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.
However, there are certain things that still need to be talked about. With that, the following are among my observations:
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Now, overbooking is something that many airlines do, but it’s outdated.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:
If that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. Munoz then wrote an internal memo:
Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville. While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clear picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.
As you will read, the situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. Our employees followed stablished procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go and above and beyond to ensure we fly right.
I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a closer look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.
- -On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United’s gate agent were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight
- -We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation) and when we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crewmember instructions.
- -He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.
- -Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight. He repeatedly declined to leave.
- -Chicago Aviation Security Officers were unable to gain his cooperation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist – running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.
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 customer is always right.
- When employees trump paying customers, your business is trending in the wrong direction.
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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