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Remove United from your flight results (dropunited.com)
535 points by accountnumber on Apr 13, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 277 comments

While I didn't have terrible experience comparable to some recent events, I also want to share mine. Last year when I was flying United I printed my boarding pass from one of the kiosks at the airport, and it assigned me to a seat where there's slightly more legroom, normally I believe these are upgrade seats, but I assumed there's no other seats so it gave me that one. After I and several others boarded the plane, one of the agents comes to me and wants to see my boarding pass. At this point it's a little awkward for him to ask for this but OK whatever, I give him my pass and he walks off with it without saying a thing. A minute or two later he comes back and gives it back to me and doesn't give me any explanation why he asked for it in the first place. 5 minutes later another agent comes to me and says in a rude manner I sat in someone else's seat and asking me to leave that seat. Well guess what, the first agent swapped my boarding pass with a different one before returning it to me. I didn't make a big fuss about it but let them know that I knew what they did. In fact I'd be fine if they just explained the situation and said there's been an error with the seat assignment. They're not just violent and inconsiderate but also very good con artists..good job losing a customer for good..

O_O, so let me get this clear—the first agent literally changed your seat assignment on their own and gave you a new boarding pass with a new seat number without telling you anything?


They didn't "change" anything. That would mean it was a mistake of omission in informing him.

They stole his boarding pass, replaced it with another one, lied to him about sitting in the wrong seat. This was done in the hope he'd be stupid enough to think he misread his boarding pass.

I'm not sure how official such a document is, but he might've even be able to sue them for forgery or at least fraud.

The only way I've found to protect against this is by being paranoid.

Whenever someone asks for my boarding pass, I show them my phone, while the paper copy is safely in my pocket.

I've always printed two boarding passes and kept them in my carry on. I've had gate agents walk away with my boarding pass in the past and simply never return.

yes I've thought about this as well after the event, now I keep a printed copy in my pocket and use the one on my phone in case something like this happens again (on a different airline)

I have no words...

The comments in here are oddly fatalist about the whole thing. We put a lot of trust in airlines; and not just in safety or to get us somewhere, but we also give them an unusual number of legal protections once we're in their care.

When the drama first started I kind of wrote it off: "this must have been a misunderstanding compounded by a single employee's stupidity". But when I found that it was not only condoned, but fully defended by the company top-down, red flags went off. Then, the inevitable outrage led to past stories resurfacing, with a pattern of absurd insensitivity (abused dogs, broken guitars, sexist clothing policies, etc). Then, I started remembering some terrible experiences I've personally had on United. Like the time they left me stranded in India for 2 days (rumor is the staff did this on purpose to protest some new policy around maximum flight times), then made me wait 3+ hours to get approved for a hotel room at 1 am even though I was flying business class (which would have been wrong even if I wasn't business class!) Or the time a gate agent lied to me about contacting a connecting flight, leading me to miss an entire day on my Thailand trip. I have many more of these.

My point here is that United really does seem to have ingrained issues that directly harm their customers. This toxic culture doesn't benefit them in any way, but if nobody cares they'll have no incentive to stop.

The one terrible experience I had with United is when I was flying from Japan to SFO connecting at LA. We arrived at LA and didn't see our connecting flight on the flight status screen and went to customer service. The lady said "well it was cancelled and they should have told you in Japan. We can't help you now." Both flights were WITH united and when I asked for another flight she said "I'll send you tomorrow. OK?!" Well it wasn't nearly as bad as some of the others' have experienced and didn't cause me to boycott them but these recent allegations that have surfaced seem pretty serious.

> Then, the inevitable outrage led to past stories resurfacing, with a pattern of absurd insensitivity (abused dogs, broken guitars, sexist clothing policies, etc).

You don't think you'd be able to dredge up similarly bad stories for any other airline?

Look, what United did on that flight was pretty awful. But the rest of this to me smacks of the typical rumor mill that spins up when a company has bad PR, which surfaces the typical sort of 2-deviations-below-the-bell-curve scenarios you'll occasionally have when you're a company at United's scale - a scale that employs tens of thousands of people that do not actually all act as one giant United hive mind as much as we'd like them to but rather each as autonomous people that can occasionally do wrong things in a way that has no bearing on the company at large.

(That was a pretty long sentence.)

For what it's worth, I know an employee of United who loves it. But what was that saying about the plural of anecdote again..?

The well-informed discussion on Naked Capital (http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/united-passenger-remo...) strongly supports the claim that the removal was illegal. It also provides interesting evidence that the decisions were traceable to United's attempt to reduce costs by using third party contractors and affiliates (the flight was operated by Republic, an affiliate).

This quote is telling: "When I was a outsourced regional jet captain operating United Express flights between 2010 and 2014 the gate agents in charge of the regional (out-sourced) flights at United hub, Washington-Dulles, were third-party contractors. They were horribly trained and frequently surly. The gates were always crowded, everyone there was angry, nothing worked, it was utter chaos and misery. I absolutely dreaded flying there and did my best to avoid it, Chicago was only a little better."

This is the best summary of the issue I have seen to date, and really gets to the root of United's situation. Especially this quote:

"I really don’t think the upper management at United has any clue about the nuts and bolts, day to day, inner workings of the company. Post-merger United is too big to fail, too big to manage and far too Balkanized to govern. I fully expect the ugliness to continue at United."

'Wenn das der Führer wüsste' falacy detected. The CEOs and shareholders know.. Or made it theire job to be not reached by that knowledge. Why be outraged over VW and downtalk this?

I'm not arguing the fact that United did a really bad thing. I definitely agree with that.

I'm only arguing the supposition that United is a uniquely bad company.

If they're bad but not uniquely bad, it's still helpful for consumers to boycott them. Once they cease to exist (yes, that far!), a strong message has been delivered to all corporations.

Many other bad companies (that keep United from being unique) haven't stumbled in such a harmful, public way. United did, and we consumers need to make an example out of them.

(Edit: grammar).

I'd like to know if United is a uniquely outsourced airline. I think that is quite possible and if it is, then it lends considerable weight to the likelihood that it is a uniquely bad airline.

This is the kind of problem a company can get into when the people making the key decisions operate in terms of "metrics" that don't track reality well enough. Plus when a lot of the work is done by outsourced vendors, they probably don't pass on unquantifiable bad news.

Compared to the other two big US airlines, yes -- United has an earned reputation for slashing mainline service in favor of regional affiliates. People occasionally joked (only half joking) that if previous CEO Jeff Smisek were only legally allowed to, he'd have outsourced long-haul international flights to 50-seat CRJs.

This also played a role in United's frankly abysmal on-time ratings; in order to have enough capacity while moving everything into tiny regional jets, they had to raise the frequency of the flights, which led to logistical clusterfucks at their hubs when they just overloaded the ability of the airport operations to handle that many flights.

he'd have outsourced long-haul international flights to 50-seat CRJs...

Smisek did do it with the long-range 757s he gained in the Continental merger. Smaller plane, less crew...and just enough range to get back if the headwinds are light. If not, it's an unscheduled 90 minute refuel in Canada. Add the time to clear immigration and customs, and now you have 200+ people with a missed connection.


I've had it happen to me, it's not fun.

United isn't the only airline which did/does use 757s on transatlantic flights. And the fact that US east coast to western Europe was within range for the 757 is a big reason why airlines are pushing Boeing for something else in the same class.

Meanwhile, airlines are also looking at Airbus, which is talking up a long-range variant of the A321neo for exactly this purpose.

Certainly compared to pre-merger American. American Eagle, their regional arm, was a wholly-owned subsidiary. They picked up some other carriers under the Eagle flag when they merged with US Airways, though Eagle is still large (now called Envoy Air).

It's possible that this situation will cause all the other airlines to try improve their staff and bureaucracy out of fear of being next.

>You don't think you'd be able to dredge up similarly bad stories for any other airline?

Hitting paying customer head on the armrest until he lost consciousness? I think no. I hope you don't believe "he fell" united version, because that's literally impossible in the economy seats. I may eventually come to terms with the loss of several hundreds dollars (or 1-2 thousand, due to lost car and hotel reservations) but concussion is inexcusable offense for me. I won't tolerate that ever.

Sure, we should collect some data.

That said, I and my family decided over a year ago never to fly United again, based on multiple bad experiences. Independent of this incident, I'm sure we made a good decision.

huh? of course not all employees of the company will think alike. but when an employee does something fucked up like they did in this case, a reasonable company should condemn it and support the affected customer

Which is exactly what Oscar Munoz has done.

After the third or fourth attempt which does not reflect well on him.

...belatedly, after tremendous uproar and a tremendously lukewarm non-apology apology at first.

Sure, it may be an extreme case, but the CEO's reaction is telling. If everybody now accepts this as normal, we're sending United a signal that this is okay and they can continue like this. If we send a signal that this is not okay, they have a reason to try to do better, and so do the other airlines.

Yeah, getting your news from whatever debris viral videos blow up is a modern way of staying informed, and may be the worst one yet invented.

Of course you would be able to come up with similarly bad stories for many other airlines. Especially American ones.

That doesn't excuse them. All American airlines suck. That problem should be fixed.

I don't think this is an entirely fair comparison, as US airlines are far more biased towards domestic flights which globally are held to a lower tier of service. That being said, I would still anecdotally evaluate them as of poorer quality than the better foreign airlines.

So the solution is to automatically give more business to every airline that isn't currently getting slammed in the media? That's not a good way to encourage competition.

In terms of culture, United needs to learn from Southwest. Southwest has great culture internally as well as externally. United has bunch of slogans as culture. Their CEO has no clue about creating a culture that delights customers. He blamed the customer in the letter and then blamed it on system failure but never on him. He failed to create a customer centric culture and instead fostered a culture that perceives customers as a threat or idiots for flying their airline.

In terms of culture, United needs to learn from Southwest. Southwest has great culture internally as well as externally.

LOL, you mean this Southwest?


Wait, maybe you meant this Southwest:


I dont see anything wrong with your first link. If someone can't fit in their seat they should buy two seats or not fly.

As a fat person myself, yeah, if you get that far it's on you to make that clear in advance, not in the airline to measure your waist at the gate. That dude is just being an entitled dick.

Do you have some examples of Southwest's good culture? My only experiences with Southwest have been negative.

a) They're always more expensive on the flights I take.

b) They hide their fares from aggregators like Google Flights.

In a surprise event, a Hacker News commenter discovers correlation between price and quality, spurs entirely new branch of economic research.


"At Southwest, for example, we talk about hiring not for skills but three attributes: a warrior spirit (that is, a desire to excel, act with courage, persevere and innovate); a servant’s heart (the ability to put others first, treat everyone with respect and proactively serve customers); and a fun-loving attitude (passion, joy and an aversion to taking oneself too seriously.)"

They are well known for being the cheapest domestic airline, and the only one to turn a profit every year for the last 30+ years, and thus have never gone bankrupt or been bought out like every single other American airline.

They only buy a single type of plane and fly it back and forth between the same city pairs. Thus their main competition used to be bus service. Often they would advertise one-way fares for $39 or even $19 as a promotion. Today you can still fly for under $100 between many cities (I live in Texas where they were founded so maybe my experience is different from yours).

As for hiding fares from aggregators, it turns out that there is a global booking system served by only a few companies, the largest I think is called Sabre, and in order to list on that system you need to pay a big annual fee. So in another example of cost cutting, Southwest refused to pay the fee and just sells tickets directly to customers, cutting out travel agents.

They were the first to have unassigned seats, the first to eliminate meals from flights, and they even used to have provocatively dressed stewardesses before that became uncool. Today the flight attendants sing songs over the intercom.

They even used to shave off a few minutes of turnaround time by having everyone out on the tarmac for boarding when the plan pulled up. It was a big game of musical chairs and apparently people found this fun.

The worst part of the story was United's campain to smear the victim and to paint him as a sex offender.

I want to agree with you, because that was utterly noxious...but I still am hungup on the fact that the Police (in instances like this and things like SWATting) continue to just do the bidding of some random person. Its like we have transcended violence committed in the name of the state for violence committed by the state in the name of violence.

I missed that smear campaign. It seems quite a number of media outlets are willing to divert attention from a beleaguered corporation and implicitly defend their right to beat up passengers.

Is there any proof that United was the one behind smear campaign?

> when I found that it was not only condoned, but fully defended by the company top-down, red flags went off.

I thought United Airlines and CEO apologized?


> “That is not who our family at United is,” Munoz said.

> Later Wednesday, United said all customers on that flight are receiving compensation for their ticket costs.

Here's a link to the CEO's original/first email supporting the staff:


"Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right."

Their CEO thinks this is 'flying right'. F* him. F* Munoz. F* United.

That was his third statement on it. The first one strongly defended their actions.

And an internal one defended the event because the passenger was "belligerent", as if that made their actions and what followed OK

Sane evidence suggests the customer stood his ground and raised his voice, and this was escalated by the police called by the corporation to support their false assertion of contract rights.

Customer was not belligerent. Stupid employees and stupid police or rent-a-cops escalated the situation to violence.

United screwed up by not having a decent incentive system in place to avoid deplaning people. People have presented many options, including taking a ballpark figure on checkin, or whilst on the airplance a speaker announcement anyone to travel later for $800, wait a minute, $1000, $1200, okay great thanks folks.. That was extremely badly handled and shocking that no process was in place for this - as last minute crew travel as probably quite common - also that onboard manager laughed in someone's face when they offer to deplane for $1600. A complete #fail at management level developing these processes.

That said, it wasn't united that removed the guy, so had American or Southwest got to the point of needed to removing a non-co-operative passenger (it seems that point is less likely to occur) it would probably of been the same police team that actioned it. People need to remember that.

Also, this idea that he was targeted due to being Chinese has no supporting evidence, its more likely it was first row of people with less/no airline status (given the extra legroom seats in front were probably reserve for gold members).

United screwed up on processes, gate management, and their apology. But this was the police/airport-security that should shoulder most of blame for the social outrage..

United acted illegally from the very get-go.

Via https://np.reddit.com/r/OutOfTheLoop/comments/64m8lg/why_is_... and more:

> Lawyer here. This myth that passengers don't have rights needs to go away, ASAP. You are dead wrong when saying that United legally kicked him off the plane.

> 1. First of all, it's airline spin to call this an overbooking. The statutory provision granting them the ability to deny boarding is about "OVERSALES", specifically defines as booking more reserved confirmed seats than there are available. This is not what happened. They did not overbook the flight; they had a fully booked flight, and not only did everyone already have a reserved confirmed seat, they were all sitting in them. The law allowing them to denying boarding in the event of an oversale does not apply.

> 2. Even if it did apply, the law is unambiguously clear that airlines have to give preference to everyone with reserved confirmed seats when choosing to involuntarily deny boarding. They have to always choose the solution that will affect the least amount of reserved confirmed seats. This rule is straightforward, and United makes very clear in their own contract of carriage that employees of their own or of other carriers may be denied boarding without compensation because they do not have reserved confirmed seats. On its face, it's clear that what they did was illegal-- they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats, in violation of 14 CFR 250.2a.

> 3. Furthermore, even if you try and twist this into a legal application of 250.2a and say that United had the right to deny him boarding in the event of an overbooking; they did NOT have the right to kick him off the plane. Their contract of carriage highlights there is a complete difference in rights after you've boarded and sat on the plane, and Rule 21 goes over the specific scenarios where you could get kicked off. NONE of them apply here. He did absolutely nothing wrong and shouldn't have been targeted. He's going to leave with a hefty settlement after this fiasco.

I'm glad to see this. The meme about private property rights giving owners the absolute right to kick anybody out of anywhere for any reason gets repeated 1000 times a day on internet forums, as if it's a profound insight into both law and the philosophy of rights.

This is probably the reason United is going after the passenger's personal life. Their PR team is overworking on creating a different narrative instead of feeling remorseful.

Didn't news come out that the initial wave of personal muckraking was actually background information about a different doctor with a similar name?

That seems to be false, i.e. he is in fact who United claims he is--his hometown paper discusses it here. http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2017/04/12/yes-ken...

I can also confirm it personally because I have family in that area and it turns out they were treated by him. o_O He doesn't have the best reputation, apparently. Not that that's at all relevant to United's behavior, of course--it's like those cases where a cop shoots an unarmed man for no reason and they try to defend it because it turns out he'd robbed a liquor store the previous week. Was pretty surprising to me, though.

Original source for that comment is user NegativeFeedback here: http://disq.us/p/1hqpe1x


Skeptics should read the NakedCapitalism post (http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/united-passenger-remo...) which not only brings up the Reddit post but also includes references from the FAA, CFR, and United's Contract of Carriage.

I just want to note that the Reddit post itself is originally from here: http://disq.us/p/1hqpe1x

It has been checked by others ( https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14099630 ) and looks alright. If the information contains factual errors, please point at least one of these out, instead of posting character assassination.

I object to the parent's question as being a form of character assassination. There's a lot of garbage written on the internet, and claims of being a lawyer or in any way an authority on a particular subject should be questioned.

It's great that others have checked out the guy's statements, but I think the downvotes on the parent and easy dismissal of his/her IMO reasonable question is a bit much.

>> 'easy dismissal of his/her IMO reasonable question'

Except their tone / style was far from reasonable. It was arrogant and elitist. If they have concerns about the authenticity of reddit posts, there are far better ways of wording it, instead of going lulzzz reddit hurr durr.

IANAL but pretty sure there are some specific exceptions for employees en route to another location to staff a flight (deadheading). If airlines could not do this they would have to possibly cancel flights that they could not otherwise staff, inconveniencing dozens or hundreds of passengers instead of just a few.

That said, United utterly botched this in the way they handled it.

And I don't let the PD off the hook either. That police can use violence to settle what is essentially a business dispute is just wrong.

There is nothing in the contract of carriage that says it is ok to remove a passenger from the plane for dead heads. About the only reason they are allowed to remove a passenger from the plane is safety reasons. Three fact that united might have to cancel a flight and inconvenience other people is totally irrelevant.

You are correct and my post was not precisely worded. I was not trying to say it was OK to forcibly remove a boarded passenger for this reason.

I was responding mostly to the claim that they can only denying boarding in the event of an oversale because they can deny boarding to accommodate positioning crew, it happens all the time.

I agree that once the passenger was boarded, the situation was different. United screwed up, and they compounded the problem in their violent removal of the passenger and their subsequent public responses to the incident.

Read rule 25, and once you realize that employees are booked as passengers when moved like this, you realize there's a whole procedure in place for bumping people involuntarily from flights.

That's actually not true. From 14 CFR 250.1, definitions:

"Confirmed reserved space means space on a specific date and on a specific flight and class of service of a carrier which has been requested by a passenger, including a passenger with a “zero fare ticket,”"

"Zero fare ticket means a ticket acquired without a substantial monetary payment such as by using frequent flyer miles or vouchers" ... "A zero fare ticket does not include free or reduced rate air transportation provided to airline employees and guests".

Which means the employees cannot be counted as having confirmed reserved space. 14 CFR 250.2a says:

"In the event of an oversold flight, every carrier shall ensure that the smallest practicable number of persons holding confirmed reserved space on that flight are denied boarding involuntarily."

Which means denying the smallest practicable number of persons holding confirmed reserved space means denying 0 paying passengers. They cannot bump passengers for crew. Whether they do or not, they legally cannot.

>Which means the employees cannot be counted as having confirmed reserved space.

I believe your interpretation is incorrect. This was discussed in another thread last night.[0]

Assuming 14 CFR 250 even applies (there's multiple reasons why it may not), the explicit exclusion of employees from the definition of a zero fare ticket is immaterial due to employees otherwise satisfying the definition of confirmed reserved space.[1]

The critical point is that the definition merely includes zero fare tickets, which are explicitly defined as not being employees. That does not mean employees cannot otherwise satisfy the definition of confirmed reserved space.

Deadheading employees are not involved in the operation of the aircraft, so they may be considered passengers. The employee travel passes used reserve a specific date, flight and class of service at their request.

Due to the urgency of that particular situation, the passes used were positive-space, also having higher seating priority than paying passengers. While that sucks, the alternative is that an entire flight is delayed or canceled, with many passengers on that flight missing their connections. Those missed connections then bump people off subsequent flights, creating a cascade of chaos. That's why deadheading flight crew have priority over ticketed passengers in certain situations.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14095224

[1] https://www.law.cornell.edu/definitions/index.php?width=840&...

There is a difference between a "zero fare ticket" provided as a perquisite to employees and guests for personal use, and employees/crew flying on a company-issued reservation for duty positioning (i.e. deadheading).

You are simply mistaken. United should have handled this before boarding the passengers--when they would have had a legal right to arbitrarily deny boarding.

United screwed up by failing to follow the correct procedures, and the compounded that failure by sending security personnel onto the plane to manhandle their customers.

Correct, I worded this poorly. Was not trying to defend the forcible removal, only that they can (and do) deny boarding to position crew.

So laws evaporate for the sake of corporate efficiency? This kind of deference to authority and lack of empathy is alarming me.

How is that for the sake of corporate efficiency? If you can't get a crew to a plane they're supposed to work on in time, you have to cancel the flight, and then instead of inconveniencing (in this case) the four passengers they chose to bump, you inconvenience an entire plane of passengers.

That is exactly corporate efficiency. Less efficient solutions that don't inconvenience passengers include:

* maintaining extra crew on standby at each airport, in case of no-shows by the scheduled crew.

* reserving (i.e. not selling) space on flights specifically for such crew transport.

* buying seats for them on other airlines, chartering a small aircraft, or other means of transport.

* offering enough cash to persuade volunteers to debark. Considering that the alternative is to compensate an entire planeful, the budget for this is a lot higher than 4*$800.

> IANAL but pretty sure

That means you are, even if confidently so, guessing? Or can you provide concrete details?

Hi, as someone who worked on this, let me say, that's not the point.

Consumers are in fact treated like shit, either knowingly/actively or not, and that is an abuse of power and trust. Power and trust that should be dissolved and then earned back.

This chrome extension, created in a couple of hours, illustrates a simple fact: be evil, be ignored. That's it. The power is in the hands of the consumer. We all have the right to voice our opinion with how we spend our dollars.

Too bad if your company gets caught up in someone's else's bullshit. Be evil. Be associated with evil. Ignore evil. Be ignored yourself. The internet is not a free advertising platform. The rules of infinite reach apply to big money and just someone willing to slap a few lines of code together.

And also, those $800, $1000 are just United voucher. The worst is they only issue 16 or 20 $50 vouchers, you can only use one voucher each time, and can only book through phone (which some people say is usually more expensive than online), oh and expire after a year. When more people know that, they are not stupid, it's useless even if they give you $10k.

Basically they caused this no volunteer situation themselves.

This is false. I have volunteered for flights on United in the past and I have a got a single voucher of the total amount ($800 and $500). Also I can use it online. I received them less than a year ago.

It's not false, it's from someone else's experience. Maybe it's up to different gate agent or airport to decide what they'll issue.

Yeah, turns out it's false.

You can use United vouchers online. I have volunteered a couple of times in the past and used them without any problem on United's website. You can also use them for multiple trips if the amount on the voucher is not exhausted. They do expire after a year, though, that is correct.

Did they issue you multiple $50 vouchers like the other person said? I fly mostly from SFO to HND (Japan) and it would be worthless if I only got $50 off a flight.

I've gotten several thousand dollars in vouchers over the years. I've never ever had gotten one which couldn't be stacked with other vouchers to pay for a flight.

Always an electronic voucher with the full amount offered. My last one was a 600$ voucher and I paid a full round trip to Europe with it.

Did they change this recently? A few years ago when I was flying all the time, you had to use the vouchers at an actual ticket counter to redeem them. It was ridiculous.

Maybe, but the first one I got was 5 or 6 years ago and was already an electronic voucher redeemable in the website.

I think you are legally entitled to cash if you ask for it.

Well, that's "involuntary compensation" regulated by DOT. And those are usually handled before you board on the plane. So technically if you walk down the plane yourself, they can call it "voluntarily".

What? What do you mean by "walk down the plane"?

It's involuntary if they don't let you on the place, but if you willingly walk off the plane it's voluntary.

If what the person is saying is true, then technically speaking, the only one who could demand cash would be the doctor.

I disagree. United chose the other passengers who were to be removed as well, and so none of the chosen passengers volunteered to leave the flight as there was no alternative (default) option presented in which the passengers would remain on the flight. Threatening to call the authorities if someone doesn't leave doesn't qualify as eliciting a voluntary exit.

I'm not arguing for or against, I was explaining what the other poster meant since it seemed as if their meaning wasn't clear.

My statement about the doctor being the only one that could be compensated was definitely tongue in cheek.

Only if you were involuntarily denied boarding. The $800 offer is just that, an offer, and the carrier can set their own terms.

Isn't that what happened?

No, denied boarding means they won't let you board in the first place. In this case, he already sit in his seat.

While I suspect you're correct in this instance, that's not actually the point I was making. A lot of people have been going around the past few days saying, "I accepted a $20 voucher for my cancelled flight; was that illegal and they should have paid cash?!?!" People seem to have no notion of voluntary exchange.

> so had American or Southwest got to the point of needed to removing a non-co-operative passenger (it seems that point is less likely to occur) it would probably of been the same police team that actioned it

The process is quite different with other airlines


Relevant quote:

"Last year, Delta had the highest rate of people without seats for flights by far and United was No. 2. But they handled those customers differently, according to DOT data. Delta was the most generous airline in voluntary compensation. On Delta, 100 times as many customers voluntarily took vouchers as those who were involuntarily denied boarding. United had 17 times as many volunteers as customers involuntarily denied boarding: 62,895 volunteers and 3,765 forcibly bumped."

It was United who called in the cops. I'm not saying they weren't contractually able to, but they had to choose to do it.

This is the point that seems to get missed a lot.

yes, the police did the brutalizing, but all of the decisions that lead to that confrontation were UA's.

It's akin to arguing we shouldn't lock up people who pay for assassins, only the assassins themselves.

And I'm not trying to compare an assassination to what UA did, only point out that the law doesn't give you a pass because you weren't the one who physically did the act.

But you can't be prosecuted because you called the police and the police beat someone up. Unless the police officer was conspiring with you to do something criminal, their illegal acts are not your responsibility.

If I call the police because there is someone suspicious in my neighborhood and they show up and end up shooting an innocent person, I am not responsible for the shooting.

The only exception I can imagine is in the case of a false report. If one were to call and say he saw someone with a gun walking down the street and waving it around threatening people, and that was false - I suppose he could be responsible for injury that resulted from a confrontation with police. But it would require a criminal act on the part of the person who calls the police to have lied to the police.

If United is legally held responsible for the action of the authorities, I would have to expect that it could only be if they made a false claim to the police about his behavior prior to their arrival. I have a hard time believing they would be responsible just for misinterpreting the FAA boarding rules, even IF they did it knowingly.

This might be like a false report, since it's questionable they had any right to remove him at all (according to other comments above). But I only meant to imply here that United deserves moral blame, and e.g. boycotts.

> If I call the police because there is someone suspicious in my neighborhood and they show up and end up shooting an innocent person, I am not responsible for the shooting.

No, but this example illustrates perfectly what I'm talking about.

If the only reason you called is because it's a black kid, then people are going to be justifiably upset at you, even if the police are the ones who shot the kid.

What we're talking about here is why people are upset.

See: SWATing.

Also, given the publicity here, there's no reasonable claim any competent airline could make that calling the cops to remove a passenger, for the airline's own initial fuckup, wouldn't result in harm to the passenger.

Which makes the case one of premeditated or negligent battery.

The general policy makes sense for United, they just got unlucky this time. A law requiring all bumping to be voluntary would fix this, and require United to come up with a system that wasn't just "meh, call security".

A law would not "fix" this. It's a workaround. Which law was this guy breaking to begin with?

The problem is lack of scrutiny by the officers handling this. The process should have gone something like this:

United: "Hey, we have this guy refusing the leave the airplane. Can you help us remove him?"

Chicago PD: "Why won't he leave the airplane?"

United: "He says he needs to catch this flight for something work-related."

Chicago PD: "Is he threatening other passengers? Why do you need to remove him?"

United: "We need to fill the seat for some last-minute flight crew. Look, this is really important, can't you just come and take this guy for us? It's already becoming something of a scene."

Chicago PD: "So what you are saying is, you are asking a paying passenger who is already seated in a departing plane to leave. And he won't do so voluntarily. Can't you ask someone else to go instead?"

United: "We tried, but no one is willing to take less than $1600 worth of our $50 flight coupons. Ridiculous! We do no more than $1200 per FAA guidelines."

Chicago PD: "But did he break any laws?"

United: "Not sure, maybe there's something in the ToS."

Chicago PD: Click

Exactly. Law enforcement are supposed to do just that: enforce the law. Not provide muscle for multimillion dollar corporations.

It wasn't the Chicago PD in this case.

Somehow the CPD is a sympathetic character in this story for the first time in human history.

What actually happened:

United: "This man is trespassing on private property."

Chicago PD: "We'll be right over."

United breaking their agreement isn't illegal, but remaining on private property after you've been asked to leave by the people in charge is illegal.

Bad example because in this case United and passenger entered an agreement for the passenger to be on United's property.

That's like saying you leased your house to a tenant for a year but then six months in you find another tenant that you want so you call the cops on the first tenant. Doesn't work like that (well at least where I live).

A contract is a contract and nobody is tresassing here.

That's a civil matter, they're absolutely allowed to kick you off their plane if they want, regardless of what they told you before.

Sure, they're breaching contract, but that's a civil matter. It's completely unlike residency, as well, because that's got special protections, and as many times as people say this has special protections too, it doesn't.

Right, except, like, it does, because airlines are regulated too, by the DoT. Actions here likely constituted a breach of 14 CFR 250.2a

Unless you paid to remain on said private property, and they are bound by contract to let you stay.

That's literally not true.

To elaborate just a bit, breaking a contract isn't against the law, being "contractually obligated to let you stay on the plane" doesn't mean they can't kick you off the plane, at all.

We don't need another regulation to solve this. Seems like the free market is going to handle it just fine.

It'll be forgotten in a week if United fares are $5 cheaper.

Oh, they will be cheaper alright.

Can we use the current regulations to punish United for breaking the law? No? Looks like we need another regulation.

The main argument seems to be that WN or AA wouldn't let it get to that point for a forceful deplaning. I'd certainly be less upset if someone was being forced off for another reason.

Also, Chinese? I don't see anything on the linked article about them being Chinese. In fact, it looks like he's Vietnamese?

Netizens in both countries are getting upset because This Is The Internet. I also don't think it's possible to live in Kentucky for 20 years and not become thoroughly American.

Would renting a private jet have been a viable solution for United to get their four employees where they needed to go? I have no idea what it costs, but given they were in the hole for several thousand dollars in refunds, it might have saved them money as well as grief.

Hindsight is 20/20. A private plane charter would have been significantly cheaper and no one would have been the wiser.

That is exactly it. Hindsight. In hindsight I'm sure a lot of the people involved would have made different decisions. That's easy, and it's easy for all of us to criticize what they did, given that we have the benefit of hindsight (and a distinct lack of solid information, so the usual outrage machine has taken hold).

This was a very rare event: in the majority of cases, they're able to get volunteers to take a later flight. In almost every single one of the cases where they aren't, the people involuntarily bumped leave without incident. I doubt anyone on the flight crew foresaw their chain of actions ending in violence, right up until it happened. And I think that lack of foresight is entirely reasonable and understandable.

United (as a company) did a poor job of handling the aftermath, though.

A more likely scenario of crew being out of position (or exceeding duty/travel time, and insufficient rest) would most likely result in a cancelled flight, and that would be relatively expensive for the airline.

The cost of involuntarily bumping 4 passengers ($800+ x 4) assuming no further incident, rapidly approached any benefit from not cancelling (or delaying) the morning flight. Total revenue for the regional flight would likely be less than $10,000.

Send the 4 employees in their United uniforms down to the Delta ticket counter?

Put the Flight Attendants on the Jumpseat, and put the pilots on the UPS flights that to go SDF. If they were truly "Space-Positive" must-rides, they would have had seating assignments.

Seriously, this wasn't hard.

I'm pretty sure they even have interline agreements covering this situation.

It would probably take a day to arrange, and then coat about $15,000 per flight hour. Not the quickest or most frugal option.

They're flying to Kentucky, not Tokyo. They're not using a Gulfstream G650. $5k/hr max.

If United (Or Republic Airline) flew an Embraer 170 (same as 3411) just for the crew that needed transport to Louisville, the cost would be about $5k for a round trip. The E170 costs about $2500 an hour to operate.

Stupidly, The cost of the likely lawsuits (even from lesser incidents, that didn't involve beaten passengers, just extremely annoyed passengers) often negates any cost saving for the airline.

He is 69 years old so you can even argue elder abuse.

This was not an overbooking situation.

woah this is quite in-direct defense for united, as if you're a some PR guy for them...

anyway, if the guy payed for his tickets, doesn't he have the right to stay on his seat as long as he's not a terrorist/criminal?

Also, united should be blamed for 99% of this incident, as it was united that called security to force the guy out - even when they had the chance to offer some other guy more rewards/etc for a smoother process.

> But this was the police/airport-security that should shoulder most of blame

Not really. It's the United that called those "cops" so they should take the full responsibility for their actions.

I'm still amazed that "overbooking" is legal though. It feels to me like it's a one big scam - airlines basically sell a product that don't have and it's absolutely fine by the law. WTF world?

I don't know what algorithm they used to select him. But united does have a procedure based on ticket class, time of check-in and other parameters.

That policy only applies before the passengers have boarded the plane.

I could read the boarding as defined by "completed when crossing the door from the terminal into the jetway or aircraft", but I could also define as "the entire process of loading the aircraft, the completion of which is marked by the pilot accepting the manifest and flight and the boarding door being closed".

If you define it the second way, the doctor hadn't completed boarding. (And I don't think it's a totally ridiculous torturing of the words to read it that way.)

There are a few problems with the second definition:

1. Airlines in general don't seem to have defined 'boarded' in their contracts. This usually means that the meaning as tested in court will default to that commonly understood, i.e. 'has entered the aircraft and is seated'.

2. Accepting the manifest isn't final, there have been many instances of aicraft returning to the gate for manifest changes. Even to embark a late but high-value passenger. So when is the aircraft finally boarded? when the wheels leave the ground?

3. The United CEO stated that the flight in question was 'fully boarded'. That may have been an error in terms of hsi legal team but shows that even the airline doesn't have a concrete internal definition.

Next to frequent flyer status I'd also assume that it's less likely to hit you if you have checked in some luggage.

In Europe even before 9/11 flight security protocols demanded that a passenger need to be present on the plane and be seated until boarding is complete.

No piece of luggage is allowed to go on the flight if the airline / the pilot / crew / airport staff has knowledge that the passenger is not on that flight: They need to open up the cargo area, remove all containers until they find this person's luggage so it can stay on ground.

The algorithm probably tries to select a passenger who is unlikely to be flying again soon, to minimize future lost business. Might be someone who flies rarely, or has never flown that route before, etc.

The big one is lacking any frequent flyer membership, which indicates a traveler with no reason to fly United in particular on a future flight.

It's not clear to me that the police even did anything wrong in this case either. The passenger was going absolutely apeshit and it looked like he bashed his own head into the adjacent seatrest. I'm certainly no fanboy of United, but in this case it doesn't seem like they, or the airport police, did anything particularly wrong.

[edit] I suppose I should expect the downvotes to continue flowing for this comment. If you do downvote, please also explain exactly who you think made the mistake, and where. Thanks!

They were airport police and should be familiar with the rules and regulations. This was not a case of overbooking. Laws and rules differ in this case from the lies peddled by UA and media. They didn't have legal authority to remove him in the first place.

They could've done a lot of things better before assaulting him, but i don't think after that initial fact any further are necessary.

In my high school law and government class our teacher taught us that runof the mill cops rarely know the law. Also taught us that pointing out the law to the same cops was rarely going to lead to a satisfactory result. Also taught us to generally not let the cops into one's home and not speak to them without a lawyer (outside of you filling a police report).

What I though was going to be a useless required class ended up being quite educational.

The class was quite eye opening for somebody who just moved to this country 3 years prior.

Perhaps. From the video I watched I cant tell if he was given clear warning from the officer that he would be literally be physically uplifted and removed. Also once in the aisle would it of been possible to bring the person to his feet, or at least two people carry him, I don't know. Also seems a police failure that he was able to make it onto the airplane for a second time, again its not clear from report if this is the time the drama ensued.

This is something I've seen several people not seem to understand.

A large part of why people are upset about it isn't just the physical brutality, it's the act of FORCIBLY removing someone from a plane after they've:

1. paid 2. boarded 3. spent all the time going through customs, etc.

The fact that he got brutalized, even if it was not purposeful, is secondary. If you read through this very thread you'll see most of the commentary isn't centered around his injuries, but around UA's decision to forcibly remove him after boarding.

What should they have done instead?

United should have offered more $ to get people to volunteer.

Saying that they couldn't get volunteers is like saying you can't hire developers - you can get either if you offer the market rate. Instead, United decided to use muscle instead of compensating customers for what was United's mistake.

I don't think the level of moral outrage you're expressing is commensurate with the position "the only thing United did wrong was setting their cap for overbooked flight compensation too low." And in any case, that cap is set by the department of transportation.

The "cap" is a limit on how much the airline must pay, not on how much they can pay in order to involuntarily dis-board a passenger. There was nothing stopping them from paying the passenger who "bid" $1600 to solve the problem they created in the first place.

Are you sure? Most of the articles I've read indicated that the cap was UP TO 400% of the ticket price with a maximum of $1,350 which seems to indicate that the cap is a maximum. Although I will say if the airline offered cash instead of vouchers I'm sure more people would have volunteered.

"DOT's denied boarding regulation spells out the airlines' minimum obligation to people they bump involuntarily."


"If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $675 maximum."

It certainly looks like they are specifying a maximum compensation for the relevant situation here.

But suppose it were entirely up to United. Whenever I've asked people what United should have done instead, "offer more money!" is really the only response I've gotten. Even if the amount were much higher, there could still be scenarios in which people would refuse it for whatever reason. And even if it were entirely up to United, that seems like very minor mistake, if you could call it that. And certainly nothing that should cause anything resembling "moral outrage." Particularly when their flight bump compensation is in line with all other major airlines.

> But suppose it were entirely up to United. Whenever I've asked people what United should have done instead, "offer more money!" is really the only response I've gotten.

That can only be true if you haven't really been anywhere talking about it.

People have suggested paying more money, having them take a later flight (or a morning flight), having them take a different airline, paying for a rental vehicle and asking someone to drive them the 6 hours.

Part of the reason people are so angry about it is because there are SO many other options, and they went STRAIGHT to the nuclear option.

The regulation caps what the airlines must pay, not what they can pay.

The moral, outrage isn't because United made a mistake. The moral outrage is because, rather than pay $800 more to correct their mistake, they resorted to force.

The moral outrage was compounded by the president of United not delivering a sincere apology. "I'm sorry your dog was run over." isn't the same as "I'm sorry I ran over your dog."

There seems to be a case to be made that United wasn't even in the right contractually. It certainly struck many people that way at a gut level i.e. when you take delivery of a product or service you don't expect the seller to come back later and take it back. This also contributed to the moral outrage.

Not downvoting, just advancing a theory: when the police are acting like hired thugs, all damage to persons and property is their fault.

The company representatives, i.e. employees handled the situation very poorly. He deserves some compensation and by convention, an apology. He's looking for a payout. Some people just want justice --some people want more, much more.

The McDonald's woman initially just wanted (restorative) justice --Mac Donald's to pay for medical bills --McD went full corporate and got handed by the jury. Here it's the opposite, right out the gate, he's looking for major compensation and damages, rather than say medical bills, lost wages, etc.

Sure passengers in general feel a bit emasculated/defeminated on an airplane and want to give it to the airlines, but honestly I don't see a case for severe damages.

I'm certainly not going to drop United as a possible carrier over this incident. I'd drop them if it happened to me personally but I would not expect others to follow suit. Just like I won't ask anyone to boycott a particular car dealer from a particularly popular brand because I think they treated me poorly.

He must be one of those guys you don't want to prank even as a friend because embarrassment is too much for him.

He got assaulted. That is a case for severe damages, usually.

Sure. Photographers get assaulted too. They don't get huge payouts --you go file charges and the judge issues a sentence, some damages. Usually not a jackpot.

Photographers? What are you even talking about?

i have no idea what you're referring to, but it sounds like the photographers ought to. what's wrong with pursuing a payout if it also helps to incentivize avoiding future abuses? do you think airlines are run as a charity or something?

Photographers (some call them paparazzi) who get clocked by people ("celebrities") not wanting their photos taken, legal as it may be. They file a complaint, seek restitution, etc., but don't typically hunt down personal injury lawyers of certain renown to get 7 or 8 figs --which seems to be the consensus.

for what it's worth, i doubt the subject of an internationally infamous abuse scandal had to do much 'hunting down' of attorneys

Layering that red-herring & straw man pretty thick.

>> He's looking for a payout.

[Citation needed]

Edit: OK, then.

I don't think one is wont to hire these types[1] if one is not looking for a payout:

"The 69-year-old medical professional has hired corporate law specialist Stephen Golan and personal injury specialist Thomas Demetrio".


Surely you're not suggesting he hired a personal injury specialist law firm _before_ he bought his ticket and got on that plane?

Someone else _offered to get off this plane - for a few hundred or so bucks more than the on-site middle management was prepared to pay - so they chose to not only break his contract illegally, but physically assaulted him using hired goons to do so.

I'd bet reasonable money that Stephen Golan's people contacted Dao, and by "hired" they mean "The law form has offered to do this on a _very_ small commission, because they know just how much money United stands to lose here, and Stephen Golan plans on buying his own 747 with his 15% cut of the settlement figure".

And as much as I hate ambulance chasers - I'm cheering this one on here.

It's _possible_ I'll get o a United plane in future, but that'll require me knowing that this incident hurt them a lot - enough to ensure that nobody working at United now or in the future doesn't hear about it, and that it's blindingly obvious being part of letting a situation like this happen again will not only be an immediate firing offense, but also have United's lawyers chasing illegally acting staff for whatever they own to cover then next 8 figure damage payout.

For better or worse - this is how the justice system works against corporations - they can't choose to assault a person and put them in hospital - then just say "Oh sorry, here we'll cover your hospital bill. Now we're all good, right?" and have everybody involved just say "Company policy, soz!". Stephen Golan needs to take enough money out of United's coffers to guarantee that there's a top down message send inside United that this must _never ever_ happen again - no matter what the company policy says. (I'd also settle for United just covering Dao's expenses, and the entire chain of management from CEO down including the airport rent-a-cops as well being sentenced to whatever jail time they'd d=face if they're each personally committed this assault on Dao in public. But I'd be prepared to let Dao choose which of those outcomes he'd prefer...)

I think that's usually a reasonable presumption (that lawyers contacted him first) but it's not unquestionable if only because his past history with the legal system.

I would prefer restorative justice over punitive justice in this case. If people were not deplaned, another flight would have been delayed/cancelled affecting not one or two people but hundreds. There were jerks all around --from the people who physically took him out to the victim himself.

> If people were not deplaned, another flight would have been delayed/cancelled affecting not one or two people but hundreds.

And how does that become David Doa's personal problem?

And how are you gonna feel about "restorative justice" when United pay his hospital bills - and then assault one of your family/friends next month, because they know it's cheaper doing that than delaying/canceling flights (or, you know, getting their fucking shit together and having proper plans to get flight crews to their planes without turfing paid and seated passengers off aircraft...)

Like I said - I hate "ambulance chasing lawyers", but I genuinely hope this ends with an out of court settlement north of 10mil - not because I think Dao or the lawyer "deserve" that much, but to make it crystal clear to all United employees (including the CEO) that this is _never_ the right way to deal with this problem.

We _know_ what his seat was worth - $1600 - someone else offered to get off for that, and was "laughed in the face". United were offering $800. The one of the four crew missing their spots - worst case - affects "hundreds" of other people (people you'll note who, like Dao, have paid-up tickets and contractual arrangements with United, not Dao...).

Let's say United managed to only incur the $800 per seat costs they were offering here as compensation to the "hundreds" of other passengers potentially affected by one crew members absence. At the very low end, if "hundreds" is only 200 - that's $160,000 dollars of risk - and I admit that's something the on-site United manager needed to mitigate. Which they had the option to do for only $800. Instead - they almost certainly broke the law, purposefully mis-used non-applicable regulations, and didn't back off when things started to go pearshaped, not just in the aircraft, but with the tone-deaf initial two messages from the CEO.

So by saving $800, they put a guy in hospital, and the people who made that decision got backed all the way up the management chain to the CEO and his legal advisers - in a $22billion company.

And you're somehow implying that what the victim did here makes him as much as a jerk as the United and airport rent-a-cop people?

Sorry, we do not agree on that - you are just wrong.

And I stand by my earlier comment - if this doesn't end up with a settlement up in 8 figures, _my_ read of that will be that United fully intend to do this again next time it suits them, and that assaulting paying customers in the interest of "shareholder value" is part of their procedure manual.

It wasn't _his_ problem. But he was the one on whose lap it landed, it could have been someone else. This is not the first time airlines overbook and need to bump someone, nor the first time they had to remove someone --and it's likely not the last nor likely illegal either. I'm not saying he or anyone should "like it" but them's the breaks and those are the rules airlines work with --on occasion they have to bump people. On occasion people make bad decisions and these things come to light.

Most level headed people don't put up a struggle to get off. Most people who are thus inconvenienced or wronged will take it up via normal channels. If I'm asked to deplane, unwarranted as it may be, I'm not getting into fisticuffs --I'll take it up later via other means, and it appears most people in the same situation do the same. Very few people become belligerent. Again, not saying this is the preferred mode to operate, but it's how airlines operate. Maybe an 8 figure fine changes that but my guess is they'll just have more legalese giving them more leeway in bumping passengers. I don't think it's going to change an industry which historically operates on thin margins. Not unless they become "re-regulated" and we get the privilege to pay 2x to 4x current airfare like people did pre-1980s in real dollars.

Here's why I think he was a jerk --the airline, right or wrong was operating from a legal standpoint which includes the ability to take people off a plane (you may debate that) but he did not retaliate in a legal manner --he took personal affront and physically resisted removal. Separately, I think the airline were jerks because they should not have resorted to their legal options when they had not exhausted reasonable monetary options first.

You are still missing the point. It was never Dao's problem. The United staff member on scene had a solution offered to them for $800-ish more than they wanted to commit to - and instead they chose to do this.

That choice was just plain wrong, and allowing it to unfold as it did knowing there was an $800 solution on offer was morally reprehensible.

And you're being accidentally or intentionally misleading about what we can all see in the video - Dao did not "get into fisticuffs" or "become belligerent", he sat in the seat he'd paid for. United-directed rent-a-cops started the fisticuffs and belligerence.

Excusing this with "but it's how airlines operate" is such a cowardly point of view it genuinely astounds me that anyone capable of reading and commenting on a site like this could hold it. If _any_ business is designed to operate this way - where errors on their part result in a procedure that involves and excuses assaulting people - they deserve to be shut down.

I'm happy not to "re-regulate" the airline industry, I'm just saying if we're going to let "the market" be the fundamental driving factor - that "the market" needs claws. The things that they should not be allowed to do need to have powerful corrective market forces against them.

And claiming that any alternative solution to assaulting Dao will result in "the privilege to pay 2x to 4x current airfares" is again intentionally missing the point - THEY COULD HAVE SOLVED THIS FOR $800! AND THEY CHOSE NOT TO.

Fine them enough to _really_ hurt, or close them down and put everyone in charge in jail for assault.

(If you want to get into pure speculation worst case outcomes here - take a look at the UAL shareprice - it dropped tom 71.5 to 68.5 in the 25 mins from 9:30am yesterday - about $900mil of market cap - which then bounced most of the way back, but settled something like $450million down . If you want stupid rationalizations for why we need to change or not change the industry here - here's mine: If we allow this as acceptable practice, then obviously next time a flight crew needs a seat, the gate manager will just call his broker, make sure all the other passengers have their phones out, and beat shit out of the most photogenic passenger on board. Instant profit.)

Gee, perhaps it was because he was personally injured.

Lots of people get injured severely daily and very, very few hire high powered lawyers to litigate their case. It seems clear he wants to win "big". But you know, maybe that's what everyone one wrongfully injured does.

In civil law it's called punniative damages. It's mean to discourage same kind of behavior in the future.

> perezhilton.com

My story about United was when I was flying from Vancouver to SFO. For some reason, we could not land at SFO so we ended up in Oakland. I said fine. Let me off and I will catch a cab.

They said that the plane was too big for Oakland. We sat on the runway for 2 hours then flew back to Vancouver with nothing put warm coke. By the time we got to Vancouver, it was late so so all airport and hotel food was closed. We had vouchers but nothing available to spend it on.

Of course they lied about the plane being too large, another airline flew the same plane to Oakland regularly. i had to spam fax their customer support line to get vouchers.

WTF. That's unbelievably moronic. Are there competent people in United?

This was my same thought. I can't help but draw comparisons to Atlas Shrugged in this whole united incident.

I was once in a small crash flying United. There was no major injury, but a lot of scare and a day of travel lost. United took good care of us, then I receive a 'sorry, here's $50 in credit' mail. I was stunned by how small the amount was.

A few weeks later a passenger created a Facebook group, and we all started to share our experience. United caught wind of it, and sent us $500 credit almost right away, with bigger apologies for the incident.

Creating the group scared United because you didn't have any unifying characteristic other than the event. Having people ruminate together could have been the fermenting grounds for several (or a class action) lawsuit against the company.

When you are bumped on an overbooked airline, here's what you should know:

Airlines start offering compensation and travel that is less than what is required under the FAA rule hoping that people who haven't been properly informed about their rights will take the cheap offer. When this doesn't work they slowly raise the offers.

The FAA rules provide that a passenger who has a reservation and who is asked to give up their seat because the flight is overbooked is entitled to a lot of money and the airline is required to fill them in on their rights right away. In writing. Compensation depends on how quickly the airline can get one to the next place one is booked to, and can reach 400% of your paid fare or up to $1,350 if they cannot get you to your next destination within four hours. If they can get you somewhere you are booked to within an hour or two, the compensation is much less.


It should be noted that this was NOT an overbooked flight. Even the CEO admitted this.

For a much clearer explanation with legal input, I'd suggest readers to read http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/united-passenger-remo... .

The plane was not overbooked. The rules and laws that apply in this case are very different. See top comments.

> Airlines start offering compensation and travel that is less than what is required under the FAA rule hoping that people who haven't been properly informed about their rights will take the cheap offer. When this doesn't work they slowly raise the offers.

That's way too cynical of an interpretation. If I'm a poor, flexible traveler (and I have been) I'd rather get $200 for myself by volunteering than have a chance at $1350 by waiting to get kicked off.

It's win-win for me and the airline. That's 20h at minimum wage!

This is really the way to look at it. Someone is owed some multiple of their one-way fare as cash in hand when involuntarily denied boarding. The odds of it being you are as low as 1 in 800.

On the other hand you could have vouchers in hand, guaranteed. And at 'just' $200 you can fly one way across the country and round trip to many places, and the airline can save some money. I wouldn't take $200, that said I've often taken $400+. Further, if they need multiple volunteers airlines in my experience tend to give all volunteers the highest amount required to convince the last guy.

Incidents like this are a wake up call to process driven cultures. If the flight crew really cared about the passenger, they would have handled it differently. If the CEO really cared, he would have personally apologized to the passenger and taken care of him by now. No amount of process and regulation can build a brand as much as culture does. That's why I'm a loyal Southwest customer. They've never let me down when it comes to common sense and empathy.

More than once my plane has been late on southwest and every time my connecting flight waited for me to arrive before departing. What a nice way to end a trip.

Between the two clauses I honestly can't tell if you're complimenting or criticizing the airline. In any case, I love the no-hassles baggage policy (checking in bags is far more comfortable assuming they don't get misplaced) and seat selection (especially when traveling alone). The easy to understand frequent flyer program and relatively friendly staff help as well.

a personal anecdote about SW and lost bags -- they put my and my mother's luggage on the wrong flight once a few years ago, and not only did they give us both $250 in credit, they also had a courier drive the bags to her home (an hour from the airport) the next morning. i was very pleasantly surprised.

Emirates once lost my bags on an international flight. It took numerous phone calls with confused representatives and almost two weeks to show up (after more than half of my trip) and I didn't get any credit for my patience. Considering this is an airline with supposedly good service on a transcontinental flight, I'm also very pleasantly surprised by your Southwest experience.

Every airline will drive your bags the next morning (or whenever it is they finally arrive and they find them) - they are legally required to.

I'm far more impressed when my bags catch up with me in some remote location in the middle of the third world you have to give directions by people and landmark :) But so far they've gotten them to me without fail.

Too a point, I can forgive being late because of bad weather or logistical reason. But I absolutely hate being stranded in a layover city.

ha, yeh United DOES NOT wait for its customers even if 90% of the customers boarding the flight miss the flight because they were delayed on another United flight and couldn't run fast enough to the new terminal gate that the United Employees on the late flight were not abler to provide to them. This has happened to me multiple times this year with them.

Unfortunately for me, alot of these flights are booked through companies I work for, leaving me few options, but I will expressing my preferences going forward, and not buying United personalyl ever again.

FFS! HTTPS please! It's a browser extension. No one wants MitM extension shit downloading onto their device.



United has a history of being a company with a crappy culture. Basically, Uber today is the United of the tech world and United has been the Uber of the airlines industry for the last few decades. Stacking metaphors, even when there were many fish in the aviation sea, United was the rotten one.

Holman Jenkins wrote an informative and funny piece in today's WSJ on this: https://www.wsj.com/articles/make-america-great-boycott-unit...

IMO it's the ex-Continental attitude. ex-United was always very generous throwing around compensation.

I do 100K miles a year on JAL. Rockstar airline. In the US go out of my way to fly Virgin even when I have top status on One World and could fly American. I took the American Tokyo-SF flight one as JAL was so booked. Never again. I will stay in another day.

A co-work of mine just went to Japan for the first time and he has status on One World. I talked him into the JAL flight. He was amazed at the difference.

America air carriers suck.

Jal, Korean Air, asiana, ANA, all great.

I flew Asiana a loooong time ago. Still remember that flight and the fact I took it on Asiana.

I was in economy and it was short flight but I got free tea anyway. Which is nice, because most airlines don't offer even water. But the best part was that it was poured from super nice decorated tea pot. Like "put it on display in living room" nice. 10/10, would fly Asiana again.

I understand the sentiment, but if I would stop using every corp that fucked somebody up, I would probably have to move somewhere where there is no civilization.

If it was just that the flight attendants fucked up by calling in the cops in a situation that didn't really call for it that would be one thing. But it was more than that. The CEO made the situation worse by not apologizing and instead blaming the passenger for being "disruptive and belligerent". It was only after the stock dropped that he apologized. This shows that poor customer service is ingrained in this corp.

the first statement issued by the CEO on twitter also used the truly orwellian word choice of calling what happened "re-accommodation" (even in the context of apologizing for it), which many people found insultingly tone-deaf passive voice PR-speak

I also understand your sentiment, and I may be guilty of it too. But this is the exact sort of attitude that blocks real change.

Massive retaliation is an effective deterrence strategy, and probably one of the only options that a weak group like consumers have against an oligopoly like airlines.

It's not even about punishing United, it's about showing other players that if they behave in the same way, _they_ might randomly be subjected to this sort of punishment. People are not going to stop using airlines, but we might stop using yours for just long enough to make it hurt.

once people start doing this, the companies will change. The companies will start valuing the customers more.

Entirely predicated on the "once people start doing this", which most people won't.

Pressure doesn't rely on most people.

Even a vocal minority can have a profound impact on things. Look at how people got mobilized to let their representatives know they didn't like the ACA repeal bill which did end up having an effect on congressional members. Or more recently, how groups mobilized and pushed an ad boycott of Bill O'Reilly. There's even companies who opted to drop Ivanka Trump's line of fashion because of public outcry.

Perhaps people would start new companies with their absence.

We can draw the line at having the cops beat people to cover up for their screw-ups though, right? This isn't questionable stock trades, it smashing an old man in the face because you're shitty at your job.

That's the problem. The airline industry in the US is a oligopoly in dire need for a regulatory intervention.

Same sentiment in this op-ed piece on Medium. https://medium.com/@thisTenqyuLife/united-airlines-should-go...

United consistently fucks things up.

It would be nice if it indicated which sites were supported within the webstore. From looking at the manifest.json in the source, it looks like: {Google Flights, Expedia, Kayak, Google search}

I hate to be the one to point this out, but this is a case where people vote with their wallets for the absolute cheapest product, and then are angry to get what they paid for. They buy discounted non-refundable inflexible strings-attached fares, and then are shocked to discover than when push comes to shove, strings are attached (such as lowest priority on rebooking).

If you absolutely need to get there on time, or need flexibility, buy a non-discounted fare. Yes, it costs more, but you will be at the head of the line if there is a mechanical problem, weather cancelation, equipment replacement, etc, all of which the airline has limited control over.

Also, a bit of perspective, the last US commercial airline accident with fatalities was in 2009, and tens of millions of people have traveled safely to their destination since then, not so with any other mode of transportation.

I'm unclear how a procedure that might be illegal is related to buying a cheap ticket. We're talking about a man who bought a ticket, legally boarded a plane, and then was forcefully removed AFTER boarding.

The CEO remarked: The man was removed because employees were following the “involuntary denial of boarding process.” How do you deny boarding to someone who is already boarded?

United says its denial of boarding provisions only apply in the event of an “oversold flight." United defines oversold flights as:

> A flight where there are more Passengers holding valid confirmed Tickets that check-in for the flight within the prescribed check-in time than there are available seats.

Employees are not considered "passengers holding valid confirmed tickets that check-in for the flight within the prescribed check-in time." To reinforce this reality, the CEO admitted that the flight was not oversold.

But most importantly, there are different laws for customers pre-board and after you've board the plane. There's a very specific set of rules that allow United to kick a boarded passenger off a plane(Rule 21 Refusal of Transport), but there's overwhelming evidence that none of it applied to Dr. Dao.

I'm not convinced said strings were attached, more that they were added afterwards. The passenger was in a position to fly, and was removed for reasons that the airline had absolute control over.

There was zero reason to remove him from the flight other than United deciding they had a better use for the seat (which if we accept, should we start expecting United to remove people from flights if someone shows up offering to pay more? I'm not convinced there's a material difference between the two cases).

> then are shocked to discover than when push comes to shove, strings are attached (such as lowest priority on rebooking).

...except in this case, United was in the wrong and hoping that no one would notice. There were no "strings" attached, though they want you to believe that there were.

I mean we're talking about United bumping paying customers who are already boarded and sitting in their seats from a non-overbooked flight to make room for employees from another airline.

So is United going to sue the guy who created this extension? Just like they did with the guy who created a website for cheap tickets using "hidden city" ticketing [1].

[1] - http://money.cnn.com/2014/12/29/news/united-orbitz-sue-skipl...

Bottomline is most humans don't care about other humans that they don't know. United will live on. I for one, wanted United to go out of business when they took away my 4 yr old daughter's OPENED yogurt container (that she was eating out of) on an international flight after realizing that we forgot to order kid's meal for her and that they had given one to her by mistake.

At the end of the day the problem is:

- the service provided has become essential (airlines, cell phones, home internet, etc)

- it's provided relatively cheaply to a large group of people

- there are few alternatives (and in many cases no alternatives)

- barriers to entry are high -but profit margins are low or cyclical, or you need scale to compete

All of this leads to customer dissatisfaction, we need the service, our particular business doesn't matter, competitors are unlikely to enter the space, and perversely since there are few to no alternatives as long as people are equally dissatisfied the few players just swap customers for no real net loss

More of this kind of thing please. A+ for concept, execution, and presentation.

This will have almost no effect, travel sites like Kayak, etc list United, and guess what? United is often one of the cheapest options, so it gets the sale. Nice concept, but it won't have an effect. What -might- have an effect on United is that the man just so happened to be Chinese and they want to expand into China. Otherwise, as heartless as it is to say, if United is $100 cheaper, I'm going to buy a ticket from United instead of Delta, SouthWest, etc; as will thousands upon thousands of other people.

The last time I flew United is also the day I vowed never to fly United ever again. A couple of months ago, I was flying out of SFO. I always bought the priority boarding just because I get anxious when I have to wait for things. Anyway, I was at the front of the boarding line and watched this whole thing unfold. The United gate agents were being really short with people before boarding began. Once boarding began, and some people were scanning their boarding passes, the head gate agent decided that every passenger (every single one) needed to put their carry-on into the stupid metal sizing box. But by the time he had decided this, one of the first class passengers had already gone onto the plane. The gate agent said "sir" half-heartedly down the hallway to the plane, but he must have already boarded. The gate agent guy got extremely mad, started yelling about the passenger, and got on the phone and called the airport police. Boarding had been completely stopped at that point, and we all waited for the police to pull this first class passenger off the plane. The guy was completely innocent, and it delayed our flight by perhaps half an hour. It was astonishing, even after my previous pattern of waiting four or more hours for delays on what should have been a short commuter flight.

I fly quite a bit for my business, sometimes traveling with a premium carrier in first or business class, but equally often with low cost carriers.

Out of all airlines, United has given me the most problems. Due to my "priority status" with most airlines, I am likely sheltered from the brunt of the harassment, but I often witness other passengers dealing with toxic attendants, overbooking situations, crew movement taking priority, and so on.

Emirates is my primary international carrier. However, for many of my international trips out of DFW, United is one of the only premium carriers available.

Truth be told, my best experiences have been with Virgin and Southwest.

Virgin is now my go-to carrier when flying longer-haul domestic between destinations within their market. The Wright Amendment previously crippled Southwest's usefulness but, since it's removal, I find myself flying with them more and more often. Love Field, due to its size and location, provides such a painless travel experience in and out of Dallas. The alternative is flying via DFW, which necessarily adds over an hour of traffic delay each direction and maybe half an hour of TSA delay, even with pre-approval, when compared to Love Field. Saving 2.5 hours each time I fly is quite the value proposition.

Given these United revelations, for international flights, I will try to book with other carriers more often - Luftahansa, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, AeroMexico, etc.

TL;DR: United truly is the worst. Virgin and Southwest are good. Use Emirates for international.

If I keep dropping airlines for every unpleasant experience, I ll run out of options for flying. I have had bad experiences (not of this magnitude) , but dropping UA from my search list is not a viable option. Its an airline, not a restaurant. Having said that, I do hope UA bleeds through its nose while settlement.

I can't begin to explain why, but almost every American airline has been a worse experience for me than almost every non-American airline. I fly regularly on Turkish, for example, and their service is amazing! If ever I have to fly international, they are my first preference, but even Lufthansa, Swiss, AirBerlin, KLM, have all been a nicer experience than any of the major American carriers.

Of course, this doesn't address the issue of dropping United if most of your flying is domestic. In that case, I'd suggest looking into flying out of smaller airports with one of the discount carriers. SouthWest has actually been reasonably good to me. Sure, it's nowhere near the level of service on Turkish, but for the price it's pretty much in line with what I'd expect.

> If I keep dropping airlines for every unpleasant experience, I ll run out of options for flying.

While normally I might agree, I can't honestly say that I've seen other airlines resort to such excessive measures for something that was clearly their fault. The act and immediate response was pretty deplorable in my eyes, including the internal e-mail from the CEO himself who accused the passenger of certain adjectives that are objectively false when considering both video evidence and the legal stance as interpreted by lawyers who have assessed the situation.

As such I will refuse to ever buy a ticket from them.

I've eschewed United for years after a bad experience of my own. Perfectly viable; I usually take SW or JetBlue.

I am assuming you are not in SF. SF is United's hub - you really lose out on a number of conveniently timed direct flights (which many cases are also cheapest) if you just chose to drop United from your consideration.

JetBlue from San Jose is often just as convenient, and the only cost is an extra hour or so on the train.

A lot more from the East Bay sadly, takes about 1hr on BART to SFO from Oakland, to get to San Jose I would have to take BART + Caltrain or just drive. I wish their were more flights out of Oakland.

Me too - I've avoided United since 2009.

I think one problem is lack of competition + bought politicians (lobbying). This has made them complacent.

Europe and Asia has better airlines: https://www.1843magazine.com/travel/what-the-numbers-say/com...

On a trip to Europe last winter, United Airlines lost my luggage during a connection at ORD. I landed in Germany in the dead middle of winter without any clothing, and not a single United employee in person or on the phone could tell me what had happened. Two days later, after dozens of calls and an accumulated 8 hours on the phone (90% of that time was spent on hold), my luggage was finally found. But the issues didn't end there. The flight number of the flight I was told the bag would come in on was incorrect, twice, and their incident tracking website (BagTrack) did not update once during the entire fiasco. My luggage was delivered 4 days late, unannounced, by a random third party courier. Mind you, this happened merely 12 hours before we had to leave the city we were staying in.

I spent over a thousand dollars in the first couple days attempting to repurchase the contents of my bag, assuming it was lost for good. The only silver lining to this nightmare of an experience was the fact that United refunded me the cost of replacing my clothes... a whopping 6 months after filing a claim. Needless to say, I'm ecstatically cheering on their demise.

Well the refund is nice to hear about.

Why is United taking more blame than the Chicago PD?

It's like the whole blaming the gun manufacturer vs the person who shot someone. United is the one that pulled the trigger here. The cops are just goons for hire.

The Chicago PD wasn't involved with this at all.

It was "aviation police". No connection.

Whoever they are it is a sad state of affairs. Obviously United is primarily to blame for all of this - the CEO is so disingenuous - but who are these goon like people who just follow orders without asking a single question. They could have asked, what has he done? Is he a murder suspect, has he done something awful? If the answer back was just, 'we've overbooked' then the trivial nature of it all should have made them think.

"but who are these goon like people who just follow orders without asking a single question. "

To a first approximation, everybody. Unfortunately.


Their name was on the aircraft.

And, they're the ones who created a situation where PD had to come in to remove a noncomplying passenger in the first place. It wasn't until they decided to revoke a seated passenger's right to fly (in favor of their own employee, on a flight that we've since learned was not actually overbooked as United tried to claim) that that passenger became a trespasser and thus were police even required to be involved.

I don't think it was the Chicago PD who did the removal of the man, but there's so much bad reporting about this story that I can't tell...

You can't blame a tiger for biting you.

I've been wondering this myself. Yes, it sucked that 4 people were required by United to deplane. This was awful planning on United's part. But 3 passengers deplaned without the situation escalating to this catastrophe. Then we have the 4th passenger who decides he wants to potentially add resisting arrest to his trespassing and interfering with a crewmember, and a set of sworn police officers who couldn't properly deescalate the situation. But somehow, it's the airline's fault? If United truly is to blame, how far does it go? How much could the passenger and officers have gotten away with and assigned the blame to the airline?

> "Resisting arrest"

What? They were not arresting him as far as it has been shown. Resisting arrest is a grave crime AFAIK, so don't mix terms (or don't complain of other people mixing things!).

> "trespassing"

Again, read more about it, he was not trespassing at all. He was legally allowed to stay in the flight (even though the crew members said otherwise).

Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor (albeit a Class A) in IL. The law states: "A person who knowingly resists or obstructs the performance by one known to the person to be a peace officer, firefighter, or correctional institution employee of any authorized act within his or her official capacity commits a Class A misdemeanor." By refusing to leave, he was obstructing the performance of a known peace officer. Whether that fits your definition of "grave crime" is unknown to me.

Also under IL law, trespassing: "A person commits criminal trespass to real property when he or she: (3) remains upon the land of another, after receiving notice from the owner or occupant to depart" In the reading I've done on this, I've not found anything to support your claim that he was permitted to remain on board. Do you have a source?

Is the airplane 'land of another'?

I need this kind of extension for companies I don't want to do business with. Also need it for news sites with Adblock blockers. I don't want to see news sites like forbes when searching for news. Is there a plug-in that removes certain sites from my google search results?

You can exclude sites and pages from your search engine individually or in bulk.


You are a life saver. Thank you. Let me start excluding them from my search results.

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