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Updated in #1: United Airlines flight Oversold (?) in Chicago - Violent removal of passenger


Lanny
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It is necessary for airlines to book reservations for  more people than the aircraft has seats for. That is a Reservation status called Overbooking. Occasionally, that results in more people actually showing up for a flight than the aircraft has seats for. That is called Oversold. In that situation, normally, the airline personnel will ask for volunteers and they will offer money, a free trip, etc.   In this case, that occurred yesterday, on a United Airlines flight preparing to leave Chicago for Louisville, I simply cannot imagine what happened that caused United Airlines to resort to this. Apparently they had asked for volunteers.   Other passengers believe the man is an M.D. in Kentucky. There are 2 short videos showing what happened to the passenger.

 

http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2017/04/10/police-violently-drag-man-from-united-plane-after-airline-reportedly-overbooked-flight.html

 

UPDATE: Now that I posted the link to the other article and know that United needed the seats for Deadheading employees, so they could fly from Louisville today, I am not sure if the flight was Oversold.  It may or may not have been Oversold.  If they were Cockpit crew, at least one of them could have ridden in a jump seat in the Cockpit.  I've ridden in the jump seat on a number of flights. If they were Cabin crew, at least one of them could have ridden in a jump seat in the Cockpit. That assumes there was not a "Check Ride" scheduled on that flight, in which case the Jump Seat would have been occupied already.  

Edited by Lanny
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This story is bananas.  They offered people $400 to give away their seat.  No one did. The upped it to $800.  No one bit.  So they forcibly removed someone.

 

 

But I am I'm thrilled to see in the video that you can see SO many people turning on their cameras.  Cameras are a powerful weapon.

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It isn't "necessary" for airlines to overbook flights. They do it to make as much money as possible, even if it ends up screwing some of their customers.

 

And if you read the article, the airline admitted the man was removed because of the overbooking. A little part of me was hoping there was more to it because holy crap, but nope. This was all about profit margins.

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I don't understand why they let too many people board in the first place.  When I've been on overbooked flights, they just didn't let *anyone* board the plane until they'd gotten enough volunteers.  They knew from the number of people who checked in for the flight that there was too many - they didn't let it get to the "too many people on the plane" point in the first place.  And that was back before computerized check-ins, too. 

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Plus, at $800 I can't imagine why no one gave up their seat. My dad has gotten so many free flights because he is the first to volunteer to give up his seat. many times he has ended up getting to his destination faster because the next flight is nonstop

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What I don't understand is why they'd kick someone who is already on the plane off and not just tell the people still at the gate that they don't have a seat for them

 

I read (but can't confirm) that the person who needed the seat was a United employee.

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Oh. That would make a bit more sense.

 

It actually would make *less* sense to me, because I'd have expected airline employees to be the first ones *bumped*.  It's like why the hosts of a party (and their families) don't serve themselves till last - if they run short of something, then they want to inconvenience *themselves* before their guests.  Making a huge to-do over kicking off a customer for the benefit of an employee is the exact *opposite* of how it should work, kwim?

Edited by forty-two
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But why him? It didn't look like he was in an aisle seat. They got 2 seats because someone, maybe wife, left afterwards.

They picked him randomly using a computer and he refused to leave because he is a doctor who had to see his patients that morning :( United needed those seats for its own employees who needed to go to Louisville to board a flight.

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It isn't "necessary" for airlines to overbook flights. They do it to make as much money as possible, even if it ends up screwing some of their customers.

 

 

Right. So if no-one volunteers at $400, or $800, they could've just upped the number until someone volunteered. I'm sure that at some point someone would've thought it worth their while. 

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Yeah, it seems odd that they let him on the plane if it was already full ... I wonder if he forced his way on ... his behavior did seem a bit odd, I mean, I would have stood up for myself but I would not have screamed and fought physically in that situation.  like I said, waiting for the rest of the story.

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It actually makes *less* sense to me, because I'd have expected airline employees to be the first ones *bumped*. It's like why the hosts of a party (and their families) don't serve themselves till last - if they run short of something, then they want to inconvenience *themselves* before their guests. Making a huge to-do over kicking off a customer for the benefit of an employee is the exact *opposite* of how it should work, kwim?

Well if they needed those employees elsewhere for work I would understand bumping people randomly. What I don't understand is the way they did it when the man refused. They do have the right to ask him off the plane. If he refused they should have had the police remove him. It didn't look like the man who dragged him out was a police officer, but I could be wrong.

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They picked him randomly using a computer and he refused to leave because he is a doctor who had to see his patients that morning :( United needed those seats for its own employees who needed to go to Louisville to board a flight.

 

Yeah, and refusing to obey a flight attendant on a plane - even politely arguing with them - can be automatic grounds for ejection from a flight (as I was told by a flight attendant once when trying to politely explain that what I wanted to do was within airline policy - didn't matter, I had to shut up and do what they said, or get off; continuing to argue would get me ejected).

 

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This is terrible. I am booking flights soon and I'm definitely not flying with United. What would happen if they ejected one of my kids? Or me?

The last time I flew on United it was awful, not weather related but something to do with the pilots so we ended up flying to a different city and  had a 12 hour delay. Their customer service told me we were 'lucky to get to our destination within 24 hrs'. 

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While I completely agree that this was poorly handled and hope the person sues, I disagree with this:

 

It actually would make *less* sense to me, because I'd have expected airline employees to be the first ones *bumped*.  It's like why the hosts of a party (and their families) don't serve themselves till last - if they run short of something, then they want to inconvenience *themselves* before their guests.  Making a huge to-do over kicking off a customer for the benefit of an employee is the exact *opposite* of how it should work, kwim?

 

Getting flight crew to a destination so they can work their flight needs to have priority, because otherwise you have a chain reaction of cancelled flights. This is not about "benefit" of an employee - it is about running a functioning airline that has crew to operate their flights.

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Was just thinking about my sister who is trying to get home from France due to an emergency with my mom. If she has a ticket and has already boarded, she would not volunteer to get off no matter the price offered.

 

Not everyone has the option. So many people simply must be to work the next day, do not have the option of arriving later because they cannot extend care for their kids, have sick relatives, you name it. It is a nice idea, "Oh just hang back and go later because the money is a great perk." But not practical for a host of passengers.

 

United had a horrible reputation. Horrible. I will not regale you with the way they treated my then very pregnant daughter. If they were the last airline on earth, we would never fly again. I cannot say I am surprised they are again enmeshed in another PR disaster.

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Was just thinking about my sister who is trying to get home from France due to an emergency with my mom. If she has a ticket and has already boarded, she would not volunteer to get off no matter the price offered.

 

Not everyone has the option. So many people simply must be to work the next day, do not have the option of arriving later because they cannot extend care for their kids, have sick relatives, you name it. It is a nice idea, "Oh just hang back and go later because the money is a great perk." But not practical for a host of passengers.

 

United had a horrible reputation. Horrible. I will not regale you with the way they treated my then very pregnant daughter. If they were the last airline on earth, we would never fly again. I cannot say I am surprised they are again enmeshed in another PR disaster.

Oh I understand why not everyone would take the offer but on a flight filled with passengers I find it odd that no one would take it.

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Getting flight crew to a destination so they can work their flight needs to have priority, because otherwise you have a chain reaction of cancelled flights. This is not about "benefit" of an employee - it is about running a functioning airline that has crew to operate their flights.

I take yours and others' point - it's not the same thing as a courtesy flight.  Then I'm back to they just shouldn't have boarded *anyone* until they'd sorted out the overbooking situation.  And that since it was still fundamentally United's fault and United's problem, they should have offered a whole lot more carrots before resorting to a stick.  Especially because the fact of all this happening on board the plane, with all the restrictive rules about arguing with airline employees, made the random kicking off of understandably upset passengers into a *huge* nasty thing.  Refusing to board people is a whole 'nother thing to forcibly *un*boarding them.

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Was just thinking about my sister who is trying to get home from France due to an emergency with my mom. If she has a ticket and has already boarded, she would not volunteer to get off no matter the price offered.

 

 

This was a flight from Chicago to Louisville though - at a certain price point, I would've taken the money and rented a car and driven to Louisville (a 4.5 hour drive).

Edited by luuknam
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Was just thinking about my sister who is trying to get home from France due to an emergency with my mom. If she has a ticket and has already boarded, she would not volunteer to get off no matter the price offered.

 

Not everyone has the option. So many people simply must be to work the next day, do not have the option of arriving later because they cannot extend care for their kids, have sick relatives, you name it. It is a nice idea, "Oh just hang back and go later because the money is a great perk." But not practical for a host of passengers.

 

United had a horrible reputation. Horrible. I will not regale you with the way they treated my then very pregnant daughter. If they were the last airline on earth, we would never fly again. I cannot say I am surprised they are again enmeshed in another PR disaster.

 

No, but the odds of every single person on a plane not wanting to get off no matter what is offered to them is extremely unlikely. If you offer enough money, someone is going to take it.

 

But apparently it's more profitable to have the local police do your dirty work and drag people off planes.

 

Chicago PD, defenders of capitalism and the bottom line. :glare:

 

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No, but the odds of every single person on a plane not wanting to get off no matter what is offered to them is extremely unlikely. If you offer enough money, someone is going to take it.

 

But apparently it's more profitable to have the local police do your dirty work and drag people off planes.

 

Chicago PD, defenders of capitalism and the bottom line. :glare:

 

Edited by lovinmyboys
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Oh I understand why not everyone would take the offer but on a flight filled with passengers I find it odd that no one would take it.

Most people do not want to lay over. It just complicates their lives. When we came home from Iceland, Delta had overbooked in JFK. They needed four volunteers, and we did not offer until they bumped the perks to $1000 a seat, food vouchers, and free hotel since they could not get us on another airline that night. Anything less, and we would not have volunteered.

 

$400 is nothing if you have to pay $150 a night for the hotel room, pay for transportation to it, and pay for two or three meals. Also understand that you don't get your checked bags. They do not unload the hold so your bags go ahead of you and you have to hope they do not get stolen, or when unclaimed routed to a different airport. It took three days for ours to show up.

 

A lot of people are not prepared stay over. I do not find it surprising that they had no takers.

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I would assume many/most of the passengers were flying to business meetings and didn't have time to drive there.  They could have tried flying into a different city nearby, but it probably felt too late to start playing around with that.  I would not have accepted if it were a business flight or a connection to an overseas flight.  (Not sure how many connections go through Louisville ....)  Now if it were my flight home, back in my childless days, I would and probably did do it.

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Plus, at $800 I can't imagine why no one gave up their seat. My dad has gotten so many free flights because he is the first to volunteer to give up his seat. many times he has ended up getting to his destination faster because the next flight is nonstop

I can think of dozens of reasons, all of which are very common. But here's a few.

 

1. Many people might not fly again anytime soon to make it worth it. I for one, despise flying these days and avoid it if at all possible. So if I'm on a plane, the LAST thing to incentivize me is the thought of getting on another one.

 

2. Many people only fly when they have to, so if they are on that flight it is because they HAVE to get where they are going by a determined time nit of their own choosing. Such as job interviews, funerals, and so forth.

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It isn't "necessary" for airlines to overbook flights. They do it to make as much money as possible, even if it ends up screwing some of their customers.

 

And if you read the article, the airline admitted the man was removed because of the overbooking. A little part of me was hoping there was more to it because holy crap, but nope. This was all about profit margins.

 

They do it because the entire U.S. airline industry operates within such tight margins that it's nearly impossible for them to keep their heads above water without overbooking. It's a classic example used in business classes. Google "Porter's five forces airline industry" if you want to see how it works. 

 

(Not saying what United did was right, though)

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Plus, at $800 I can't imagine why no one gave up their seat. My dad has gotten so many free flights because he is the first to volunteer to give up his seat. many times he has ended up getting to his destination faster because the next flight is nonstop

 

 

Right. So if no-one volunteers at $400, or $800, they could've just upped the number until someone volunteered. I'm sure that at some point someone would've thought it worth their while. 

 

 

 

That's because you don't really get cash money. You get eight or sixteen $50 vouchers that cannot be combined or used together. 

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1.  United should never have allowed passengers to board until the overbooking was dealt with (although since it was getting a crew to another destination that caused the biggest overbooking issue maybe they didn't realize they needed the crew at the next destination until the last minute which would explain why they were forcibly evicting a passenger already seated instead of simply refusing to seat passengers that had not yet boarded).

2.  If they offered incentives and no one accepted they should have offered additional incentives until someone agreed.  Eventually surely someone would have.

3.  The man had a valid reason for not getting off of the plane (doctor with patients to see).

4.  The airline had a valid reason for needing United employees to get to the next destination (needing to transport a flight crew for another flight so that a domino effect would not occur with delayed flights).

5.  The airline states clearly that they have the right to ask people to leave a plane.  When he refused, I guess they felt that a show of security forces would convince him.  When that didn't work they forcibly dragged him off the plane.  Was that a reasonable reaction?  Personally, I think it was ridiculous and over the top but I can see how the events snowballed.  They were expecting compliance and did not get it.  They followed procedure and called security (whether that be Chicago P.D. or security guards).  They still did not get compliance so they followed procedure again.  Security demanded he leave.  He continued to refuse.  He was not violent, as far as I can see.  Just refused to get off, even when faced with security forces.  I understand why he refused and personally I think the strong arm tactics are ridiculous.  However, the airline followed procedure.  He was non-compliant so they forcibly evicted him.  Hopefully this will cause United to rethink their policies and next time find a better way to handle overbooking.

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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If you watch the video to the end, they have vests on that say POLICE. Is it legal for private security to publicly identify themselves as police officers?

 

You may be right. The first articles I read said they called "security." The New York Times article said the airline referred further questions to the Chicago PD. Then the Chicago PD referred questions to the Chicago Department of Aviation.

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That's because you don't really get cash money. You get eight or sixteen $50 vouchers that cannot be combined or used together.

That has never been my experience. I have either gotten cash or that amount in future flights. But I've never flown United so if that is how they handle it I wouldn't go for that.

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"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 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 and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered." "Then 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 before the man in the video was confronted. The man became "very upset" and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning. The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly, and the man said he was calling his lawyer. One security official came and spoke with him, and then another security officer came when he still refused. Then a third security official came on the plane and threw the passenger against the armrest before dragging him out of the plane."

 

United is an airline. If they had overbooking issues that they stupidly did not bother to plan for..as in..it was staff needing to get somewhere, then the staff should have been put on a small hopper plane and transported or shifted to another airline. You do not remove a paying customer who is already seated in favor of employees.

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It isn't "necessary" for airlines to overbook flights. They do it to make as much money as possible, even if it ends up screwing some of their customers.

 

And if you read the article, the airline admitted the man was removed because of the overbooking. A little part of me was hoping there was more to it because holy crap, but nope. This was all about profit margins.

 

As a former airline employee, I can assure you that if airlines did not "Overbook" flights (a reservation status in the computerized reservation system) they would go bankrupt.  More people with paid for tickets, no-show, for a variety of reasons, than you would imagine.  

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That's because you don't really get cash money. You get eight or sixteen $50 vouchers that cannot be combined or used together. 

 

 

Well, then they maybe should have offered cash. Or coupons that you can combine. There's no way I'd get off that plane for a bunch of $50 coupons that you can't even combine. I mean, maybe if they offered $5k worth of those coupons, IF it's possible to sell the coupons (I wouldn't want to put a lot of effort into getting the best price trying to sell them, which is why I'd need the very high number - I'd just put them on Craigslist and expect to get only 1/5 of the face value or something).

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Right. So if no-one volunteers at $400, or $800, they could've just upped the number until someone volunteered. I'm sure that at some point someone would've thought it worth their while. 

 

No kidding, they could have offered $5,000 and come out ahead.  Their continuing bad publicity is really going to hurt their bottom line.  Even if they are "in the right," don't they have anyone in the company that thinks about appearances and social media?

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It is necessary for airlines to book reservations for  more people than the aircraft has seats for. That is a Reservation status called Overbooking. Occasionally, that results in more people actually showing up for a flight than the aircraft has seats for. That is called Oversold. In that situation, normally, the airline personnel will ask for volunteers and they will offer money, a free trip, etc.   In this case, that occurred yesterday, on a United Airlines flight preparing to leave Chicago for Louisville, I simply cannot imagine what happened that caused United Airlines to resort to this. Apparently they had asked for volunteers.   Other passengers believe the man is an M.D. in Kentucky. There are 2 short videos showing what happened to the passenger.

 

http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2017/04/10/police-violently-drag-man-from-united-plane-after-airline-reportedly-overbooked-flight.html

 

I disagree that this is a necessary business practice.  In any other business it would be fraud.  It should be illegal.

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As a former airline employee, I can assure you that if airlines did not "Overbook" flights (a reservation status in the computerized reservation system) they would go bankrupt.  

 

 

Only if you're the only airline not overbooking. If we made a law to ban overbooking, then all the airlines would have the same problem, and they would make it work. Sure, flying would be more expensive, so most airlines would have to downsize, but there isn't any real reason why it's absolutely necessary to overbook. 

 

FWIW I'd rather that they keep overbooking so flights can be cheaper, but I do think they need to handle situations like these better. Like, offer more/better incentives to volunteer to give up your seat, rather than dragging a random person off the plane.

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