Whose Side Are You On? United Airlines or the Doctor with the Dodgy Past?

Discussion in 'Other frequent flyer programmes' started by FlyingPiggie, Apr 13, 2017.

  1. FlyingPiggie

    FlyingPiggie Active Member

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    We've all seen the videos and the news coverage...

    Of course United has handled things poorly throughout. But the culture of security around aviation means that staff usually win the "he said, she said" argument when common sense would disagree.

    But something strikes me as a bit off that somebody could refuse to follow instructions on an airplane, be dragged off the airplane (overkill, but if the other passengers saw somebody get away with a firm refusal to deplane, then nobody else would volunteer or accept a second "random selection"), and now look like a good bet for receiving millions in compensation out of the inevitable lawsuit.

    Does that mean we can all go nuts on airplanes or in airports, as long as enough people film it on their phones. What if somebody desperately needs a glass of water on a BA short haul flight to take a pill or something, but won't be given it. Does that mean that passengers can ransack the trolleys, since the court of public opinion (or at least the Daily Mail) would say that the airline is being unreasonable?

    I'm not so sure that "United Airlines is evil" is really the correct take on things...
     
  2. JoeD

    JoeD Active Member

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    Haha - oh controversial!

    I've deliberately avoided posting about this on the front page because there was too much heat and too few facts for my taste.

    My personal take is that it was a series of increasingly stupid decisions at all levels (gate agent, crew, police, Munoz) that led to an extremely unpleasant conclusion, rather than United being 'evil'.

    The police were, of course, the people who actually carried out the violence and that shouldn't be forgotten.

    That said, United's legal ground looks unbelievably shaky from start to finish here: the flight wasn't actually overbooked (a last minute decision to reposition crew post-boarding, which I believe is why the 4 seats were needed, is a different situation and it's unclear why an airline would have the legal right to assert the primacy of that over a paying passenger who had already boarded); crew appear to have made false reports about the passenger's behaviour; Munoz/United PR appear to have attempted to smear the passenger (the internal communications will probably be particularly damning and will surely be seen as part of the legal process) etc.

    United should pick a number, multiply it by 10 and hope to god he settles - otherwise this will drag on and on for them in the media.

    On the second point, no. What I hope it means is that people can sit normally in the seats they paid for without being left requiring surgery.

    I think the broad point is actually quite simple here:

    Airlines overbook for commercial reasons (and this time it wasn't even an overbooking in the conventional sense) and therefore, like any other business, they should have to deal with the commercial implications of those decisions. They shouldn't be able to use force, or the threat of it, in order to avoid the financial impact of those decisions.

    United should simply have kept raising the amount they were offering until someone accepted, or decided that they were going to have to get their crew repositioned in some other way (or fly in a crew from elsewhere, pay overtime to a crew already in position, and as a very last resort delay or cancel the flight that the crew were trying to get to).
     
  3. FlyingPiggie

    FlyingPiggie Active Member

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    Yeah, obviously not front page material.

    I agree that the main issue isn't really getting any traction because people are too busy bashing United.

    United made a mess of things and called the police to enforce their side of it. The police beat the crap out of a guy, essentially for refusing to do what he was told by law enforcement. If I don't do what I am told by a US cop, I generally expect rough treatment. But equally, if I call the police to mediate a dispute, I don't expect to be held personally responsible if the police act inappropriately...


    The interesting thing - although not really the main issue of police brutality or a more useful look at why airport security have so much power - is the amount of anger about overbooking. I personally don't have a problem with it, particularly if compensation is mutually acceptable. (United can clearly improve their processes here) People seem to be unaware of the fact that, if airlines simply sold the exact number of seats on the plane, large numbers of people would be unable to fly on their preferred flight, even though seats were actually going empty. So for every involuntary bump, how many dozens of people don't even notice that they flew thanks to overbooking? And of course the airlines are making more money, but I am intensely relaxed about capitalism and companies making money through providing valuable goods and services without screwing their customers.

    As for the crew, perhaps there were other options. But, at the time, somebody thought that by kicking 4 people off one flight, he or she could save the day of 100 people on the flight that crew were positioning for. It's sort of the moral dilemma of whether you throw one person off the overloaded lifeboat in order to save the lives of everybody else...

    Of course for Europeans it doesn't make much sense. Plane and crew fly from London to Continent and back. Perhaps they overnight and come back the next day. The number of times I've seen delays in the U.S. because I'm sat in Charlotte and the plane is apparently coming from Dallas and the crew from Pittsburgh and there is weather somewhere else. WTF?!?

    Anyhow, good luck to United and good luck to the guy and his lawyers. Should be fun to watch...
     
  4. JoeD

    JoeD Active Member

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    Yes I completely agree re overbooking (some people seem to be, slightly bizarrely, appalled at the very idea of something that makes obvious business sense), but you put your finger on it when you say "if the compensation is mutually acceptable' - and that's the key issue for me.

    Airlines overbook to boost the bottom line and obviously that's absolutely fine, but it's a commercial decision and therefore needs to be settled commercially too on the small number of occasions where the standard compensation offers don't persuade enough volunteers.

    The answer is blindingly simple - offer more money /free travel/ miles/upgrades/whatever until you get enough volunteers. You will always get volunteers if you offer enough. VERY occasionally that might end up being incredibly expensive for the airline, but that's just tough - they decided to overbook and it's part of the cost of pursuing that policy.

    A situation where it's all upside and no downside for a business vs a consumer is iniquitous.

    The answer is clearly not forced removal of passengers who have paid and done nothing wrong.
     
  5. tommyl

    tommyl Co-founder Staff Member

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    Can you elaborate a bit more on his 'dodgy past'? I'm not disputing the assertion, I just hadn't heard anything to that effect before.

    In terms of whose side I'm on, this is one of those situations where I don't need to take a position and frankly I think everyone looks pretty poor - from Munoz's blundering inconsistencies right up to the family press conference with the law firm name emblazoned on the backdrop.
     
  6. FlyingPiggie

    FlyingPiggie Active Member

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    I understand that he got in trouble for trading prescriptions for gay sex. Which obviously has nothing to do with the case in hand unless he refuses to settle and it gets really nasty in court.
     
  7. FlyingPiggie

    FlyingPiggie Active Member

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  8. Copywriter_Ben

    Copywriter_Ben New Member

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    No one came out of this case as a winner - apart from the guy who left with a very large settlement. Had I been in his position, I would have assumed the airline could ask me to leave a plane for any reason, so I'd have taken the cash and waited for the next flight.

    And there's no way on earth I would have resisted the Police on a plane - that's asking for trouble in this day and age.
     

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