The Overbooking Failure

Air travel has gotten has gotten less pleasant over the years. The TSA makes it unpleasant to get to the plane. Then the plane themselves have reduced passenger room. United took the unpleasantness to an even lower level when it forcibly removed a passenger from an overbooked flight.

“Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked,” the spokesperson said. “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. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.”

According to a passenger report:

Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.

Then, she said, a manager came aboard the plane and said a computer would select four people to be taken off the flight. One couple was selected first and left the airplane, she said, before the man in the video was confronted.

Overbooking happens. We are all used to hearing the announcements and the request for volunteers. That’s a weakness in the system. The airlines allow no-show passengers.

The failure in this instance appears to be of United’s own making since the space was needed for United’s own flight personnel.

Then it stepping into absurdity and brutality by viciously pulling a paying customer from his seat and dragging him down the airplane aisle in front of other passengers. Put the blame on both the security personnel and flight personnel for handing a situation in the worst way possible.

What should have been done differently? With a small snippet, it’s hard to tell. There are many things we don’t know from a single passenger statement and a blurry video. Obviously it should never have come to that point.

United should not have allowed passengers to board the plane. That was the proper checkpoint.

It’s hard to tell what the impact will be on United for the poor handling of this situation. I’m sure it will make some potential customers chose other airlines.

For me, it’s just another reminder of how unpleasant airline travel is. We’re driving on our next vacation to avoid this unpleasantness. I would not want a member of my family to be subjected to this treatment, nor would I want them to witness something like this.


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