F(l)ight Club

By now, if you are a fluent user of the internet, you have surely heard about the latest viral controversy plaguing beleaguered United Airlines

Everyone is talking about this poor guy who was dragged off of his flight and the horrible treatment he received. 

Look, I wasn't there when it happened.

I do not work for United.

But here's my take on the drama.

1. Oh lordy, was this situation BUNGLED. 

From allowing the passengers to board when they KNEW there would be four who needed to be displaced for crew repositioning, to the airline's response on social media, to the ongoing PR handling, this whole thing is a cascading hot mess. 

Based on what I've read about this situation, it sounds like there were four seats on that oversold flight that were needed to get a crew to Louisville to work- deadheaders, as we call them in the airline industry. The company probably needed them to get to work in order to avoid canceling or further delaying other flights. Those four passengers were asked to give up their seats to save hundreds of others from being stranded on a week when literally THOUSANDS of passengers have been trapped in airports all over the country. As far as I can tell, these weren't joyriding non-revs, these were deadheading working crew members.

Sometimes deadheads are planned, but sometimes they're unplanned or a prior delay can complicate things. This is normal. I have been in situations where passengers on an oversold flight have been bumped for me or for another crew member. If you miss a flight, it's a problem. If a crew member misses a flight it can be a complete DISASTER for hundreds or thousands of people. 

However, the situation should have been dealt with at the gate. 
No passengers should have boarded that aircraft when they still needed to solve the crew seating issue. I am absolutely baffled as to how or why that happened. 

2. You aren't actually entitled to that exact seat on that exact flight.

As much as you're going to hate this, an airline is completely within the contract they signed with you to bump you from a flight whenever they need to. When you buy a ticket, you commit to a Contract of Carriage. You can find United's here.  
You don't own a seat on that plane.

3. This was horrendously bad customer service.

There's just no way around this one. Horrible service was provided to the man who was removed, as well as to the rest of the passengers who were on that flight. 
People deserve to be treated with kindness, respect, and dignity.
That obviously didn't happen here.

That said....

4. When you're traveling, you need to be a reasonable adult. 

Travelers of the world, you need to have some perspective.
Every single person on that plane had an important reason for trying to get to Louisville yesterday. Maybe it was for a college visit. A funeral. Going home from Spring Break. A big meeting.

Every single person on every single airplane has an important reason to be there.

As terrible as I feel for the passenger who was injured, he absolutely needed to follow the instructions he was given, no matter how upset they made him. 

Travel (and life, for that matter) doesn't always go according to your plan. 
It's frustrating. It's maddening. It's enraging. It's not FAIR. 
But you still have to follow the rules and you still have to be a reasonable adult. 

You don't get to yell and scream and kick because you have to do something you don't want to. 
You comply and then get the company to give you a $1200 travel voucher. Or file a complaint with the Department of Transportation. Rant about it on Twitter
You do whatever you need to do to work through it, but you can't break the rules because you're mad.

Be responsible and handle yourself. Period.

5. This is having a big impact. 

My passengers actually paid attention to my safety demo this morning. 
I'm not sure if they were worried I was going to kick them off or if they just really liked my life vest, but I did have an unusually attentive crowd on my flight today. 

United's stock has plummeted in the midst of this PR nightmare. Social media seems more focused on this than real news and that's depressing.

I'm also extremely amused by the number of people who are suddenly experts on Airline Procedures... something tells me they probably have some even diagram overlap with the group of people who say things to me like "I fly all the time! I bet I fly more than you."
You don't, sir. You don't. 

So that's my take on the whole thing.
I'll be very interested to see how all of this plays out, but in the meantime, please be kind to the many many faultless United employees who are just trying to do their jobs. I have friends who fly for them, and it's not fair to disparage them or their employer over one viral story. 


  1. Thanks for the nuanced perspective!


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