Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Flight Schooled

stilton’s place, stilton, political, humor, conservative, cartoons, jokes, hope n’ change, united, passenger, dragged, war, obama, air force one

Truth be told, we don't really give a rat's rear end about the story of the guy dragged off the United flight, but we couldn't resist the mental image of Barry being dragged down an aisle while kicking, biting, scratching, weeping, long as we're enjoying our fantasy...wetting himself.

As far as the actual story goes, the details keep changing - but it seems safe to say that the gentleman pulled from the plane had voluntarily entered the "asshole zone" by not leaving his seat without a fight (hint: when people with guns ask you to do something on a plane, it's a good idea to do it).

And frankly, the only reason that this is a story is because people got video of the last, most colorful moments of the confrontation...and it's proved to be more interesting on the vast brainless platforms of social media than other current news stories like, oh, impending nuclear war.

We live in strange and frighteningly superficial times.

BONUS: Expert Analysis from John the Econ

United Airlines shows how to make a PR crisis a total disaster

Short story: Flight overbooked, and United needed 4 seats to get a crew staged at the next stop. They offered $800 and a hotel for volunteers to get bumped for a flight the following afternoon. When they found no takers, instead of upping the offer they had the computer randomly select 4 passengers who had already boarded and were seated and asked that they deplane. When one refused, they called security to actually and literally drag him off the plane. Cell phone video of man being dragged down aisle goes viral.

So what did we actually witness yesterday? A great example of "Social Justice" being substituted for simple capitalism. For whatever reason, when there were no takers at $800, instead of raising the bid to $900 or more, the agents in charge decided to get their seats in a "fair" manner by allowing a computer to randomly select the 4 passengers to be inconvenienced. Of course, it certainly didn't feel "fair" or like "justice" for the 4 people pulled from the flight, but that's the problem with "Social Justice", isn't it? Somebody ultimately gets screwed so others can be happy.

Of course, in retrospect this was all really stupid. You can't convince me that on a plane of 200 or so people that they couldn't have found a market clearing price for at least 4 people. (They might have had me at $1,500 or so - Mrs. Econ, who really wants a vacation would have made me) Clearly, the United personnel on the scene didn't want (or may not have been authorized) to offer that much. So they went the draconian route.

But in the end, the free market ultimately gets its retribution. In the wake of what happened United has suffered an incalculable PR disaster and is now the butt of jokes internationally. (Many of the memes floating about the Internet are a hoot) This morning, UAL's stock price dropped several percent, resulting in around $800,000,000 of market capitalization evaporating last I looked. Makes paying $4-or-5 thousand to buy the good graces of 4 people look kinda cheap now, doesn't it?

So next time you see a social justice warrior demand that "social justice" replace the laws of supply and demand, remember the guy who was dragged off the plane. Usually, you don't get to see the victims of such "just" policy so vividly.


REM1875 said...

Having been in the military I have seen people dragged on to planes weeping, wailing, screaming, hollering and kicking - like me- the day they sent me to Korea.
Yes it was United (States)

Geoff King said...

Don't worry, I'm sure the doctor, who supposedly traded drugs for gay sex, that was dragged off the plane will sue United for millions and will likely win.
As far as North Korea goes, it appears their only real ally - China, is now against them as well:

Rod said...

WWCD? (What would Continental do?) I can't judge this incident; but United sucks for several other reasons. I've already reduced air travel for general purposes; and avoid United when possible.

Sarah Rolph said...

I agree with your analysis and I even agree with your position, but I don't have the same attitude about it. Yes, he should have complied, yes, it sounds like he handled himself very badly (sounds like he is mentally ill or at least highly troubled), and yes, the reaction was likely because of the video and we should all get over ourselves and calm down.

And yet. The use of force in a *business setting* has ratcheted one step closer to normal.

That I very much do not like.

Rod said...

@REM1875: That's funny; it reminds me of a buddy long ago who rejected transfer to Alaska to construct TAPS pipeline. The reason was "It would not be efficient". If pressed, he offered same reason: It would several other men to put him on it every time they'd need him to board an airplane.

Emmentaler Limburger said...

@Sarah Rolph nailed it. Surveillance on private citizens without due process or due cause, use of said surveillance information to destroy political opponents, police bodily dragging folks off of planes, general conduct of the police and legal establishment regarding legally-armed citizens... We are on the brink of becoming a police state, if we have not already teetered off that edge.

Yes, the fat kid in North Korea apparently has a bomb to go with his blathering, petulant mouth - and the import of that cannot be diminished. Yes, the posturing of Russia regarding Syrian "president" Bastard Al-Asshat is troubling (but, I believe, is just that: posturing). But such a blatant violation of one's right to self because he dared defy a business; not for any criminal action - that is very, very troubling.

Fred Ciampi said...

Google 'United Breaks Guitars' and prepare for some enjoyment.

It's interesting the the good doctor who was dragged off the plane is a criminal from many years ago. Next thing the MSM will be telling about the time he mailed Kriptonite to Superman ... or some such nonsense. As if that has anything to do with being dragged from an aircraft which he had paid for a ticket. Sigh, thank goodness for well aged moonshine. I have some from last Tuesday. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm............

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@REM1875- Perhaps we're dismissing too quickly the efficiencies of always dragging people on and off planes rather than letting them mill around or choke the aisles.

@Geoff King- Although the doctor sounds like a real piece of work, I have no doubt he's going to come out of this incident a wealthy man. As John the Econ pointed out yesterday, this is a real example of how the free market works: had United upped their offer for someone to voluntarily leave the plane, none of this would have happened. Instead, they used force - and now the free market is punishing them with a billion dollar stock loss and poisonous PR. Talk about a self-regulating system!

Regarding North Korea, China's crackdown on them comes as genuinely good news. I hope it helps calm an increasingly tense situation.

@Rod- I dislike the entire flight experience, whatever the carrier.

@Sarah Rolph- You make an excellent point. The use of force in a business setting should never become "normal." I think the line has been blurred on airlines because of the real needs of security. But, despite what United's lawyers will argue, this wasn't about airline security, it was about money - pure and simple. But smacking around a customer because you think it will be good for the bottom line is unacceptable and, as we're seeing, wildly counterproductive.

The primary reason I chose to treat this as a non-serious issue is because I think the problem has already taken care of itself: United is going to pay through the nose, and all carriers are likely to rethink their policies on overbooking and customer incentives.

@Rod- Some people resist air travel because they believe planes to be coffins with wings. Or maybe that's just me.

@Emmentaler Limburger- Again, I agree. I don't think we'll see another incident quite like this one for the reasons I shared with Sarah, but there is a growing police state mentality which none of us should be happy about.

@Fred Ciampi- The "United Breaks Guitars" stuff is indeed enjoyable. Regarding the doctor's sordid past, it should be completely irrelevant here. Although actually, as my niece pointed out over on Facebook, it may actually work to his benefit: now that his old sins have been trotted out for the world to see, he can not only sue United for what they did on the day of his flight, but for the damages he'll suffer in the future from the negative publicity.

Dave from the Cheesehead Nation said...

A psychologist told me that my fear of flying is rooted in the lack of control I have in the air. Sounds logical to me. So I travel by Amtrak. Slower than a plane, and even when we are hours behind schedule, their employees offer free drinks, and bring them to you. They are kind and polite to everyone, even when they tell the traveler that smoking is forbidden on trains and violation of this rule will get you kicked off at the next stop. And Congress wants to defund Amtrak. By the way, their seats are big, comfortable,and there is a LOT of space between them. I do have to give United some praise. Once when our daughter was flying from Houston she was several hours late. The pilot "did not like the sound of one engine" and would not take off. Eventually another plane was substituted.

Sortahwitte said...

Way back when I had to fly, military or civilian, I always imagined myself flying with 8 to 400 of my closest friends. Inside an aluminum suppository. Knowing it would all come out in the end.

AmyH said...

I think these airlines need to stop selling each seat twice (whoever gets there first, gets the seat) and if they are going to shuttle staff to a different airport, then have 4-5 seats already booked just for that purpose. If, on that flight, no personnel needs to go somewhere, then give it to a paying customer.
A paying customer who was already seated and ready is forceably removed to allow free passengers is absurd. Then the CEO insults the highly trained Internal Medicine Doctor (isnt he someone they would WANT on the plane?). He had to get home for his patients, Flight Attendants needed to get to the next flight. I say a paying customer (doctor or not, but he was a little more important) trumps an employee.

Alfonso Bedoya said...

United had their heads up their arses by not upping the ante to the seated customers. Bad PR....bad...bad PR. Geoff King hit the nail squarely on the head.

Walter said...

OK, so we've had the thoughts of why or why not this man was "removed" from a flight on which he had paid the fare to be on and seated.
With that said there is the FACT the four crewmembers going to Louisville was "deadheading".
For the neophytes, this is an old term used by the railroads of yesteryear and picked up by other common this case UAL and the airline industry. It means you ride FREE on the company's or someone's dime. Rules and regulations are what keeps society civil, yet in this case where pictures speak 10K words...the airline gorilla band for enforcement went just a bit overboard.
If the man had been drunk and disorderly he would have been allowed to board the aircraft.
Being he is shown to be Asian, do as the blacks do! Play that RACE card and place emphasis on the profiling, regardless of what a computer may have done.
My two centavos from Pensacola, FL

james daily said...

Oh, yea. I have a feeling there will be some unemployed with United and possibly the security guys. I quite the airlines when they started treating me like a criminal. Either we drive or don't go. Now, on NK, their GDP is approximately $23 Billion a year, not even a rounding error in our economy and they threaten war? The coal China sent back was approximately 3% of their GNP. This makes absolutely no sense. Their people are starving, cannibalism is being practiced and they navy is practically non existent.
Think I had rather ride an airplane.

Unknown said...

The plane was not overbooked but full. Then the crew showed up to deadhead. Airline vouchers stink. Should offer cash money. Yeah, sure....

John the Econ said...

@Sarah Rolph, I'm not sure we have different attitudes at all. In the end, United opted to deploy force instead of peaceful capitalism. I am definitely against this. Legally speaking, United probably had the right to do so, (as is basically spelled out in the carriage contract and common law) just as the state reserves the right to do similar to citizens when they become an annoyance to the state. But just because one technically has the right does not make it the best choice.

From the perspective of a systems analyst and former "road warrior": The big mistake on United's part was attempting to resolve this after the passengers had boarded. Usually, these problems are resolved at the gate where things are far less claustrophobic. There's little question that the passenger in question was/is not quite right with psychological issues, which really is the only reason that this made news. Had I been in his position, (and I have been in similar) like the 3 other passengers who got bumped I would have been highly dismayed, but it certainly wouldn't have taken a call to security to get me off the plane. In fact, I probably wouldn't have made a scene in the terminal either, since at that moment I'd still be in a rather inferior position and another 24+ hours away from getting to where ever I wanted or needed to be. In such situations, there is absolutely nothing to be gained by being confrontational, so I do the opposite; I am as saccharine as possible short of seeming sarcastic in order to be a surprise to the agents in charge in order to get the best possible resolution available at the moment. (Because when something's clustered like this, you definitely aren't getting anything better) I usually don't go to war until I'm back on my own turf and have regained a position of power.

"The primary reason I chose to treat this as a non-serious issue is because I think the problem has already taken care of itself: United is going to pay through the nose, and all carriers are likely to rethink their policies on overbooking and customer incentives."

Unfortunately, there are those who never let a good crisis go to waste and are already contemplating legislation. The likely outcome of such will only be more expense for the airlines (ultimately passed down to consumers) and future inconvenience for passengers. There should be no scarier declaration than "Hi, we're the government and we're here to help you."

@Dave from the Cheesehead Nation: Agree with the "lack of control" thing. I have a quirk about flying through turbulence; I really don't like it. This quirk only seems unusual because I am myself a private pilot. I've personally flown small planes through turbulence that would toss the plane practically inverted, and yet that never bothered me because I was in control.

Fortunately, most pilots are highly rational beings. If one does not like the sound an engine makes, it's every bit as much in his or her interest to resolve it before going on. After all, should something go south, they're day is going to be at least as bad as that of their passengers.

@Walter, the other way of looking at the deadheading issue was that had those crewpeople not made it to Louisville, then there would have been a whole planeload of people not going anywhere for an indeterminate period of time. There's no mystery behind United's calculus that it would have been much better to inconvenience 4 people instead of 70.

As for Amtrak: There's no question that train travel is so much more comfortable. But let me ask this: If the airline industry were to be subsidized proportionally to how Amtrak is subsidized, would it not be nearly as comfortable? I wonder.

John the Econ said...

@S. B. Sweeney: "Vouchers" do stink. In the good old days, they used to hand out passes that were good for a round trip almost anywhere the airline flew. Unless I had to be somewhere on the button, I'd always jump at those. After 9/11, the industry changed to "vouchers". Totally understandable, since using vouchers allowed for a more efficient incremental bidding process for the airline. My problem with the vouchers is that they started to make them as difficult to use as "miles" are anymore.

About a decade ago, I took a bump (on United, no less) in exchange for several hundred dollars worth of vouchers. When I tried to use them, I found that I could not book my trip online or with an agent over the phone. They actually required that I drive to the airport and stand in the check-in line in order to have a live in-person agent book the flight! To add insult to injury, after standing in a check-in line the gate agents insisted that I stand aside and wait until all the passengers waiting to check in for actual flights were processed before they'd deal with me. After looking over the never-ending line of people in the queue, I finally (and loudly, so that everyone could hear and understand why) insisted that they take care of me now because I had already stood in line long enough, and that it was their company that insisted upon this absurd requirement that I show up at their counter to do this simple yet inconvenient and time consuming task. If they had a problem with this, then they should take it up with their management.

After booking my flight, I then went home and wrote UAL a letter explaining how they had made their so-many-hundred-dollar voucher practically worthless after the time and trouble required to redeem it, and I'd be remembering that the next time they wanted volunteers for a bump.

Which is probably why they had trouble finding people willing to settle for a mere 800 "dollars", which after the time and trouble is only really worth a couple hundred.

Pete (Detroit) said...

Many years ago, I was flying to Hawaii, and was delayed. Another passenger was bitching about the delay, "What the hell is the effing DEAL?"
"Well" I opined, "I don't know if they were hung over, pissed at the boss, or actually just competently doing their job, but someone who's Effing JOB it is to inspect this thing and determine that it's safe to fly, has said it's NOT. Maybe it's just me, but I'm kind of inclined to take their word for it..."

Another time there was a plane change a group of German tourists were in front of me, all bent (at least the one 'representative') that the seats they had selected (so they could sit together, apparently) were not available to them. Whether they'd just been reassigned, or due to different plane model were physically not available, I don't know. But he pitched a fit at that poor gate agent for almost 10 min.
Me next... You have a seat for me? Is it inside the plane? Good. Do you need to go look for something for me, and take a moment to recover from that jerk?
"No, actually, you get used to it"
What a saint! Definitely underpaid....

After moving to Detroit, I flew back to visit friends in Dallas several times a year - they would have last minute 'stupid cheap' fares like $150 round trip, and I had a job I could take a three day weekend w/ short notice (didn't get PAID to not show up, but could get the time...) Thanks to American's booking policies, I flew free on vouchers for almost two years...

As for Krazy Kim, I would have loved to hear the dinner conversation last week... "Sorry for the interruption, we just had to give a smackdown to Assad. Now, you going to sit on Kim's head, or will I have to do it alone?"

Colby Muenster said...

It occurred to me that perhaps the FAA should prohibit airlines from overbooking and to always allow X many seats for crew members headed to other airports. Bad idea, though. This would just drive up the already outlandish prices.

I will second John the Econ's comments above. Back in the good old days, when they offered tickets to any destination in the continental US, I'd jump on them whenever possible. Mrs. Muenster and I have visited distant relatives, and taken a couple of nice vacations that way. The airlines never had a problem getting folks to give up their seats. Now, nobody wants the stupid vouchers for all the reasons John lists above, so they are now forcibly removing "dissenters" from their seats. Most airlines treat people like shit, cram you into seats not even big enough for 10 year olds, whack you 50 bucks to check a (gasp!) suitcase, which results in people trying to bring steamer trunks on board.

United breaks guitars. A personal experience. The wife and I took a trip to Ireland so we could do some pub playing. On the way back, going through Newark (yes, on United), we were switching terminals, and for some reason the walkway was next to the place where the bags were being transferred on to a belt, separated by a chain link fence. I witnessed a baggage handler grab my guitar, raise it over his head, and slam it as hard as he could on to the belt. I yelled at him, "Thanks for smashing my guitar, asshole!" I got flipped off for my efforts. When I filed a claim for the damage, I was told that I "knew the risks of checking a guitar, and they are not liable." WTF?! And they do not let you take a guitar on with you. A giant ass suitcase, yes, but not a guitar.

Done whining now....

NVRick said...

Several thoughts and opinions re: UAL.
First: The plane was full.
Second: A flight crew had to get to St. Louis to man a flight.
Third: An offer was made to recompense four passengers if they would give up their seats.
Fourth: One passenger (perhaps mentally or chemically deluded) thought that by refusing and physically resisting leaving his seat that the agents would just shrug their shoulders, say "Never mind" and walk away.
Fifth: Within the ridiculously cramped confines of an airplane, and a window seat to boot, the circumstances did not lend themselves to anything less than brute force to remove the (possibly mentally or chemically impaired) passenger from the aircraft.
Sixth: The "removal" personnel cannot back away from removing the passenger once they have told him to get off.
Now for some speculation:
It is likely that the gate agent is only given authority to offer a maximum compensation. (I would suspect this is the case or there could be an opportunity for fraud such as "I'll offer you $3,000. You keep 2K and give me 1K.)
Trying to get authorization from further up the chain of command to increase an offer to induce another volunteer may have been possible, but may have been too time consuming. (Delay on leaving the gate would probably resulted in an incoming flight being unable to use it, causing both to be 'delayed' and subject to fines.)
If the request to deplane is refused, what are the options for the airline? Should they just leave without one of the ongoing crew? That could possibly result in the cancellation of the ongoing flight, causing a further domino effect going on to other flights being delayed or cancelled.
Is it possible, given what is now known about the doctor, that he may have been using some of the same narcotics he had been convicted of illegally providing? And that he needed another dose to mellow him out?

Anonymous said...

So, if I sell you something I don't have, it constitutes fraud. How is any aiorline selling space they don't have any different?

John the Econ said...

@Michael Beaty, the difference is that when you buy an airline ticket, you are not buying a specific "seat". What you are purchasing is transport between point A and point B. Where you sit and when you actually get to point B can be variable. It's all spelled out in the contract that nobody actually reads.

Since I love ya all, I'll give you my top-secret suggestion as to how to deal with an airline when everything clusters. Actually, @Pete (Detroit) already described it above: Be nice. Better yet, be nicer than everyone else around you.

In my road warrior days, I lived near a hub infamous for summer thunderstorms that all too frequently would cluster schedules anytime after noon. Since this was a fact of life, I would usually schedule trips with enough slack on both ends so that I could be very flexible with my travel plans. Any time spent stuck in airports could be spent doing work on my laptop, so it wasn't as though my time was totally going to waste. When the inevitable would happen and a flight would be hopelessly delayed or cancelled, there would be the inevitable line of angry people at the counter ready to pointlessly dish out hostility at the gate agents.

This is both silly and pointless. It's the weather. It's nobody's fault and certainly not the airline's or anyone you'll be dealing with. The flight's cancelled and there's nothing anyone can do about it. So why be mad at people? And it's stupid, since being angry isn't going to get you any closer to where you want to be.

And there's no rush since nobody else is going anywhere either. So let the angry folk crowd the line and dish out their hostility. When they're done, you walk up and be as over-the-top nice as you can possibly be without seeming insincere. "What a mess! I am so sorry you're having a bad day and have to deal with these angry people. I'm patient and flexible. I'll take whatever you can get me."

The agents have a lot of discretion and flexibility as to how they can deal with individual passengers. So who do you think will get the better treatment? The guy who pointlessly ripped him/her a new one or the guy who was actually patient, understanding and compassionate? The former will be lucky to get the last flight out seated in the back middle row next to the lavatory. You'll get much better. In fact, if you suggest that you'd be willing to take a later flight "if that would help", odds are good that you'll find yourself in 1st class when they hand you a new boarding pass. That happened regularly to me.

The same goes for "mechanicals". Do you really want to be on a plane that's possibly broken? I assure you that the airline doesn't want to cancel that flight any more than you want them to. Yeah, someone's screw-up might have been responsible. But either way, there's nothing you can do about it.

People act out angrily because they feel powerless in a situation. The irony is that by not acting out angrily, you can regain some of the power you've lost. Wouldn't it be a nicer world if people figured that out?

Bobo said...

I think the last people to buy their ticket should be the first to be de-planed, with compensation of course. Last in - First out. Simple as that.

Fred Ciampi said...

Thank God my sales management days are over and I am retired. I used to fly several times a month and John just shook out a memory from about 15 years ago. I was flying back to hillbillyland from San Francisco when the agent announced a delay for the flight. A well dressed gentleman charged up to the agent and screamed "Do you know who I am?" And he repeated "Do you know who I am?" The young lady very calmly picked up her microphone and in a loud and pleasant voice said "We have a gentleman up here at the desk who doesn't know who he is, is there anyone in the terminal who knows him and can help him out?" He turned nine shades of red and stormed out of the terminal. Never did find out who he was.

FrankC said...

If United knew they had to get four "deadhead" crew on that flight why didn't they book them on before the flight was sold out?

james daily said...

Old memories. You poster have drug one of my unfortunate ones. My brother and I and wives were scheduled to fly back from LV to DFW when there was a delay, a delay, a delay. They could not get one of the plane's engine to crank. So, they lied to us. "We are getting a plane for you in from LA, it will be here shortly. That plane never showed up and and about 2:00 A.M., there was no one in the terminal but us - and they had locked the terminal doors. We were captured. Of course the next day all planes were full so me brother got two tickets each on different flights (that was lucky), he and I left on the early flight, wives left on the later flight. We both were suppose to be at work. We were a bit late. Never heard squat from American nor an apology or anything.

james daily said...

I read someplace or other that there was a limit on what a manager could offer passengers so that may have played a part.

Rod said...

Hey Stilt: Your stuff is always witty & well done; but for this incident I think funniest is the "Rocky" Stallone poster, fist in the air, bloodied up, stuffing beat out of him with the caption: "Yo Adriane! I made it on the plane."

pgm1972 said...

I think the funniest part of this is the "Obama Nobel Peace Prize" aspect of the whole ordeal. One of the "Related News" links on the CNN site says, "Last month, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz was named U.S. Communicator of the Year by the magazine PRWeek."


Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Dave from the Cheesehead Nation- I, for one, am entirely in favor of flights being delayed when something doesn't seem right. And by "right," I mean freaking perfect.

@Sortahwitte- That belongs on an inspirational poster.

@Alfonso Bedoya- There probably wasn't anyone there with the authority to offer more money. I'm betting that the policy has already been changed.

@Walter- In this case, I believe the "deadheading" crew members were being transported in order to crew another flight, so the impetus to get them seated is understandable. Still, this whole thing was handled terribly.

@James Daily- By the time I actually make it ON to an aircraft, my emotional well-being is already shot to hell. So, as others have observed, this is the sort of thing which should NOT happen once people are finally seated onboard.

@S.B. Sweeney- Not only should they offer cash, but they should have a "wheel of misfortune" that you're allowed to spin for additional prizes in the terminal. "Who wants to get off for $800 and a chance to win a new car?"

@John the Econ- Great comments. And a special thanks for letting me steal your comments from the other day so I could slap them on the current post.

@Colby Muenster- I agree that ending overbooking would simply make ticket prices even more prohibitive. And I also agree that the "round trip to anywhere we fly" offer would surely generate all the vacancies necessary in a tight situation.

Regarding your guitar story, it's genuinely sickening. There's a special place in Hell for people like that.

@NVRick- Great summary of the situation!

@Michael Beaty- I was about to answer your question, but I see that John the Econ is way ahead of me...

@John the Econ- By the way, your advice to "be nice" is actually a pretty good secret weapon to use in every interaction with other human beings.

@Bobo- That sounds good, though you can bet that the first day the policy was put into practice, the "last ticket purchased" would belong to someone hurrying to a relative's death bed.

@Fred Ciampi- I soooooo hope that really happened!

@FrankC- I'm guessing that the "deadhead" situation developed after the flight had already sold out.

@James Daily- Yikes!

@Rod- This whole United brouhaha has been a gift to the Internet meme-makers.

@pgm1972- In fairness, he communicated his message loud and clear: "When United tells you to get off the plane, get off the damn plane."

John the Econ said...

@Bobo, seems fair, but that's just the problem with "fair"; it's totally subjective. There are those who'd argue that the "random" selection by a computer was "fair". There are those who'd argue that ejecting those who paid the least for their tickets would be "fair". How about women and children first?

The only process that allows participation by all parties was the "compensation bidding" process. It's also the only process that concludes with every party getting what they wanted.

@Fred Ciampi, love it! We may have never learned his name, but we did learn that he's an ass.

@FrankC, I don't know this for a fact on that particular flight. But what usually happens is that the crew that was currently flying the plane was about to "time out" and would not be legally eligible to crew that plane the following morning. It likely that this was not the original plan; that the crew for the next morning's flight never made it to the next stop. This frequently happens when weather or other factors cluster what is otherwise a concisely coordinated system. (Note that it's taken nearly a week for Delta to get their system back in order during major storms in Atlanta nearly a week ago) Either way, this clearly wasn't something that was planned ahead of time. Stuff happens.

@James Daily, I hate when they lie. I much prefer getting the bad news up front so that I can adjust accordingly instead of being strung along for hours only to get stuck. I've gotten pretty good at sniffing those scenarios out.

As for what they could offer passengers: There are federal regulations stating that the airline is only obligated offer a maximum of $1,350. But I don't think that is a "limit". The airline could offer more if they really wanted to keep their customers in their good graces. The highest they offered in this case went was $800, which may have been an arbitrary limit set by the airline.

Another observation: I've seen a fair amount of pushback from UAL employees, arguing that this was not an actual "United Airlines" flight, but was a flight operated by a regional affiliate, and as such really isn't a reflection upon United or its employees.

True, it wasn't a "regular" UAL flight. But it really doesn't matter. When you outsource and allow others the use of your uniforms and logos, this is the risk a corporate entity takes. The distinction that legally exists between these operations primarily exist only for corporate and political reasons. For all practical purposes, and certainly from the passenger's point of view, these flights seamlessly operate as "United Airlines" flights, and as such appear as a single operation. So when one crew screws up, it reflects on all of them, regardless of the underlying corporate structure.

@Stilton, no problem. I'm adding to my resume that I'm now an official Stilton's Place content provider. Just hope that doesn't come back to bite you the next time I have paying clients forcibly removed kicking and screaming from my office.

Sarah Rolph said...

Nice discussion! @Stilt, thanks for the gracious and informative response. @John the Econ, when I commented, your piece was not posted yet under Stilt's, so it was just Stilt I was addressing -- you're right that you and I seem to agree. And it seems we all agree on the basics, it's just a matter of which facet of the situation one is focusing on. That's one of the things that makes this comment community so pleasant, people tend to add to one another's understanding with new perspectives, new observations, and new data. Instead of just fighting. What a concept!