Another fine day for United.
CREDIT: Getty Images
Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Airlines exist to make their customers happy.
If you believe that, you regularly fly in first class.
Many ordinary mortals were reminded of this when video emerged of a man who said he was a doctor being forcibly dragged off a United flight from Chicago to Louisville.
Had he thumped someone? It doesn’t seem so. Had he behaved in some drunken or disorderly manner? No evidence has emerged.
Instead, the flight was overbooked, so four people had to be removed.
The video, posted to Facebook by Audra D. Bridges, shows a man being dragged along the floor of the plane by security officers.
Bridges was a passenger on the flight and wrote: “They randomly selected people to kick off so their standby crew could have a seat. This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning. He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted.”
Ah, yes, I forgot the mention that the reason four people had to get off was so that United’s own employees could get on the plane.
I contacted United, wondering whether any embarrassment might have set in on witnessing such an ugly scene. I will update, should the airline drag itself toward a reply.
Still, a United spokesperson told the Courier-Journal: “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.”
It seems that the airline apologizes for overbooking — which airlines routinely do every single day of their existences — but not for the unseemly handling of a situation in which United can only come out looking like a nasty little airline.
Reports suggest the man was ‘randomly’ chosen by a computer. It’s unclear how this computer’s algorithms might have been programmed to make the selection. One wonders if it just might have been those that paid least money for their seats. Some airlines choose those who were last to check in.
Another video posted to Twitter shows the man screaming, his glasses falling down his face, as he’s dragged away.
Worse, there’s evidence that he returned to the flight, his face bloodied. Another witness, Jayse D. Anspach posted his account to Twitter. He said that as the man was being dragged away, his face slammed into an armrest causing “serious bleeding from the mouth.”
Recently, United has been at the forefront of internet joy for its chilling manner toward passengers.
Only a couple of weeks ago, the airline’s Twitter account offered spectacularly heartless communication, after two girls were removed from a flight for wearing leggings while flying on a Friends and Family ticket.
Airline defenders will, of course, insist that United can ask anyone to leave a plane. They will say the man was just unlucky and shouldn’t have incited such a scene, whether he’s a doctor or not.
Volunteers were asked for. When those didn’t come forward, United had to choose someone. After all, getting its own employees to Louisville was far more important. To United, that is.
Of course, those employees could have rented a car (paid for by the airline) and driven. It’s a mere four-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago to Louisville.
Still, another couple that was chosen for bumping quietly got off the plane — having been offered compensation.
What’s more unusual in this case is that the flight was already boarded. Airlines tend to do the dirty work of bumping passengers at the gate.
Bridges explained to the Courier-Journal that passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked. Somehow, though, the demand for four more to be bumped off only came once everyone was seated.
Yet again when it comes to an airline, one must wonder whether there might have been a better way to handle things. Sadly, we don’t have any record of conversations between United staff and the man who was dragged.
United, on the other hand, seems to think it’s more important to get their own employees to their destination.
It’s not a good look, is it?
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.