If you are one of those who believe that we are living in a police state, the incident on a United Flight from Chicago to Louisville the other day is more ammunition for you. If you believe that we live in a country that is run by corporations, the same is true. If you believe that we live in a free society, then maybe you should rethink that belief.
Here is a brief description of what happened, according to what I have read so far. United Airlines is known for over booking their flights. Over booking is an airline’s way to help ensure that they are flying with nearly full if not completely full airplanes. When this happens, they usually ask for volunteers to give up their seats for “compensation”. However, that compensation is often less than what the law says they must pay.
We will get back to that in a little bit. So, on this particular flight, an air crew arrived at the gate and needed to get to their next airport to fly another plane. Their airline asked people to voluntarily give up their seats. Not enough people volunteered. So, the airline invoked what is known as “involuntary deplaning”.
One of the passengers who was told to get off the plane refused. So, the crew called the airport police to remove the person from the plane. Here is where it gets a little fuzzy. According to reports the passenger told police that he was a doctor and had to get back home. They refused to listen. Then, according to the video circulating, a police officer forcibly tried to remove the man from his seat, and he began screaming.
The man is a 69-year-old Asian man. He was forcibly thrown out of his seat and he clearly hit his head of the arm rest of the seat across the aisle. Then you see the police officer literally drag the person from the plane. A later video shows the man running back on the plan saying “I have to get home”. There is obvious blood on the man’s face, and he seems disoriented.
After the video went viral, the CEO of United Airlines apologized, but didn’t really apologize. In an internal memo, he actually claimed that the Airline and the Airport Police acted properly and that he was standing by his staff.
This is what happens when we give up our rights and our money. When you purchase an airline ticket you go to the airport with full anticipation that you will board your flight and arrive at your destination on time. But, the law says otherwise. Your “reservation” is not really a reservation. It is just something that says you may get your seat on your scheduled flight.
However, there are some caveats that go with the law. If you do not volunteer to get off the plane, the airline is required to pay you in cash for you inconvenience. If you are rebooked on a plane that arrives at your destination between one and two hours after your scheduled flight, you are to be paid 200 times the cost of your ticket. If you are scheduled to arrive more than two hours late, they are required to pay you 400 times the price of your ticket, up to $1350.
The funny thing is that they don’t tell yo that. They try to buy you off with “flight ticket credits” or offer less money than they are required. Which is why experts say never voluntarily give up your seat. Make the airline pay you what they are supposed to pay you under the law.
However, this situation goes beyond this matter of law. There are a lot of questions that go into their “involuntary deplaning” selection process. As it turns out, this man was an Asian American. Why was he singled out? Was it because he was Asian? I am not saying that was the case, but the question needs to be asked. Additionally, he was a senior citizen. Was that why he was singled out?
Why was it so important to select this man and not simply try to entice another passenger to get off by explaining he would get proper compensation under the law? If it is true that he told them he was a doctor and really needed to get back to Louisville, then why go through all the bother.
United Airlines is guilty of being one of the most overbooked airlines in the country. Their bump rate is about 21 times higher than the lowest among airlines. Delta is even worse with a rate about 30 times higher. And, if you are mad now, believe me you will get even madder when it happens to you.
As I mentioned above, there is no way to tell how an airline decides who should get bumped and who should not. We know for example, that if you are a member of their “frequent flyer” program, you will not be involuntarily bumped. So we know automatically that they do target the casual or “vacation” flyer.
That is a problem because I know people who were booked on cruises and missed the cruise because the airline bumped them off of flights they had paid tickets to be on.
On one hand I understand why airlines over book their flights. However, as the economy picks up and more and more people are flying, they should adjust their over booking rates so this doesn’t happen as much as it does. But they don’t. They just keep over booking at the rates they used when the economy was worse and fewer people were actually flying.
However, part of this problem is also our fault. We have ceded our rights to corporations in order to get to where we are going. It has gotten so bad, that it is a federal crime to disobey a flight attendant. We don’t want unruly passengers on our flight, so we allow a flight attendant to tell a passenger anything they want, if that passenger doesn’t immediately comply, they can be charged with a federal crime.
I can understand if that passenger is endangering everyone else. But in this case, the man was not endangering anyone. According to the video, the man did not become belligerent or start screaming until a police officer physically tried to grab him and forcibly remove him from the plane.
Our beloved leader says he is going to bring back “law and order”. This is a perfect example of what happens when we allow our political leaders and our corporations to determine just what “law and order” is.
The laws governing over booking on airline flights need to be changed. The definition of what really constitutes “disobeying a flight attendant” needs to be reexamined to determine if it has gone too far, which I believe it has.
We also need to know exactly how an airline determines who should get thrown off their flight and why they are being chosen. Should we really be picking on elderly people? Should we really be targeting minorities? Just what determines why you should have to deplane and someone next to you doesn’t.
I used to do a lot of flying when I was in the business world. Fortunately for me, was a “frequent flyer” and was never forced to involuntarily deplane a flight. But, I did often wonder just how passengers were selected for this dubious privilege. I even saw couples split up because one was selected and the other was not.
When you purchase an airline ticket, you expect that your money is good enough and you won’t be inconvenienced by the airline just because. Only that is not the way of the airline world. Instead, when you purchase your ticket to go on a cruise vacation, or to see your child get married, you are at the mercy of the airline. If they over book and someone of “more importance” than you needs that seat, you lose.
Yes, there are laws about being compensated, but the airlines don’t tell you about them so they don’t have to pay you the money. Why isn’t that a requirement laid out in the law? Because airlines and their profits are more important to Congress than you are.
This situation is not something that is unusual. It may be unusual because it was video taped and the world got to see the obnoxious behavior of the airport police. But, getting bumped off flights is an ongoing thing you just don’t usually hear about.
It is also a simple snapshot of today’s country. There have been many “advertisement” parodies popping up like “you carry them on, we carry you off”. But, to me it says “do as you are told, or else”. We have gotten to the point where everyone is treated like a child who misbehaves. The difference is if we treated a child who is misbehaving like the police treated this elderly man, we would face child abuse charges.
Before you go off on this man for “not doing what he was told”, think about if that was you and you needed to get home. What would you have done? What if it meant that you would miss your cruise ship? What if it meant that you would miss your child’s wedding?
Besides, what gives an airline the right to deny you a seat you paid for if you haven’t done anything wrong? And before you use the old conservative argument that “flying is a privilege” save your breath. When I purchase a ticket, it is no longer a privilege. I paid the money, it is up to the company to honor the their end of the bargain.
More importantly, you need to ask just how far are we supposed to let companies treat us in this fashion? Where will it all end? This isn’t going to end with airlines. What will you do the next time you plop down 35,000 hard-earned dollars to purchase a new care and then be told you have to wait an extra three weeks because someone more important needs that car more than you do and you already sold your old car?
The problem is that I don’t expect our Congress or even our beloved leader to saying anything about his or try to change the laws that allow it to happen. And, that is the real tragic part of this whole sickening tragedy.
And, the shirts keep marching along.