By now, most have probably heard of the situation United Airlines is in. In case you haven’t, let me sum up what happened for you: a passenger on a flight from Chicago to Louisville was forcibly removed from the plane because the airline overbooked the flight and no passenger was willing to give up their seat for a pretty hefty stipend.
At first, the airline offered the passengers a reported $400 voucher and a hotel stay. When that didn’t work, they upped their offer to $800. And when that didn’t work they randomly selected four passengers to give up their seats. Three did, albeit, probably begrudgingly. The fourth passenger didn't give up his seat. He said he had to be back in Louisville the next day for work.
Security ended up coming onto the plane, threw him across the aisle, and, literally, dragged him off the plane. Unfortunately for United, it’s 2017, and everyone records everything with their cell phones.
Since then, United has apologized. But too little too late. The airline has lost hundreds of millions in market cap, and now people want to boycott the airline.
However, there are certain things that still need to be talked about. With that, the following are among my observations:
It is not the passenger’s fault for the airline “overbooking” a flight
When was the last time you went to a sporting event only to find someone else sitting in your assigned seat because the venue sold two tickets to that seat?? Exactly, it doesn’t happen.
Now, overbooking is something that many airlines do, but it’s outdated. And much like how airlines have changed the game by charging for checked bags, and doing away with meals, they should also stop overbooking flights. Last I checked, the airline still gets your money, whether you show up for the flight or not.
But if you read between the lines about the “overbooking” you’ll realize this really wasn’t an overbooking situation. United didn’t have a problem with too many passengers who wanted on the flight. No, they had four employees who, apparently, had to be in Louisville for work. So what does United do? They bumped four paying customers for employees.
Why didn’t United up their voucher offer?
This whole thing could have been easily avoided if United continued to up their compensation price for the passengers. Why stop at $800? If they went to $1,000 or more, I can guarantee they would have found four passengers to give up their seat without issue.
United’s immediate response was pathetic
Why is this story still being talked about? Because United’s original response was basically this: “we’re right, our customers aren’t.”
The airline’s CEO, Oscar Munoz original apology:
Rupert Younger, a PR professional, told CNN that United’s response "looks uncaring and it looks like it's effectively trying to apologize for the incident without really addressing the core issue of how they deal with customers."
If that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. Munoz then wrote an internal memo:
Third time's the charm I guess, because after the above debacle, they finally put out a legit apology.
Regardless, if United wants to continue being a successful business they should take a couple things away from this:
The passenger isn’t completely out of the doghouse here
Is what happened acceptable? No. But is this individual completely innocent in all of this? No. Let’s face it, the dude acted like a little child in this case. If he didn’t scream like a wounded deer, and actually acted like a grown-up, he would have been treated as such.
If police have to come on a plane to get you off of it, let me just say, they’re not leaving without you. Period.
Sometimes it takes a little bit of money to make more of it. What I mean by that is if United shelled out $4,000-$8,000 ($1,000-$2,000 for each passenger being forced off the plane) to four of the paying passengers to get off the plane, they’d have a whole lot more money in the bank today.
Rightfully so, United has already lost a lot of money because of this. With some people taking their business elsewhere, the market cap hit, and the bad publicity, you can bet UAL won’t do anything like that ever again. They’ll probably change a policy or two, (and other airlines will probably do the same) and ultimately, the customer will win.
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