United Airlines has been making the wrong kind of headlines lately for their disappointing customer service; from refusing two girls on board for wearing leggings just a few weeks ago to dragging a 69-year-old man off the plane, the multi-billion dollar airline is poised to be worth zero at this rate.
If you haven’t already seen the video, which is now viral, law enforcement is seen dragging a 69-year old man named David Dao out of the plane for not leaving when being asked to do so. For some background information, United unexpectedly needed four passengers to get off the plane to make room for four of their employees, who needed to reach Louisville by the next day. Typically, airlines are required to offer some sort of benefit or compensation to the passenger who leaves, and United Airlines did. However, nobody was willing to take the offer of $800 to leave the airplane, which was also accompanied with a hotel room to stay for the night and a flight the following afternoon. So, United decided to randomly select passengers and force them to leave. Three of the passengers, one of which is reportedly the wife of the man who was forced off, agreed to exit the plane. The man who didn’t comply to leave is reportedly a doctor, and his reasoning was that he needed to see patients the next day. Since drastic times call for desperate measures, United Airlines thought it was appropriate to call the police to physically drag the man out of the plane while publicly humiliating him.
My three questions for United Airlines
Why should a passenger have to suffer the consequences of your lack of responsibility?
United Airlines should have taken the responsibility to ensure that there would be enough space for the four employees in the first place. These bookings are generally done in advance, so the fact that they had to get four immediate seats is extremely rare and strange. According to the Transportation Department, United involuntarily denied boarding to 3,765 of its 68 million passengers due to overbooking, which is just under 0.006%.
It is understandable from a business perspective why airplanes overbook their seats; they expect a certain percentage of people not to fly even though they already booked their ticket. Empty seats is extremely costly for the Airline industry, and it’s relatable to a baker making extra pastries that they cannot sell — a loss in profit. In fact, US Airways had revenue of $11.56 billion in 2016, and without overbooking, they would have lost over $1 billion. Considering their low-profit margins, it is a vital practice, but passengers may not be very happy about it.
What is not understandable is why United felt the need to use unlawful force to mistreat a customer who paid for his seat; he is part of the reason why United is making money, so some decency would be expected to come from a Hospitality service. Even though it is common practice, I have never seen an Airline dealing with an overbooking problem the way United Airlines did. Everybody can agree that this act was an excellent way to strengthen their already poor reputation (sarcasm intended).
Why didn’t you bid higher?
The man who was denied boarding on the plane was told that he could have a flight the following afternoon in addition to a compensation of $800. However, according to the Department of Transportation, “if the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum.” So why didn’t United bid higher, to $1350? When asked by the Airline, they did not respond to questioning.
To me, this simply looks like a way for them to save as much money as possible; however, the ironic thing is that the man who was severely mistreated for not leaving his seat is now suing United for millions of dollars. It is not likely that David Dao would have accepted the additional compensation considering he had an urgent flight, but it was still possible. While offering $800 was not necessarily against the law per se, it certainly makes the Airline look incredibly stingy considering that
It is not likely that David Dao would have accepted the additional compensation considering he had an urgent flight, but it was still possible. While offering $800 was not necessarily against the law per se, it certainly makes the Airline look incredibly stingy considering that Delta airlines offered $11,000 to a family not to fly. Because of a combination of offering insufficient compensation
Because of a combination of offering insufficient compensation and using violent force on a passenger, United is dishing out money to compensation each passenger on the flight in the amount of the ticket.
Why are you trying to make the incident look better than it was?
According to the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers…” Notice that he uses the world “re-accommodate,” as if the passenger was treated with decency, even though it was quite the opposite of that. Dear United Airlines, brutally wrestling a 69-year-old man out of his seat is not re-accommodation; it is abuse. Jimmy Kimmel said it best, calling the response “sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility, corporate-BS speak.”
If United Airlines really wants to make this right, the least they can do is own up to their actions. As a student in business, I can ensure you that this is not the correct way to run a business. Running a company doesn’t start with profit maximization, it starts with customers. United Airlines, out of all other business sectors, should know this. A key takeaway for everyone after the incident is that flying right doesn’t start with United Airlines.