airline policy is not law in these matters and they are not allowed to get away with such things. They get away with it because most people are intimidated and don't understand their rights. Especially when on planes and in airports. 

 

The airlines can try to impose internal rules upon passengers but in this case the rule of law in a court will win.



#3 steveboy

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 02:31 AM

The fact that I will never give up my seat if they ask me because a precedent has been set that you can not threaten ticketed passengers to give up their seats, This is a win for travelers. Airlines have policies that say they can simply compensate you on any flight and kick you off any time they want to. Now they have to consider the rights of others. 

 

The airline policy is not law in these matters and they are not allowed to get away with such things. They get away with it because most people are intimidated and don't understand their rights. Especially when on planes and in airports. 

 

The airlines can try to impose internal rules upon passengers but in this case the rule of law in a court will win.

 

You are right, this could be a win for passengers. The more the airline gets punished and the stronger the example, the sweeter the win.

 

The irony is that it would have been so simple to resolve the situation:  simply a flight attendant in front of the passengers "auctioning" the reward for giving up one seat. Starting at the $600 and going up until one passenger takes it.  It should not have gone up more than a few thousand dollars.



#4 reader

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 03:16 AM

I agree that UAL screwed up horribly in this situation.  What most passengers don't realize that when buying a ticket, they are agreeing to the contract of carriage of that particular airline. UAL's is similar to those of all US carriers and allowed by US Dept. of Transportation (DOT) regulations. Among those conditions is the right to "involuntary" bump a passenger. The DOT has rules that dictate compensation in these situations.

 

The easiest way this could have been prevented was keep upping the incentive as Steveboy says.

 

I certainly hope the passenger is successful in suing UAL and there's no shortage of attorneys who specialize in this area. As I write this, I'm listening to a news broadcast that quotes UAL president Oscar Munoz who says the airline will no longer request law enforcement to forcibly remove a passenger in bumping situations.

 

If any good can be said to emerge from this fiasco is that other carriers witnessed what happened are very likely reviewing their bumping procedures, also.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



#5 firecat69

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 03:22 AM

The mistake they made was letting the passenger board. If they were sitting in the waiting area , he would have been out of luck.Once he had accepted the offer they should never have let him change his mind. Take the offer or be at risk for getting bumped. You have no recourse and it is buried in the fine print that you agree to. That is why they make offers to passengers to take a later flight and not have anyone mad at them . If they had to they should have kept raising the offer.

Once they let him board they should have made other arrangements for their employees. Of course there is no excuse for how the fake cops at the direction of the airline treated the passenger.

It will cost them a lot more then offering $2000 to anyone who would get off the plane .

#6 Jasper

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 04:01 AM

Most infuriating thing about this incident is that they are digging up this poor old Vietnamese guy's past.
Apparently he had been suspended a licence temporarily for subscribing legal drug exchage for gay sex in the past.

So what! It's nothing to do with United Airline's disgusting treatment.

https://www.google.c...citing-gay/amp/

#7 jfarmer017

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 04:41 AM

As much of a PR disaster as this is for United Airlines, I would like to make a few points that are often left out of discussion:

 

1) The flight was a United Express flight, not a regular United Airlines flight. United Express is United's brand name for short-haul regional flights, and those flights are subcontracted to individually-owned regional airlines. In this case, the flight was being operated by Republic Airlines, who employs the flight crew and manages logistics.  

 

2) In accordance with typical airline procedures, the crew first offered to pay cash in exchange for volunteers to give up their seats. Unfortunately, after offering $800, they announced that if it was not taken, passengers would be chosen randomly by the computer to be bumped. It should have tried offering more before going the random route in my opinion.

 

3) When the computer came up with the man's seat number, he refused to get off on the basis that he was a doctor. Now, a lot has been made over the theory that the man was chosen because he was Asian. I personally think there is nothing to that theory, but it is interesting that the man, while decrying supposed racial discrimination, was asking for class discrimination. His argument was he should not be bumped because he has an important job. Therefore, someone with a less important job should be bumped. I would not have appreciated being chosen because a doctor was deemed more important than me to get bumped.

 

4) The man was not removed by airport or airline staff but by Chicago police officers. The airlines reserve the right to eject any passenger they want. They are under no legal or contractual obligation to fly ticket holders anywhere. When a passenger has been chosen to be bumped and refuses to go, what do you do? At that point it's trespassing. And if a trespasser refuses to go willingly, he or she runs the risk of being forcibly ejected, which happened in this case.

 

United is obviously suffering terrible PR fallout from this incident, but I do think the story could do with a little more nuance than what I have seen discussed in a lot of social media spaces.



#8 reader

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 06:16 AM

Like many here, I've flown internationally often but I was surprised by some of the information I came across while scanning through the Dept. of Transportation's Consumer Guide to Air Travel.

 

There are numerous exceptions and special provisions to rules depending on factors such as aircraft size. You'll also find international flight oddities and the role of Article 19 of the Montreal Convention in seeking compensation for expenses incurred due to delayed or cancelled international itineraries .  Not for the easily bored, but certainly informative.

 

And on the topic of forcing a passenger off an aircraft they have already boarded, the captain has the authority to have anyone removed if he believes that they may pose a security or safety threat.

 

https://www.transpor...umer/fly-rights



#9 firecat69

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 06:25 AM

Look IMHO it was pure incompetence by the gate crew. You never allow people to board the airplane when you know you will ask them to leave. This was not a last minute thing easily seen by the fact they had been offering people increasing amounts of money to give up their seats.Not only that this person had accepted the money and then decided he wanted on the flight. They should have said sorry, you already agreed.

If they knew no matter what they had to provide seats to their employees , then they allow the computer to choose the unlucky people or by fare paid or status with airline etc and eliminate their boarding passes.

Simple as that , happens every day around the country. If they never get on the airplane , there will be no problem taking them off.

I was not paying close attention but I am pretty sure the news reports the day after did not say they were Chicago Police not that it makes any real difference

United CEO Oscar Munoz explained the incident by saying gate agents were "left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers" after Dao became "disruptive and belligerent" when asked the leave the flight. Munoz said Dao had raised his voice and refused to leave the aircraft when gate agents told him he had to leave the flight because it was overbooked.

#10 baobao

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 06:49 AM

Originally I liked United because of their mileage program, but they started to steeply increase the miles required for a free flight and finally they made a change that drastically reduced the accrual of miles in economy flights. 

 

I expect this thread will be moved to The Beer Bar, but I'll offer this:

 

United is part of Star Alliance. Switch to EVA or another partner airline and use up your points through them. Because of personal past experiences, United's been on my shit list for many years... and I'm really difficult to piss off.



#11 ronnie4you

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 06:50 AM

You don't see the CEO of Republic Airlines making any comments, nor is Republic being blamed for this. It's United, United's CEO, and United's stock that's taking a beating.

 

"I would not have appreciated being chosen because a doctor was deemed more important than me to get bumped."

I tend to agree with you, but the fact is that people's health and even lives depend on getting medical care. A busy doctor who misses a day of appointments puts those patients weeks behind in their care. So, yes, I would prioritize.



#12 reader

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 06:52 AM

From Chicago Tribune

 

The passenger dragged from his seat aboard a Sunday night flight at O'Hare International Airport took the first step toward potential legal action against United Airlines or the city on Wednesday.

 

David Dao, who has retained a high-powered personal injury lawyer, asked the Cook County Circuit Court for an order requiring United and the city of Chicago to keep all video, cockpit recordings and other reports from the flight, along with the personnel files of the Aviation Department officers who pulled Dao from the plane.

 

The request was filed a few hours before the Chicago Department of Aviation said it had placed two more officers on administrative leave until further notice as a result of the incident. Another employee already had been placed on leave, and the city said it continues to review the incident.

 

Demetrio also has represented former NFL and NHL players and their families in concussion litigation against the leagues, including the family of late Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson. The Duerson family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL in 2012, which became part of a class-action case that resulted in a $1 billion settlement.

 

http://www.chicagotr...0412-story.html



#13 jfarmer017

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 06:59 AM

"I would not have appreciated being chosen because a doctor was deemed more important than me to get bumped."

I tend to agree with you, but the fact is that people's health and even lives depend on getting medical care. A busy doctor who misses a day of appointments puts those patients weeks behind in their care. So, yes, I would prioritize.

 

Chicago to Louisville, where the flight was heading, is less than 5 hours by car. Again, I am not really defending the airlines here, but the, "I can't be bumped because I'm a doctor" line is bullshit. 



#14 Alexx

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 09:14 AM

Once such a shit storm is brewing, the legalities really are of secondary concern. It's just outright incompetent to let passengers board first and then kick off some of them due to overbooking. That really shouldn't happen. I'm​ not against overbooking flights in general.

#15 Maxxyz

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 09:49 AM

Terminal Sickness

How a thirty-year-old policy of deregulation is slowly killing America’s airline system—and taking down Cincinnati, Memphis, and St. Louis with it.

 

 

 

http://washingtonmon...minal-sickness/



#16 Jasper

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 09:54 AM

I'm​ not against overbooking flights in general.


It's great when you get free upgrade to Business class.

#17 PeterRS

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 10:01 AM

Again, I am not really defending the airlines here, but the, "I can't be bumped because I'm a doctor" line is bullshit. 

 

And that jfarmer017 is pure bullshit! Ive flown Chicago to Louisville at least a couple of dozen times, sometimes on the earliest flight and sometimes on the last. If it is 10pm on a Sunday and you have appointments at 9am the next morning, do you seriously believe any passenger on that flight would agree to leave voluntarily, get off the plane, wait for his bag to get off (on these small planes carry on is kept at the back), get back to the terminal, hope you can find a car hire company that is open and has an available car for a one-way hire (how much does that cost at the last minute?), then drive through the night to get to Louisville at dawn and still be fully capable of carrying out your work that day? Come one! Remember that louisville is one hour ahead of Chicago. What if he had been a surgeon? Would you be happy to go under the knife knowing your surgeon had had no sleep the night before? Even if the airline offered to drive me in a chauffeured limousine Id have turned it down.

 

The only reason 4 passengers were asked to leave was because the airline decided at the last minute it needed to get 4 flight attendants to Louisville. It must have been very last minute or it would have bumped the passengers at check in and probably been perfectly within its rights to do so. Airlines routinely have to fly crew to other ports. However such crew movements are always planned well ahead and seats held back for them. If passengers could be expected to drive through the night, why not those flight attendants?

 

I know this was not technically United but it carried Uniteds brand name. And it was not United that ejected the passenger in such a criminal way. (I really wonder where the captain was as all this was happening. It was his flight and on board his word is law.) But it is United that is now in disastrous PR shit and no doubt facing a multi million dollar law suit to boot. And it could all have been solved without any fuss with just a few hundred extra dollars being offered.



#18 steveboy

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 10:24 AM

Once such a shit storm is brewing, the legalities really are of secondary concern. It's just outright incompetent to let passengers board first and then kick off some of them due to overbooking. That really shouldn't happen. I'm​ not against overbooking flights in general.

 

It seems that the flight was not overbooked, One can read in:

 

https://www.usatoday...rent/100317166/

 

"United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said Tuesday that all 70 seats on United Express Flight 3411 were filled, but the plane was not overbooked as the airline previously reported. Instead, United and regional affiliate Republic Airlines, which operated the flight, selected four passengers to be removed to accommodate crew members needed in Louisville the next day. The passengers were selected based on a combination of criteria spelled out in United’s contract of carriage, including frequent-flier status, fare type, check-in time and connecting flight implications, among others, according to United."

 

The flight was booked correctly, but to accommodate an United employee who was needed THE NEXT DAY they didn't mind expelling by force a customer who had paid for the flight and was already in his seat.  We could see the horror felt by other passengers from the way one of them was treated,  but there seems to have been no horror by the crew of the plane.  Where were the flight attendants, where was the Captain?  Maybe they felt that what was done to the Chinese doctor was deserved, and maybe they even felt empowered that one of them had gotten such a high priority over the snooty wealthy passengers they have to serve and attend?



#19 forky123

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 12:01 PM

What a complete clusterfuck. I wonder what the real truth is here as the story changes with each Iteration. For instance, people are told they will be chosen at random when really there is a fixed calculation at work. If they had simply chosen 4 people at random, rather than 2 couples by calculation, chances are their partners would have wanted to stay with them which would have meant their would have been scope for accommodating someone who has a job that would seriously affect others if delayed like the doctor.

The problem for United is that the police and crew did here what police are doing all over America these days, heavy handed responses to situations they should have sensible policies to deal with. Unfortunately, the incompetent actions of crew and police are going to seriously affect United for months to come. They escalated something that could, and should, have been dealt with sensibly and calmly into a dangerous situation where they caused someone to be hurt. That he managed to get back on the aircraft afterwards shows just how incompetent the police and crew really were.

Was the doctor blameless? No, a plane is not a place to throw a tantrum but airline crew and police are, supposedly, trained to diffuse such situations, not escalate them. I would certainly not fly United based on their obvious lack of training.

#20 emailbroken

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 12:23 PM

A very serious incident mishandled at every stage by the airline, including the apology.  

 

Makes you realise how lucky we are in Europe to have pretty strong rules on oversold flights and disruption to passengers.  A good example of what EU red tape actually achieves.






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