Cranky on the Web: A Whole Lot of United and Pretty Much Nothing Else

Cranky on the Web, United

As far as media appearances go, this week was easily the busiest I’ve ever encountered. And of course, everyone was talking about only one thing: United removing Dr Dao from a United Express flight last Sunday. When the Chicago Aviation Police finished dragging him off, he was bloodied and the world was angrily captivated. I did TV interviews with stations in the Philippines and Turkey. I spoke with newspapers in Switzerland. Closer to home, I had inquiries from USA Today, NBC, and CNN among others. I went on to the local Fox LA news to talk about it, and I appeared on more than one radio show ranging from local news like KMOX in St Louis to national public radio broadcasts. I’ve never seen anything like it.

There were some stories that I couldn’t find online and a couple that I thought weren’t even worth posting because they weren’t very good. But below you’ll find a round-up of the rest. Sometimes I was misquoted, though usually not in an awful, meaningful way. Other times I found the stories completely fascinating. Maybe you’ll enjoy some of these as well. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go rest my voice…

United and Other Airlines Overbook Flights Because It (Usually) Pays OffWired

Interview on United Airlines Denied Boarding SituationANC Early Edition

Here’s how much airlines will pay you to give up your seatCNN

Passenger Rights And The United ScandalOn Point (radio)

United finally apologises as image takes beatingChannel NewsAsia

United Airlines debacle: Was a ‘random’ computer search really to blame?USA Today

The carefully calculated process airlines use to strategically overbook flightsPittsburgh Post-Gazette

United Fiasco: How Do Airlines Select Who to Remove From Overbooked Flights?NBC News

“Cranky Fliers Everywhere” – This Week in Travel #220This Week In Travel Podcast

And if you’re looking for me going up against 3 people who hate airlines, then I strongly recommend this one from To the Point, an LA-based public radio program. The only thing I don’t like about these kind of appearances is that when you disagree with everyone, you can never respond to each point. But it was really enjoyable, and for the first time I’ve experienced, the host called me after the show to thank me for appearing. I really appreciated that.
Will airline service ever be great again?To the Point – KCRW

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24 comments on “Cranky on the Web: A Whole Lot of United and Pretty Much Nothing Else

  1. This has been blown way out of proportion! When an airline crew asks you to get your belongings and get off the aircraft, you comply period! It’s not that difficult.I’m not defending UA/Republic. In fact, they messed up. Why weren’t these flight crew members “meal listed” for the flight?? If they were, the 4 would have never been boarded.

    Bottom line, failure to comply with airline crew instructions is a felony!

    1. Spirit FF,

      The FA and GA are the ones who should also be reprimanded for failing to comply with the Code of Federal Regulations, Section 250.9: “Written explanation of denied boarding compensation and boarding priorities, and verbal notification of denied boarding compensation”:

      (a) Every carrier shall furnish passengers who are denied boarding involuntarily from flights on which they hold confirmed reserved space immediately after the denied boarding occurs, a written statement explaining the terms, conditions, and limitations of denied boarding compensation, and describing the carriers’ boarding priority rules and criteria. The carrier shall also furnish the statement to any person upon request at all airport ticket selling positions which are in the charge of a person employed exclusively by the carrier, or by it jointly with another person or persons, and at all boarding locations being used by the carrier.

      So this whole sorry mess started with them not following the law.

    2. You are completely wrong in this matter. Do you realize that it was even illegal for UA to even ask the passenger to leave??? UA breached their own procedure, contract of carriage. At the gate, before boarding, UA could have done whatever they want to prevent boarding. BUT once the passengers are already on the plane, according to their OWN contract of carriage, Rule 21 kicks in, and under only certain circumstances can a passenger be removed and removal so that another employee needs the seat is NOT one of them. Also, this was purely a civil matter and the passenger did not commit a crime yet UA used the police as a bouncer to remove this passenger.

      1. Shouldn’t that be blamed on the police and not on UA? It’s their job to make sure that they follow the law. It’s not UA’s responsibility to advise the police on how to do their job.

        1. Of course the police gets the blame for what they did to the passenger but UA gets the blame for employing the police to remove the passenger. The police were the acting agents of UA in the removal of the passenger.

          1. UA does not employ the police. The police are not agents of UA. The police are government officials who are entrusted to enforce the law. Their mistakes are on them, not United.

            If I call the police and say my neighbor is a bank robber, and they come over and arrest him without investigating or verifying anything, that is on them. They don’t get to blame me for their incompetence.

            1. Um, not quite. If something unlawful happens, everyone connected gets involved.

      2. If a crewmember (flight or ground) asks you to get off the plane, you get off the plane. In this post 9/11 era, the law is on the airlines’ side. Regarding the ticket, this flight was not operated by United. I’m not sure the gate agents were United employees. That creates some gray areas. Does Rule 21 cover just United or United and its partner/franchise carriers??

        The airline does have the right to pull people off the airplane. What is the plane was overweight and they needed to pull people off – it’s happened before because of weight restrictions.

        1. When I book a ticket with UA, whether it is mainline or it’s partner does not matter. The contract is with UA therefore, it is with their contract of carriage, hence Rule 21 applies to both mainline or partner.

    3. Failure to comply with airline crew instructions is a felony?

      Please show me this law. I’m genuinely curious.

      1. Jim, you don’t pay attention during the safety announcements. Most airlines I’ve flown on state, “Obeying crewmember instructions is Federal Law.” You’re splitting hairs, but basically failure to comply with crewmember instructions could result in a felony since it is governed by Federal Law.

        1. I have sat through hundreds of safety announcements. I have also researched the law extensively. Your logic makes no sense. What exactly is the connection between something being governed by federal law and resulting in a felony?

          I am not splitting hairs at all. I am asking you for a law stating that it is a felony to not comply with crewmember instructions. You are making this claim based on your (incorrect) interpretation of an (incomplete) quote from a safety announcement.

      1. When you buy a ticket on AA/DL/UA, you’re never sure who you will fly…SkyWest, TransStates, Republic, Chataqua, etc. A UA ticketed pax may never actually fly on United!

        Say what you want about Spirit, that’s why I fly Spirit. I know I will fly Spirit. The same can be said about Southwest.

  2. I haven’t really kept up on this but who were the other three people United removed? Were they a mix of people, all of one race, where they all first-time Flyers, all people with the lowest fare, all people with no mileage status on United? Think that would show if they were selected by a gate agent or from a computer selected list.

    A computer could quickly scan for the lowest fare passengers, by check in time, by mileage status, but a human couldn’t. But a human could look for 4 people with “funny” last names or anyone they remember who wasn’t nice, etc.

  3. Brett,

    I disagree with your stated opinion that if a proper fare-paying passenger has been allocated a seat, has made it onto the aircraft and been seated, that if asked to leave that he or she should simply meekly comply and hope to “sort things out later”. Good grief, why on earth should a person do that? “Possession is 9/10’s of the law”, as the expression goes, and therefore the last thing that you should do is to willingly give up a seat involuntarily. Especially now after the international uproar over the UA farce, no airline is likely to drag you forcibly off the plane without cause now!

    You also act as if of course UA would bump 4 passengers to make way for a sudden crew transfer. There was another flight to that destination, from recollection on American, in one hours time, and apparently UA had not even tried to get their crew onto that plane instead! If nothing else, put them in a rental car and they will drive there in 4 hours. They also had not used the 2 “jump seats” for these crew! All these things presume that they had exhausted all possibility of procuring adequate voluntary surrender of seats – which they had not. Offering $800 worth of Monopoly money UA travel vouchers is simply not adequate – which is exactly why an entire plane load of passengers refused the offer! If they had offered $2000 cash, they would have procured voluntary takers, for sure. Now, this farce is going to cost them millions, and they deserve every bad consequence that they get.

    Brett, I think you are having your days at America Air West cloud your judgement and objectivity on this matter.

    1. Stewart – My objectivity? If you’re looking for objectivity, you’re in the wrong place. This is an opinion blog, so the whole point is for me not to be objective. I talk about what I think is right.

      You can disagree with me all you want, but what you do think the outcome is going to be if someone sits and pouts on their airplane, even if they’re 100% in the right? The crew is not going to take off with that person onboard. They may not physically remove that person anymore. Instead they’ll just cancel the flight and inconvenience everyone onboard.

      As for the second paragraph, I agree completely. It was poorly handled the whole way through.

  4. United now throwing a tantrum with a stroller and a mom. Just so they keep their passenger relations in a predictable space.

    Of course, it’s her fault, since everyone has to comply with crew directions, amirite? /sarc

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