The Unfriendly Skies


United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz is about as tone deaf as one can be. After footage of a passenger being forcibly dragged off a plane by Chicago airport cops went viral, his first response was to support his employees without a care in the world for the passenger. Let’s be clear about why this passenger was violently wrenched from his seat in the first place: He was not unruly, not drunk, not belligerent, not a problem in any way. No, United had simply oversold the flight, and a flight crew had to get to Louisville to fly another plane, and they needed four seats. United offered incentives for any passenger who would voluntarily give up his or her seat, but there were not enough takers. And so, using some arbitrary roulette wheel formula, this unlucky passenger was chosen to be sacrificed. (Click Here to see the video).

The problem here is easy to spot, and it happens all too often: The airline’s greed allows them to oversell seats intentionally, relying on some algorithm magic that x number of passengers won’t make the flight. But that didn’t happen in this instance.

The airline’s personnel at O’Hare, where the incident happened, and especially the airport police, share in the blame. But the real guilty party is the airline itself for overbooking. The only one in this story with clean hands was the hapless passenger – that is, he would have had clean hands had he not had to wipe the blood from his face after being dragged down the aisle.

Maybe it’s time for Congress to reinstitute some federal statutes to better protect passengers.

Munoz, in his letter to employees, referred to having to “re-accommodate” that passenger. That phrase is as ridiculous as “alternative facts.” But he said that he “emphatically” stood behind his employees. “I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right,” Munoz wrote.  

Wow, just WOW!

Maybe it’s time for United to re-accommodate Mr. Munoz.