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News United Airlines is a terrible business

  1. Apr 13, 2017 #1
    It seems that they don't know how to run their own business. From their policies that allows for the possibility of an incident like this, to their handling of the situation once it happened.

    At this point, they probably wish that they can pay the guy 20 million dollars to make the problem go away. It's interesting to see how this would all play out.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2017 #2
    I wonder if it is simply a follow up on the TSA treatment of passengers? I've been manhandled pretty badly by them, to the point that I rarely fly these days and dread it when I do. The whole airline industry is in severe need of some real competition.
     
  4. Apr 13, 2017 #3
    They initially called it overbooking, but the four seats involved were for employees. It's not clear if these empoyees were just getting free flights, were traveling to staff other planes or some combination. Either way, it's not overbooking.

    Dr. Dao was more severely injured than originally reported.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/us/united-passenger-david-dao-chicago.html?_r=0
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2017
  5. Apr 14, 2017 #4

    Borg

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    I think that the overbooking is being used incorrectly in this case. My understanding is that the four employees were being transited to the other city in order to serve on a flight departing from there. Transits like that are pretty routine but I haven't heard of that many passengers being removed from a flight before.

    As for Dr. Dao, I consider his actions to be extremely childish. Four people were removed from that flight - I wonder why the other three weren't injured? People get bumped from flights all of the time but he chose to fight with four officers while trying to hang on to his seat like a child that doesn't want to give up a toy. His face was injured when the officers had to pull so hard that when he lost his grip on the seat, he got slammed into a seat on the other side of the aisle. His injuries are a result of his own behavior from resisting when it was clear that they weren't going to take no for an answer.
     
  6. Apr 14, 2017 #5
    This line of thinking strikes me as very odd. It's not as though he was abusing the staff, or getting drunk and urinating in the isle or acting with a lack of decorum. He was being stubborn after he was told to leave. It doesn't matter how stubborn a customer is being, you can't manhandle them in a way that causes injury. If it's clear he's not going to play ball, then the most pragmatic thing to do is select another passenger and increase their level of compensation.

    They can then take the moral highround that the passenger who refused to be removed was being a PITA.

    The series of events that occured is indicative of people who act like automatons. My orders are to remove you. You are not complying. MOAR FORCE!

    The result is a PR disaster that ultimately does far more damage than being tactful.
     
  7. Apr 14, 2017 #6

    Borg

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    I am not saying that the situation couldn't have been handled better by United. However, this would have never happened to myself since I would have acted like an adult and complied with the rules of carriage that are written on the ticket. No, I wouldn't have liked it but, like the other three passengers who were bumped, I wouldn't be injured and all over YouTube either. He's an adult and should have acted like one.
     
  8. Apr 14, 2017 #7

    russ_watters

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    It could be. I think our post-911 security situation has ratcheted up the tension and seriousness of security and airline personnel, such that their tolerance level/tact has dropped below what is reasonable.
     
  9. Apr 14, 2017 #8

    russ_watters

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    In hindsight, the most pragmatic thing to do would have been to not do random selections, but to increase the compensation until 4 people volunteered. But it isn't just about this flight/passenger: United and other airlines bump thousands of people a year. Upping the bid until someone bites would cost them millions of dollars a year.

    But you can't pick another passenger; that's rewarding the stubbornness, which only encourages more.

    I'm sure the jury is going to reward this J.A. handsomely, but from a legal perspective he was near totally in the wrong. The airline procedure is set and the airline followed it. What they neglected was trying a little harder to explain it to him. But once he's been bumped from the flight, he is essentially trespassing on the plane and has to be removed, by force if necessary.
    I agree, but unfortunately the message that is going to win-out here is something that seems to be spreading in the US: that childishly resisting authority/realities you don't like is a good/useful thing. And that's a pretty bad thing.
     
  10. Apr 14, 2017 #9

    256bits

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    Totally agree.
    Thing is, the passenger was not denied boarding at the gate - he was already on the plane and was given his seat selection.
    Terms and conditions of UA don't say anything about un-boarding - ie taking back what was already given and agreed to.
    A lawsuit could come down to the actual particular meaning of a word, and whether or not industry practice has any actual basis in law.
    Rule 21 - Refusal of Transport. What item in that list did the passenger breach?

    It seems that UA then attempted to break their own terms of contract and tried to "involuntarily" remove him from the flight, for their own economic interests only.
    Being not successful, they called in the Chicago Airport Security, whose actions led to the world wide attention.
    Apparently, the Security over-extended the means by which they "convinced" the passenger that he must leave.
    Most likely the Security were simply told by a UA personnel that there was a passenger on board who needs removal, and they acted as they should have under the limited information, by removing him.
    Perhaps, hopefully, they will not be so keen to act before seeking explanations beforehand. Acting as enforcers of profit for the airline should not be their motivation.

    In the end, bad PR, compensation for the traumatized passengers who witnessed the encounter, a potentially expensive lawsuit, and several employees who aren't too
     
  11. Apr 14, 2017 #10

    russ_watters

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    I don't know what your logic is here, but your conclusion is really, really wrong. Bumping often happens when the plane is already boarding, because that's when they know it is actually overbooked! It's a musical chairs game, where the last one on is left without a seat -- except that that's when the dance begins.

    A passenger has very few rights when on the plane, and being on the plane is itself not among them. The terms are here:
    https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriage.aspx

    As with most personal injury claims, it will come down to the sympathetic jury vs the big meanie company - which is probably United, the company that runs the airport and also the private security company if that's where they came from. Unfortunately, in the USA you don't have to be right to win a lawsuit, you only have to be sympathetic. Remember, this is the country that awarded a woman $2 million for essentially claiming that she was too stupid to know that hot coffee could burn her:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liebeck_v._McDonald's_Restaurants
    These:
    Um:
    Stop this country, I want off.
     
  12. Apr 14, 2017 #11

    256bits

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    Ha Ha.

    http://fortune.com/2017/04/12/united-airlines-passenger-dragged-compensation/
    I was under the understanding that the brutal details ie blood, would have had to be cleaned up before departure. To do so, all the passengers would have to have debarked. UA would have to be admitting that the passengers were not likely to be conducive to be seeing the evidence of the mess while in air - in other words, minimize the reminder of a horrific scene of violence.

    Did that plane actually take off to its destination? Eventually, yes, but still an unscheduled delay for UA.
    Was the 4 person crew able to meet their timetable for duty rest for that scheduled flight that started this whole thing?
    If they did not make it, the whole episode was totally unnecessary.
    Someone forgot their customer training that day, and rather than diffuse the situation, they managed to escalate it, to the whole companies disadvantage, and to all its other employees and shareholders.

    This is one main point . Security should not be used for economic reasons.
    Some in Chicago voice the same opinion.
    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-ual-passenger-idUSKBN17F1WT
     
  13. Apr 14, 2017 #12
    I see overbooking as a breach of contract. When I buy a ticket to fly, I make a contract with the airline to perform a service for me at a specific date and place. They will not let me out of that contract, except under the most extreme circumstances. Why should i, a passenger, be inclined to let them out of the contract?

    I understand that the airline needed to move four people from point A to point B. Would have not been better, since they knew they were oversold, to simply charter a plane and send their own on their way in luxury?

    Air travel was once a real pleasure. Now, it is a most unpleasant ordeal, to be avoided if at all possible. I will certainly drive 1000 miles to avoid flying any day of the week.
     
  14. Apr 14, 2017 #13

    russ_watters

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    Pilot's union trying to say it is all the Chicago Aviation Dept (security?)'s fault:
    http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/real-time/United-pilots-blast-police-David-Dao-removal.html

    While that's almost true, it also never would have happened if United gate personnel and flight crew had handled it better. And either way, United can't totally separate themselves from a forceful removal they asked for, even if it was more forceful than they intended.
     
  15. Apr 14, 2017 #14

    russ_watters

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    You should read the contract: it's in there.
     
  16. Apr 14, 2017 #15

    OmCheeto

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    I liked UA's CEO's statement;

    [ref]

    I worked for mega corporations all of my adult life. The CEO is, IMHO, rarely aware of the minor details involved with running the company. But once a "minor detail" leads to a "MAJOR" problem, a good CEO will fix it.

    So I just consider this a "teaching moment".

    ps. Just checked the prices for a one way UA flight for Portland to Orlando: $122
    from my rough calculations:
    3000 miles
    30 mpg (my truck)
    100 gallons
    2.50 $/gal
    $250 in gas​

    pps. I have no idea how airlines stay in business at these prices, nor why I didn't visit my friends in Florida this winter.
     
  17. Apr 14, 2017 #16

    RonL

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    If 200 passengers paid that price, approximately $25,000 US dollars to fly the plane one way ? :smile:
     
  18. Apr 14, 2017 #17

    OmCheeto

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    Economies of scale!

    ps.
    I just noticed this:

    When there's an overbooking issue the first step is to offer an inducement to the passengers to take a later flight. On Sunday passengers were offered $400 (£322), a hotel room for the night, and a flight the following afternoon.

    When no-one took the offer, the amount was upped to $800. Still no-one bit, so a manager boarded the flight and informed passengers that four people would be selected to leave the flight.
    [ref]

    Perhaps we've evolved(devolved?) to the point where bidding should start not from the bottom down, but the other way around:
    "Who will give up their seat for $10,000?"
    200 hands go up
    "Who will give up their seat for $5,000?"
    200 hands stay up
    "Who will give up their seat for $2,500?"
    100 hands stay up...​

    etc. etc. etc. until you get to 4 hands.

    pps.
    OMG! This was a 300 mile flight.
    Flight origin O'Hare International Airport [Chicago IL]
    Destination Louisville International Airport [Kentucky]​
    [ref = wiki]

    And..... the price is the same as the PDX to MCO flight?

    hmmm.....

    Ah ha!
     
  19. Apr 14, 2017 #18

    RonL

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    I'm surprised they didn't start in first class, might be more greedy people ready to jump at a chance to make a fast buck ? :rolleyes: :biggrin:
     
  20. Apr 14, 2017 #19

    Drakkith

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    I doubt the average first class passenger is any greedier than the average passenger anywhere else on the plane.
     
  21. Apr 14, 2017 #20

    RonL

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    I should not have used the word greedy, it is sometimes confused with the good business sense to not leave any money on the table. Twice I have been in a situation of being offered compensation for overbooking or error of type on the boarding pass, the first time was cash, but I was too sick to spend the night in a compensated room and the second involved travel vouchers for future flights, which in no way could I use in the allotted time frame.
    I wonder if the $800.00 was actual cash? out of all the passengers and no one accepted the offer, I think I better go and recalculate my net worth ????? :nb) :eek: :wideeyed: :biggrin:
     
  22. Apr 14, 2017 #21

    Choppy

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    I too find it infuriating that a flight can be overbooked, or as seems to be the case here, that a passenger can be bumped off a flight at the convenience of the company. From my point of view as a passenger, I see a plane with X number of seats. Selling X + d is clearly unethical.

    However, I'm just a passenger, and I don't see the bigger picture. From an airline management point of view the problem is much bigger. You don't have a single flight. You have a network of hundreds of flights. Each flight - the airplane, the pilot and copilot, the aircrew, the ground crew, and the pre-flight management is subject to strict regulation. You can't fly some flights in some weather conditions, or if there are mechanical electrical failures of certain quality control tests, or if the airport gets clogged up because of problems with another airline. Or what if one of your pilots shows up drunk? Or a flight attendant calls in sick at the last minute? You have an ethical obligation (and financial incentive) to keep the network operating with minimal disruption.

    So what happens when a hail storm rolls through the airport and a takeoff is delayed to the point where the air crew have been working past the regulated number of hours they can work? You have to call in a new crew. You can either put 300 people up for a night in hotels, or bump four from another flight, fly in a ground grew and minimize the degree of inconvenience. That's the most ethical solution under circumstances you can't control.

    But what about the practice of selling X + d seats? Well, the problem there, I suspect is that while customers may complain about getting bumped, they will still generally sort flight options by price. If another airline can sell 301 seats for a 300 seat flight, knowing that statistically there's a very small probability that all 301 passengers will show up on time, they can offer their flight for a cheaper price and ultimately sell more seats. So even though it's an unethical practice, it's the direct result of customer pressure.

    The problem goes away if you were to sell a seat guarantee at some kind of premium... pay an extra $50 and you go to the bottom of the bump priority list. But that's not without it's problems either. Who wants to pay an extra $50 for a low probability event, which in most cases ultimately results in only a temporary inconvenience?

    So while it is frustrating, I don't see it changing any time soon.
     
  23. Apr 14, 2017 #22

    Choppy

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    With respect to the actual video - as usual with these viral videos involving use of force - we don't really see or hear any of the events leading up to the altercation. We see the struggle and the ensuing "carnage" but all we can really do is speculate about the lead up.

    I know it's already been brought up, but without even knowing any of the details of customer-airline contracts, I'm pretty certain of one basic rule: on a plane, the pilot is in command. What he or she says goes. If the pilot asks you to deplane. You have to deplane. Sure you can argue. You have a right to a grievance with the airline. But once you've been asked to leave, your options are limited to: leave with dignity or be dragged off.

    If the airline staff and security officers were doing their jobs properly this should have been blatantly clear both to the passenger in question and the other passenger who were sitting there watching.

    Once the passenger refuses all reasonable attempts at a peaceful, non-physical solutions, the security officers have to escalate the use of force. It would be nice if there was another option, but at some point, the decision's been made and the guy has to come off. Based on what I saw and heard, this passenger chose to become an active resistor. At that point the man was actually putting the other passengers (not to mention the security officers) at risk. A grown man throwing a tantrum like that, even he doesn't intend to hurt anyone could easily lash out and strike another passenger. The officers had to use force to subdue him.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
  24. Apr 14, 2017 #23

    Vanadium 50

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    I agree. I have flown more than 1.9 million miles on UA, so this is from experience.

    They were not oversold. They had 70 seats and 70 confirmed passengers with seat assignments.

    That's not what happens. Here's how it's supposed to work. Around 15 minutes before the flight starts boarding, it goes under what they call "gate control". At that point, they stop selling tickets and stop allowing people to change their flights to this one without going to the gate. Also at this point, they have N seats, M passengers with seat assignments, K passengers confirmed but without seat assignments, and L passengers on the standby list. For the flight in question N = 70, M was probably about 60, which would make K around 10, and I don't know what L was. In this case things are straightforward - print up K boarding passes and go.

    Often things are more complicated - then first the M are boarded. Based on N, M and K, some number of the K are given seat assignments. The gate agent keeps a close eye on N - M - K (free seats) and K and L (the number of people she's trying to get out). At T-15, if you haven't boarded, you lose your seat assignment, so M drops and K grows. The GA continues to keep an eye on things (perhaps there are people not at the gate but connecting from a flight that has just landed) clearing passengers a few at a time as the situation with people who have seat assignments but are not there clarifies.

    There is a bit of an art to this. If you have a frequent flyer and 3 non-frequent flyers who are likely to misconnect, the GA may drop three seats right away, and hold the fourth longer: the frequent flyer is likely to get off first, likely to better navigate the airport, and the airline wants to keep him happy. If after a few minutes, he's still not there, then drop him.

    What if the flight is oversold (N < M + K)? Then, before boarding, the GA asks for volunteers for a given compensation. If you volunteer, you give the GA permission to reduce M or K by one - essentially, you can be moved to the top of L. This is called VDB: voluntary denied boarding. The VDB compensation is whatever you negotiate. I have received travel credits, cash, upgrades, lounge passes, hotel stays and frequent flyer miles at various times. If they can't get enough VDB's, they go to involuntary denied boarding or IDB. Here the compensation is legally mandated, and for the case in question is $1300. Cash. IDB's are reported to the DOT, so the airline has an incentive to avoid them.

    In the Old Days, GAs were empowered to do whatever it took to get the flight out on time. When Continental took over...I mean merged with United, the new CEO, Jeff Smisek clamped down on this. SHARES, the reservation system, made it difficult and slow to offer any compensation other than what the computer thought was right - and ruthlessly audit any GA who offered more. It is faster to IDB passengers. To keep the compensation down, GAs were instructed to have the pax sign a statement that the deboarding was really voluntary, and they would usually receive compensation less than the IDB statutory - often as flight credits instead of cash. If the pax made a stink, the GA could give them the legally mandated IDB package, and if they still made a stink, the GA was instructed to call security.

    Note that this all happens before boarding. United handles the capacity controls via boarding pass, and ensures that if there is drama, it happens off the plane.

    OK, now the situation at hand. The plane was not oversold. For operational reasons, United needed 4 crew from Trans-States at SDF, otherwise they would have to cancel a flight. Inconveniencing 4 passengers by bumping them off the ORD-SDF flight was better than inconveniencing 50 (it was a flight on an Embraer 145) by cancelling the flight. So they added them to UX3411 - but they did this after the flight had gone under gate control, and according to accounts, after the flight had boarded. So the normal mechanisms didn't work. Nonetheless, the GA plowed on ahead with them as if they did - made a compensation offer, raised it once, and then did an IDB and called Chicago Aviation Security. Just as if this all happened in the boarding area. But a small aluminum tube is not the same as the boarding area.

    So essentially United decided that it needed those seats, and that they didn't want to pay what the pax holding those seats thought they were worth, so they used Chicago Aviation Security to ensure they got their way. There are reports that before this happened, a passenger asked for $1600 in travel credits and was laughed at. United has travel credits on the books at 25% of their value, so the decision was made that it was worth bringing in some muscle to save the airline $400.

    The person informing the pax that he must vacate his seat should have been the GA, not any of the flight crew. The flight crew, by contract, is not allowed to handle these situations.

    Because this was not an oversold situation, and the pax was actually boarded, this does not fall under Rule 25 (Denial of Boarding), but rather Rule 21 (Refusal of Transport) in the CoC. However, none of the conditions in 21 seem to apply here. It appears that United breached its own CoC.
     
  25. Apr 14, 2017 #24

    Vanadium 50

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    Some of it was filmed: (for some reason, the link doesn't appear; you need to quote it to see it)

    This was described as "PAX ATTEMPTED TO STRIKE LAW ENFORCEMENT" by the Gate Agent. That's not how I would describe it.
     
  26. Apr 14, 2017 #25
    pax?
     
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