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Friday, April 14, 2017

UNITED WE SIT


UNITED WE SIT
A cranky opinion for

CRANKY OPINION SATURDAY

The following is the opinion of a cranky old man who does not know what he is talking about.  Opposing opinions are welcome, but are wrong.  As always, please, no name calling, and that means you, you big stupid-head.

I am outraged by the United Airline ousting of a paid seated passenger this last week. 

The situation was the airline needed four seats on an already fully booked flight in order to carry United Employees to cover for an employee shortage at another stop.  Three passengers accepted a United payout, $850 I believe, to voluntarily give up their seat.  No one else was willing to leave.  The airline then randomly picked, by virtue of algorithms (date of purchase, ability to place on another flight, etc.) a passenger who was unwilling to leave.

Airport security was then called and they escorted the passenger off the plane, he pulled away and ran back to his seat.  Security then dragged him off forcibly and in the process, he was injured (a broken nose and lost tooth according to his lawyer.)

This whole scenario is just wrong. 

Yes, when you buy a ticket, the small print which you check “I agree to all terms” says the Airline has the right to remove any passenger for just such a situation. 

Yes, the Airline was required by FAA rules to carry the backup employees.  If they did not, other flights would be cancelled and this causes a chain reaction of delays all over the country. 

No, the United employees did not rough up the passenger, it was airport Homeland Security which was called per regulations in such a situation.

What should be done in these situations?

Since I have absolutely no expertise or FAA protocol knowledge what so ever, I will offer an opinion.

If a seated passenger has to give up a seat, the airline should just keep upping the payout offer until enough volunteers are recruited.  I am pretty sure that once the offer reached $1500, $2000 or more with a promise to have a seat on the next available flight they would eventually get the volunteers they need.

The airline is at fault. 

That said, this passenger was also wrong. 

We have rules and laws.  If the rules are unfair, you do not deal with them by throwing a tantrum.  If I was on that flight and this passenger acted in the way that he did, and then security just said, “OK, if you’re going to be difficult, you can stay,” I would not be comfortable flying with this passenger. 

He acted in a weird fashion, he was clearly out of his nut, and I am a bit tired of the squeaky wheel always getting the grease. You do not throw a tantrum with armed Homeland Security people…these people are serious, they act first and ask questions later, and I am glad they do.  Anyone remember 911?

In summary:

Airlines: Find a way to avoid these situations at all costs.  Pay whatever it takes to get volunteers to give up their seat.  Playing by the book just knocked 500 million dollars off the value of your company so…Hell, hire a private jet to move your employees if you must.  Have a few at every stop just in case, you’re an airline, hello, have a spare plane around.

Oh, and if you have to bump someone from a flight, do it before you start boarding for Crispy sake!!

Passengers: Do what you are told!  Does it suck? You bet it does, but the airlines, or the FAA cannot allow passengers to make the rules.  Do what you are told and fight later with complaints or law suits if appropriate.  When several large people with guns and official uniforms tell you to get up and get off, you are not going to make that flight.  Let me repeat that, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO BE ON THAT PLANE WHEN IT TAKES OFF…no way, no how, not going to happen, no matter how much you kick and scream like a two-year-old who didn’t get his Cocoa puffs.  So, get the frig off!

Did the Airline miss-handle this situation, why yes, yes they did! 

Was this passenger missing a few bristles from his brush?  Oh yes, he is a wack-a-doodle.  Because the Homeland security folks wack-a-doodled this wack-a-doodle, he will be a very wealthy wack-a-doodle, but he is a wack-a-doodle none-the-less.

The preceding was the opinion of a cranky old man and not necessarily that of management…Mrs. Cranky.

30 comments:

  1. Homeland Security did it?

    That would be like a donut shop calling the cops to attack cutomers because they sold more donuts than they had in stock.

    "9-1-1? We sold too many donuts. Come get these guys!"

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  2. I'm with you on your points. That guy though is going to get a pretty good settlement. United should do it quickly and quietly with a no talk clause (or whatever they call it) so it gets buried sooner than later. I also do agree, do the arrangements before people board. Once people are on board, they are "committed" to getting to their destination. In the terminal they might be a bit more "flexible."

    betty

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  3. A different version to what I had already heard. I didn't know the customer in question had already left the plane then ran back to his seat. I don't know any more about the situation, so can't say he was a bit nutty or otherwise. I do agree the whole affair could have been handled better. Bumping people BEFORE boarding for instance.

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  4. We had the incident splashed on our television screens but the story was that the guy who was hauled off was a doctor who had an urgent appointment with a patient. I agree with River, the affair could have been handled better.

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  5. And i have no room to comment because i am scared to death of flying and would rather drive anyway, even if it takes me a few days to get there.

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  6. The passenger apparently was/is a doctor. As a professional man you would think he would have behaved with a little more class. Now his name and behavious is splashed all over the world. Would you want him for a doctor? Nope. The airline was in a bad position......sort of a lose/lose proposition. Doc would be smart to just let if all die down instead of stirring the pot but......

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    1. As a retired doc, if you are looking for rational behaviour more in my profession than others, you are seeking a quality not present.

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  7. The passengers never should have been allowed to board the plane in the first place.
    I was bumped once in Las Vegas - but they told me before I went through the gate. Yes, I was disgusted, but I only had a short delay before I was on another plane. (And, I was in Vegas!)

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  8. I'm not so sure after reading your defense Cranky that United should pay out. The passenger sounds like he broke the law and your right, for purposes of safety they neeeded to remove him at that point. In fact, if United does pay out that will set a precedent that if you throw a tantrum and break the law potentially endangering everyone's safety you get money.

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  9. Flying has become a very stressful activity for all concerned.
    I was caught (with my two grandchildren) in the Delta computer shutdown chaos last summer. We spent 32 hours in the Atlanta airport before giving up and buying tickets on another airline. Have to say my grandkids were much better behaved than many of the adults in that crowd. Maybe because they have not yet developed such a sense of self-importance that they would start thinking they were the only ones inconvenienced.

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  10. You nailed this, Joe. My thoughts exactly, but the media is putting the entire blame on United. That's what I've seen so far. If it has anything to do with the enforcement side of things then the enforcement side along with the business doing the enforcing are in the wrong.

    Have a fabulous weekend. Happy Easter. ☺

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  11. Just to set the record straight (and no, i don't think the passenger was completely innocent) the airline can refuse boarding to any passenger for just about any cause BUT once the passenger is boarded they can only remove that passenger for violating the safety of the flight or causing a disruption to other passengers. At the point where the airline decided to remove him they were completely in the wrong. When he refused, they were done even by their own written rules but they instead took it to a new level. He had the right to refuse because he was legally boarded on the flight. That's the 'red line', they could have tossed him over any time before that but not after.

    Anything the Doc did after he was clobbered should not be held against him, a concussion can do wild things to the brain.

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    1. There may be a legal argument based on the semantics of deny boarding and deny transport. May seem obvious to a layman, but who knows once a lawyer gets hold of it, and I'm guessing the Airlines know the law on this. However it might be ruled, my guess is that from here on this type of removal will not happen. Regardless, the argument must be made by the passenger after the fact. If you are pulled over by a cop for something that was not an infraction of the law, you don't argue and fight, you take your ticket and argue later, or seek restitution later. The passenger is guilty of resisting the instructions of the legal authorities on the plane. That is why I say both are at fault. The airline either legally in error, or procedurally ignorant, and the passenger illegally resisting the instructions of the legal authority...that in itself is a crime.

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    2. Yeah, as far as the law enforcement involved I'd agree that they should have been obeyed under the circumstances and, further, should not face any serious punishment but the airline should have never put them in that position. And yeah, we can argue over what the definition of 'is' is, but when all is said and done he was boarded AND seated. And in the past I've heard precedent that indicated that he should have been in the clear as he was one step PAST boarding. But that is all moot until the lawyers tell us what the definition of 'is' is, eh?

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  12. You beat me to it! I might still post on this. I agree with you on your points, but Xavier is also correct on the legal precedent.

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    1. Don't be too sure, legaleze is tricky. For instance, just to go to an extreme, if all passengers were loaded and it was determined the plane had too much weight Can the airline remove a 400 pound passenger, or do they have to take off and risk crashing? Not too bizarre if you think very small plane for different flights. The wording might point to Xavier's interpretation, but I suspect the airlines are allowed a broad interpretation of the rule.

      When is boarding considered complete?

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  13. Seems to me there was a lot that went wrong here, 90% of it on United Airlines side of the ball. Did Crew Scheduling botch it by not having the right people at the right place at the right time? Were the deadheading crew there on time to board the flight? Was the Station Manager aware of the "must fly" crew? Was the Gate Agent? If so, why did they fully board the aircraft without them? And finally, when things turned violent, where was the pilot? The "Pilot In Command" is legally IN COMMAND of everything that happens on his/her aircraft, and he/she therefore has the final say. Surely he/she would have commanded the appropriate station person to up the $$$ offer to fly later. The passenger should have politely asked to speak to the Pilot In Command and pleaded his case. If he was denied that opportunity to speak to the PIC, then he MIGHT have had a case against the airline, but as you said, he should never have flatly refused the order to comply. And then there's the TSA. Still as incompetent as the old private security folks who gave us 9/11. (You realize the original TSA folks were the same Wackenhut Security employees who were Federalized (given a government job) with a massive pay raise, benefits, and a white shirt, right?) I can't imagine a more "perfect storm".

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  14. Whoever was at fault, United got a huge black eye out of this!!

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  15. The good thing to come of this is that procedures will change. Pretty sure in the future if I have paid and am nestled in my seat, it will be too bit late for them to say "get off." That is a good thing.

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  16. I would have acted just like this man. If they wanted people to give up their seat they should have dealt with it before boarding, including upping the amount. $850 isn't much if you have to spend a night in a hotel, miss a night at your prepaid destination and have to hang around the airport all day. And this man was traveling with his wife! What if the computer selected him and he was traveling with a child?

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    1. Good points, I believe the algorithmic selection takes into consideration travel companions, availability of the next flight, when the seats were purchased and other things, still was crap. Apparently it is very unusual to not know they need seats before boarding starts. Airline was at fault, has to find better alternatives...still the passenger was wrong to take it to the degree he did, I sincerely think there is something wrong with him. My ex-wife would have acted like this, it is a disease I know well, and it never has a positive ending.

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  17. Good points on both sides, and as was mentioned above the airline is definitely going to come out with a black eye for this one.

    I agree that they should have simply upped their offer, or used a smaller plane to transport their employees, by the time this is over they would have been money ahead to have had one on standby.

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  18. Cell phone video has changed our world forever. Regardless of who's right or wrong, people in charge have got to change their strategy and methods; to use their psychological resources in learning how to deal with the myriad of human personalities that range from calm to hysterical. It's the reality of living in a democratic country.

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    1. ...or should I say, democracy? :)

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  19. It was bad all around - and I do believe the passenger "milked"the situation. He'll get a nice settlement.

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  20. There was so much back n' forth news reports on this incident I could never keep up enough to make heads or tails out of it. I'm glad I read your post because now I get it and I agree. Both parties were at fault.

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  21. I'm glad I never encountered a situation like that (not that I fly a lot). I remember about 30 years ago, my boss was on his way to Hawaii for his honeymoon. The airline had to bump somebody and the reward was so high that he and his new bride jumped at the chance to get bumped to a later flight.

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