By now you’ve probably read the story about how United Airlines, too cheap to give enough passengers enough money to make skipping their flight worth their while, physically removed a passenger who was already seated and refused to surrender the seat he paid for. There’s good video, too, including of the passenger bloodied by his encounter with the airline’s goons.
Invoking “I’m a doctor” tells us that the passenger in question is a bit of a schmuck, but that in no way excuses United. For reasons that make no sense at all unless you own or run such a company, airlines are permitted – by law! – to sell more seats than they have and then, if they cannot find “volunteers” willing to take underwhelming bribes to surrender their seat, to bar passengers from boarding the flight for which they have already paid their fare. We all know United handled this poorly not only by sending goons to physically eject the passenger in question but also because it boarded passengers for the flight and let four of them take seats from which they were about to be ejected. Obviously, the airline should have addressed this matter before anyone was permitted to board the flight – but that’s United, utterly stupid.
As for the schmucky passenger, The Curmudgeon is with him. The Curmudgeon would have to be dragged kicking and screaming out of that seat once he occupied it, too. He may have even evoked “Finders keepers, losers weepers” before they tried to knock out his teeth.
But one aspect of this situation has been underplayed amid all the attention to the very fine video and the photos of the passenger’s bloodied face: the reason United needed to remove four passengers from this flight was that it decided to compound its poor business practice of selling more seats than it has on an airplane by also deciding to kick off four paying passengers because it wanted those four seats to transport its own employees. Those employees, it said, were needed for other flights in Louisville, the flight’s destination.
Because United’s employees are apparently more important to the people who run United than paying customers.
And because United’s convenience, and its need to fix a staffing mistake 100 percent of its own making, is also apparently more important to the people who run United than paying customers.
Over the years the airlines have been among The Curmudgeon’s favorite whipping boys – with good reason. For examples, go here, here, here, here, here, and here (and there are others). But this one really takes the cake: United’s customer service is awful and it absolutely screams that if you have a choice of airlines, United should probably be your last choice.
Last choice like a loan shark when you need cash. Like an urgent care center when you’re sick. Like the kid next door when your car is making a funny sound. Like Elio’s when you’re jonesing for pizza. Like Sears for any reason.
Even now we see every sign that United hasn’t learned its lesson: as of this writing it’s still defending its response to this situation.
Which only makes it easier for the rest of us to defend a decision not to fly United if we have any reasonable alternative.