United they fall

Listen to this tone-deaf former CEO of Continental Airlines, commenting on a passenger — claiming to be a doctor — being forcibly dragged off of a United Airlines plane. The customer’s crime? Refusing to take $800 to voluntarily give up his paid-for seat on an overbooked flight. Apparently, when there aren’t enough takers on these offers, a computer program determines who the best candidates are to be bumped, in order to accommodate customers with more expensive tickets. Follow-up: it’s been reported that four seats were needed for employees of United Airlines.

The condescending tone is unbelievable. He actually says the passenger acted, “like a child that didn’t want to leave.” Then he praises the CEO of United Airlines for being a nice man, and “a really human fellow.” This sort of an attitude is not only infuriating to customers, it is counterproductive to companies. Obviously, United is not nice or human, otherwise they would have a more flexible policy to deal with these situations.

United should have offered more money until somebody said yes. Would this lead in the future to passengers staying put to bid up the price before agreeing to deplane? Sure, which was undoubtedly why the ceiling was set by management at only $800. But now, between the bad publicity and the lawsuit that will undoubtedly be forthcoming, United stands to lose much more than what it otherwise would have cost the airline.

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Blog of Douglas E. Pratt

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