I turn on the news pretty much every morning when getting ready for work. This is a habit I got into in the aftermath of 9/11. Most of the time it’s just traffic reports and some random stories of overnight fires. This morning, there was a weird story about a passenger getting kicked off a United Airlines flight.
(Crappy image created by some anonymous person who can’t draw in Paint. Sometimes known as me. If I had taken more time I would have included windows with terrified stick figure passengers. Oh well.)
They played the video and I saw the shocked and horrified passengers. The guy apparently knocked unconscious. The police dragging him down the aisle as people shouted, “This is wrong!”
Now, when these stories hit the news, I try my hardest to give people the benefit of the doubt. In every situation.
I TRY. I do not always succeed.
So when a story comes out about some egregious thing a company or person supposedly did to someone, I think, “There’s probably more to this story.”
Which is what I did this morning with this United Airlines deal.
I thought maybe the real story was that the guy was a criminal the cops had tracked down. Or that he had been belligerent or making threats.
But when the “good” people of United explained their side, I was like, “Well, so much for the benefit of the doubt.”
Holy crap were these guys in the wrong.
There were about a million ways this could have gone better.
If you don’t know the story yet, here it goes.
(It should be noted that this is the same airline I defended a week or two ago over the whole stupid leggings thing.)
So there was a flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday. It was a completely full plane. They’re calling it an “overbooked” plane, but it turns out United had four employees that “needed to get to Louisville by Monday.”
They asked for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for a $400 voucher. No one volunteered because they probably ALL needed to get to Louisville by Monday.
Then they said the computer would randomly volunteer four people for $800 each. The first two people vacated their seats. The third was like, “Um, I have a job too. I can’t go.”
Which is when the gate agents called the airport police, who beat the guy and forcibly dragged him out of his seat and off the plane. There are conflicting reports about whether he was unconscious. The passengers around gasped, shouted, protested. All to no avail.
I’m not sure exactly what happened next, but the man ended up being allowed back on the plane.
Probably because they decided he hadn’t been punished enough, I guess.
I *think* it’s obvious that United was completely and totally in the wrong here. Right? But here’s where I have a real problem.
What about the police? What were they told about the situation? Why did they think it was okay to treat someone this way? Were they given ALL of the relevant information here? And if they were, how could they do this?
At what point did United say, “Oh, no. We really screwed up. Let him back on before this gets out of hand.” Was it before or after they realized he was a doctor?
That shouldn’t have mattered, but I bet it did.
I feel terrible for that man.
I also feel terrible for the passengers that could do nothing but sit by while it happened. So often we see horrible videos of people committing crimes. Often violent crimes. And people just stand around and watch.
But what could these people do about it? Besides take out their cell phones and make sure everyone knew what was happening.
I don’t know if the rest of the passengers could or should have done anything differently. They would each have been risking their own safety, and for what? Would the outcome have been any different? Probably not.
Sometimes, all we can do is sit by and watch. And it’s the most frustrating, infuriating thing in the world.
I hope those four employees got to whatever Urgent Business they couldn’t miss in Louisville. I mean, I’d hate to think they missed their Important Meeting after a guy got beat up for them.