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Analysis of the United Airlines passenger removal incident (hasbrouck.org)
443 points by osteele 211 days ago | hide | past | web | 363 comments | favorite



I see this whole event kind of like the Rosa Parks situation. I'm not comparing the magnitude of injustice, just that (a)There was an unjust system and (b)It took an individual to stick up for the just result, even though it was breaking the rules.

Also, the author is wrong in this passage:

From the article: "The gate agents offered offered $800 in airline scrip to anyone willing to deplane, which from past observation I think is the maximum that was allowed by United policy. That's an illegal cheapskate policy for which United fully deserves the condemnation it has received, and the fines it should be assessed for violating Department of Transportation regulations on denied boarding compensation. Obviously, the gate agents should have been allowed to offer more, and in cash, as Federal law requires. "

The truth:

The airline can try and get people to voluntary give up their seats with whatever method they would like. They can offer free kittens, cash, vouchers, etc. If no one accepts the airlines arbitrary amount, THEN DoT rules take effect, mandating the cash compensation amounts. So Dr Dao and the other 3 passengers that left the plane are entitled to a completely separate amount from what United offered.

From the DoT website[1]:

"DOT has not mandated the form or amount of compensation that airlines offer to volunteers. DOT does, however, require airlines to advise any volunteer whether he or she might be involuntarily bumped and, if that were to occur, the amount of compensation that would be due. Carriers can negotiate with their passengers for mutually acceptable compensation."

https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights


I'm not American, so I guess it's a bit out of place for me to comment . That said, my reading of this incident is naked corporatism.

Laws, industry regulations, corporate policies and police enforcement are jumbled together, collaborating in a corporatist manner.

(A) The airline has policies and business practices such as overbooking & "must fly." These save money, get staff to their required destinations, whatever.

(B) Police enforcement is a required for these business practices to actually be practiced.

The only reason they can practically have this involuntary removal by lottery policy is police are willing to enforce it. If police of any city/airport refused to execute these corporate polices, the policies would have to change.

That's ultimately who outrage should be directed at, the police. Why did they come in the first place? Had a crime been committed? Passenger safety endangered? Police were summoned by a "private" company. They were informed that corporate policy required them to drag a passenger of the plane. They said OK, I guess that's our job.

I'm not as concerned about United or anyone else having nasty policies. Many companies do. I care more about police enforcing those policies. There is no consumer protection against police action.


> That's ultimately who outrage should be directed at, the police. Why did they come in the first place? Had a crime been committed? Passenger safety endangered? Police were summoned by a "private" company. They were informed that corporate policy required them to drag a passenger of the plane. They said OK, I guess that's our job.

If you frame it that way, then it does sound outrageous. This:

> They were informed that corporate policy required them to drag a passenger of the plane. They said OK, I guess that's our job.

makes it sound like the police think it is their job to enforce corporate policy.

But is that accurate? The airline owns the plane. They have the legal right to decided who is and who is not allowed on the plane. They allowed that particular passenger onto the plane, and then later they revoked that permission. When he refuses to leave at that point, doesn't he become a trespasser?

From the police point of view how is this any different from any other situation where someone is on private property without permission and refuses to leave? In most countries, I believe, removing trespassers is one of the normal functions of the police. Generally, in civilized countries, we want the police to do that rather than having the owner try to force the trespasser out themselves.


I think you make a fair point, and I concede that my accusation is not airtight abstracted from this incident and industry. I don't know what the absolute dividing line to corporatism is. This is murky water.

I would say that calling Dr Dao a trespasser is stretching either the term or the truth. The actions of police vis-a-vis passengers are not dictated by just general laws (like trespassing) that govern everything. They a dictated by industry specific regulations & policies about what is & isn't OK for the passenger and/or airline to do. These regulations are implicitly and explicitly written around the business models of the airlines, in collaboration with them.

We could probably litigate the details of this incident incident at length along the lines you suggest, but I don't think you can ever find the smoking gun of corporatism in individual details. Corporatism is about the systemic.

Corporatism exists where corporate and state power are merged.

In this case, a tell tale sign is how confused commenters on this thread (and journalists) get about about what is airline policy and what is industry regulation.

For example, it turns out (I think) that the regulator sets maximum compensation for involuntary deboarding while airlines set their own max for voluntary deboarding. I imagine that most passengers, crew & airport police have as much trouble demarcating these as journalists do.

When the regulator sits down to try and prevent future incidents like this (maybe right now), they'll ask to see United's policies on involuntary deboarding. They might get United to revise the lottery policy. They might issue new guidelines. They might standardise deboarding policies banning lotteries. Or United might, it's hard to tell.


>...The airline owns the plane. They have the legal right to decided who is and who is not allowed on the plane. They allowed that particular passenger onto the plane, and then later they revoked that permission. When he refuses to leave at that point, doesn't he become a trespasser?

I think an argument can be made against treating this as trespass. There is a (rather long) contract between the passenger and the airline. There are many reasons they list on the contract why they can deny transport, but wanting that seat for their own use is not one of the reasons. If a landlord rents you an apartment, there are reasons they can have the police evict you, but wanting to kick you out because the landlord wants to use the apartment for the use of his family is not one of them.


I will change a few words in your question to make some senses. >>...A convenience store owns the place. They have the legal right to decided who is and who is not allowed to buy (candy, alcohol, cigarettes...). They sold to that particular client, the client paid it, and then later the store revoked the sell. When the client refuses to return the item at that point, doesn't he become a theft? <<.

I am sorry to say the client is not trespassing since he already paid, he got this seat number and is already seated in the plane. The trespassers were the 4 employers that the crew has decided to kick the 4 others clients. That is called favoritism.


I feel it's important to detangle overbooking and involuntary debaording, here.

With overbooking itself, up until the point that someone is bumped against their will, the practice is purely a win-win for all; airlines save costs -- a boon for competition and prices -- and passengers volunteering for a later flight get compensation that they view as valuable enough for the inconvenience.

For involuntary deboarding, there are scenarios -- albeit presumably unlikely -- that can occur, regardless of overbooking, that necessitate its use. For example, as mentioned in the article, sudden weather changes forcing a reduction in weight, or simply a broken seat. Point being, there are possibly entirely legitimate issues of safety, generally outside the immediate control of the airline, that easily trump any one person's right to their seat, even after boarding.

While much blame should be placed on the police here in terms of how they handled the situation, I don't see why this isn't something to be handled, ultimately, by the DoT in further dictating passenger rights. For this specific case, if involuntary deboarding was only allowed, say, for cases affecting passenger safety, the airline would be left with the choice of either, one, living with the repercussions of not being able to transport their crew immediately, or two, upping the voluntary compensation until there was a taker (and there would be at some point).

That is to say, I don't see why this issue couldn't be handled more elegantly by creating a market where the airline gets forced to up the compensation until it is approximately equal to the expected costs of not being able to deboard someone. And if that creates too many scenarios where they simply don't get a taker for the deboarding, then clearly their actuaries need to be fired.


We disagree then, I guess.

One of the big dangers of industry regulating is eroding the border between the public and corporate domains. The line between state regulation and public policy is blurred.

Did United Airlines beat up Dr Dao or was it The State? Who should be prosecutted? Who needs to review their practices to make sure no one else gets ausulted.

In the current system, we need to do as ou suggest. Treat the complex of regulators, corporations & law enforcers as a sigle unit. Tweak the regulations (in collaboration with a half dozen corporations and police agencies) and the practices of all involved.

This is corporatism and it's dangerous.


There's plenty of naked corporatism at play in this incident, and police forces acting as de-facto corporate goons is a big problem in America. But I think in this case the individual cops who said "OK, I guess that's our job" were probably not at all supported by the law or even their own departmental policy - I think this is part of the reason the incident made such waves, because the police actions were so beyond the pale in enforcing a trespassing claim.

There's also the x-factor of societal attitudes towards air travel post 9/11 (with additional post Trump anxieties added in). For all we know, the police might not have been told that Dao had been randomly selected for removal - they might have just been told that he was a disruptive passenger that needed to be removed. In either case, just by being on an airplane, the police will be primed to think of all the bad things bad people can and have done on airplanes. Laws and public attitudes have changed and it's gotten a lot easier to prevent people from flying since 9/11, so the police probably didn't think much of it from a consumer/civil rights standpoint (not that they necessarily do in any context), and just went into autopilot mode of applying force to resolve the problem in front of them. None of which is to excuse them, just to explicate that I don't think the incident was strictly caused by naked corporatism.


theres also the fact that the person in question clearly posed no threat to anyone whatsoever. So even if he was a terrorist, theres no reason to potentially break his back, which is clearly a potential outcome when you yank someone out of a seat, past an armrest, as depicted in the video.

police in a lot of other countries achieve a lot more by just convincing uncooperative individuals with words than they do with blunt, pointless force, in murica.

there seems to be the strongly held opinion that "if they do something wrong, we have the right to treat them like shit and whatever that gets them is well deserved".

the idea that this was actually police, and not some random "security grunt" went completely over my head because this is not how police acts where I live.

for the overarching problem, theres a really simple solution: make it legislation that an airline may not book more seats than they have available. if you overbooked trains or busses or cruise ships or any other mode of transportation where you require a seat, people would call bullshit. airlines, however, somehow obtained the right to sell "the idea of a seat".


With regards to your proposed solution... I've often wondered how it is not considered fraudulent to overbook a flight already.

Isn't the act of overbooking akin to writing a check for an amount of money that you do not have in your account balance? If this can be considered fraud, why do the airlines get a break?


because a ticket is not really a ticket. it is more like an agreement that if you show up at the airport and the airlins is down to transporting you, they could go through with that plan.

when you book a ticket, it says in the fineprint that you acquiring that ticket doesnt mean that you get to fly.

it is more like a bank pretending to have your exact balance available at all times. in fact, they do not. they kinda bet on the fact that not all customers want to cash out at the same time, which works almost all the time except when the banking sector melts down and all customers try to cash out at once and then banks have to admit that they cant really pay you out even if they wanted to.


A small correction: these weren't city police. They were Chicago Department of Aviation Security personnel, who are allowed to wear jackets that say "police" on them but are essentially airport mall cops. Their leadership answers to people who depend on the airlines, which makes it hard for them to change their policies if the airlines don't want them to. So if the impression you are getting is "naked corporatism", you're absolutely right.

I'm completely with you that they should not be involved in deplaning people who don't pose a safety risk.

Fortunately, the airlines hate PR / liability incidents like this. Delta is trying to take advantage of United's bad involuntary-bump policy by looking very good in comparison.


From what I've understood, the problem is the United policy to never go above $800. Not ever, even if it means calling the cops. To me, such a policy appears to be in direct violation of the DoT rules.


Until United staff say "Your ticket is revoked", you are still a volunteer. You are in the negotiation phase for volunteering until they actually come tell you that your ticket has specifically been revoked for the flight, at which point the DoT minimum compensation rules take over.

This particular policy does appear to be in line with DoT's requirements - you can get volunteers for any price you're willing to negotiate. Even if United has set a maximum price of $800 in some evil combination of travel vouchers that you'll never use, that is expressly legal. The required compensation only kicks in if you refuse that offer AND they still revoke your ticket for the flight.


Yeah, there's also a plausible argument that you're not really a volunteer, especially when United has released a statement saying "Police were called after the passenger refused to voluntarily deplane".

"You can volunteer or be arrested" is an interpretation of "volunteer" that is neither the letter nor spirit of the definition.


It appears you're confused by the use of variations on volunteer in different

The facts of the situation were this:

1. United offered vouchers up to $800 - this is the volunteer phase.

2. They received no volunteers.

3. Moving on from the volunteer phase, they selected 4 passengers to be removed from the flight.

4. They informed those passengers they needed to get off the flight (so now they're covered by the DoT minimum compensation, which is unrelated to #1).

5. Mr. Dao refused to VOLUNTARILY leave his seat, but 3 other passengers did.

6. Police were called, video was taken, lawsuits were started.

"Voluntarily" in the sentence you're quoting doesn't refer to #1 above, it refers to the fact that Mr. Dao, after being told by a gate agent to leave the plane, did not do so. It does not have any relationship to the DoT "volunteer" rules, it has to do with whether he was willing to leave the plane after being told to do so by a person who was empowered by their employer to get people to leave the plane (although their exact legal right to do so remains somewhat grey).

edit: your -> you're


In your point 5, the word "voluntarily" is a misnomer, is the point.

"5. Mr Dao refused to leave his seat."

Refusing to voluntarily leave implies he ever had an option to reject the request, which he did not.


I think that question is likely to be the basis of much of the litigation here, and from everything I read it's not exactly a settled matter.


I would argue that Dr. Dao continued to have a legal right to be on the plane until at least after the purchase price of his ticket had been refunded in cash. At that time, he could possibly be trespassed off the aircraft. But until then, he remained boarded and seated, with a valid lease on that seat, with the default rights of all humans, plus any additional rights granted to airline passengers by US law. He didn't voluntarily leave, because he had no reasonable expectation that he wouldn't actually have a choice in the matter. You can't voluntarily do anything if not doing that thing is attached to the threat of force. He refused to be coerced out of his seat, and had to be forced. Voluntarism doesn't enter into it, if there is no meaningful choice.

And then, the instant he's off the plane, they can either hand over another 4x multiple of his fare in cash, and tell the guy to sod off, or they can make a best effort to get the guy to his destination and possibly still pay him something when the alternate transportation arrives, according to how many hours of delay the passenger experienced.

While the media have been quoting $1350 as a maximum, 14CFR250.5(e) mandated reviews in 2012 and every 2 years thereafter, that use the CPI-U index to adjust the maximums. The CPI-U of August 2011 was 226545, and the CPI-U of July 2016 was 240647. So the 1-to-2-hour-delay compensation cap should be $675 * 240647/226545, rounded to the nearest $25, which is $725, and the over-2-hour-delay compensation cap is twice that, or $1450. Inflation.

Furthermore, the airline may offer vouchers and discounts only if their value equals or exceeds the cash value they would otherwise be required to pay, and the passenger is not required to accept them in lieu of cash. I would argue that an $800 travel voucher that expires in one year is worth much less than $800 in cash, especially when the average American travels by air only once per year. I would personally value $800 in expiring vouchers at around $200 cash.


In general, that's not how selling things works. If you sell something, you don't have the right to change your mind later by refunding the money and taking the thing back. I'd argue that, even if the flight attendant had the cash in hand, Dr Dao would have been be under no obligation to accept it.


Right. This was a similar situation to StubHub (I believe). Buyer buys tickets to a Lakers game for $950 for 4 tickets. Two weeks later, Kobe announces retirement. This game, which was to be a fairly low interest affair (two bottom dwelling teams, not play off bound), suddenly skyrockets. Now you could pay $1500 PER ticket for those seats.

Guy is pretty happy.

Until _six weeks_ later when he gets an email from StubHub saying "Sorry, the seller told us he sold those tickets in error, so we are refunding you."

Imagine I sell you a car. We sign a contract, you pay me, titles are transferred.

A while later I come back and say "No, I don't want to sell the car any more/ I made a mistake/ I got a higher/better offer" (like, say, the need to deadhead flight crew to a city?). You say "No. Sorry. It's my car now."

I take the car anyway, and leave you an envelope with the money you paid me, saying "Oh, we're good now."

Except in almost any situation, we're not, even with that envelope. It's theft.

I realize this is a service, not a product, and as a result, there are slight differences to the analog, but nonetheless, there are some very similar principles in play.


I was arguing that at minimum, he would have to be refunded on the spot. That is the absolute, ground-zero starting point for even beginning to reneg on a ticket sale.

Some contracts include explicit rescission terms. No doubt United's adhesion contract contains some that are overwhelmingly tilted in their favor. But no matter what sleazy terms United puts in for itself, it absolutely cannot get away with keeping the money and refusing the service. That would be beyond the pale. But considering the way airlines operate, I would not be surprised if that is the bare minimum they would do on their own initiative. It takes a government pointing a gun at their heads for them to grudgingly give more.

On a matter of a car, it might be enough to refund the buyer before delivery of the vehicle and before titles were exchanged. After title is transferred, the deal is done. That's like demanding your money back after getting kicked off the plane at your final destination. You got what you bought. That's why if you don't trust your counterparty, it's always safest to pay only when you take delivery.

If you go to a movie theater, the management could refund you to kick you out before the end of the show. At an amusement park, kicking you out would requires nothing more than a refund. In those cases, people are not relying upon provision of those services to make money or avoid additional expenses.

For an airline ticket, there may be a tangible cost to not getting to your destination on time. And the compensation regulations may be designed to account for reasonable consideration. The airline can't know ahead of time that if passenger X is not in city Y by time Z, they will not be able to work at that time and will therefore lose $W as a direct result of their breach. But they should have a pretty good idea that disrupting people's travel plans can cost them, because travel insurance exists.

But that refund is the minimum necessary to revoke one's legal right to be on someone else's restricted-access private property. You have to at least take care of that before calling on the cops to remove someone. It doesn't absolve you of any other obligations resulting from your breach, but would be a gesture that recognized the paying customer's right to be present.


On the matter of a car (or, anything else), delivery and titles are irrelevant - if you've accepted payment ("consideration"), the deal is done (and enforceable in court), and the delivery, titles, etc are things that must be done to avoid defaulting on the deal.

Your assertion that the purchase price is the "minimum necessary" is completely baseless in law. I guess it's the minimum necessary for the offer to not be a joke, but beyond that it carries no weight.


If you can't deliver the car with its title, you will have to give all the money back, just to keep yourself in civil court for breach of contract, and not also be charged criminally for fraud. You're correct that it won't do you any good in the civil court. But you won't necessarily be able to recover damages from a car scammer in civil court, either. Yes, you win, but how do you convert a judgment in your hand into a car you can drive?

Perhaps it would be best not to reason this one out with a car analogy. It's distracting from the main issue.

Some people are claiming that Dr. No-I-won't-go was trespassing after being told to leave. That is not the case. That would be equivalent to a landlord evicting a tenant with a valid, paid lease. While the landlord also could not force someone out just by refunding their prepaid rents, there is no circumstance that would allow the landlord to evict a lease-holding tenant (if any even exist) without also refunding that prepaid rent. So as long as that hasn't been paid, there can be no trespass.

Furthermore, the tenant would be ethically justified to refuse to vacate the property until the refund had been paid, because holding possession of the property is the only leverage he really has over the landlord. He could go to civil court and petition for it, but if the landlord is judgment-proof or employs a good lawyer, that money may be out of reach for years.

Even if there were a law or rescission clause that allowed United to refuse service, without a cash refund, there is no possibility for criminal trespass. Without a crime, there is only a civil dispute. And there is no reason for the cops to be involved in any way in a civil dispute, especially not to be choosing sides in it and beating someone up.


Once you are seated it is too late for your ticket to be revoked.


A lot of people are saying that, but it's based on a tenuous interpretation of the law. Even if revoking the ticket would be a breach of contract at that point, there doesn't appear to be a law against it.


You really should read the analyses people are posting about that. I don't know of any credible people saying it's flat-out always illegal to remove someone after allowing them onboard, but I do know of credible people saying the legally and contractually permitted reasons for it are few in number and the reason given in this situation (to make room for deadheading crew) is not one of those permitted reasons.


That's not a "tenuous interpretation of the law". That is the right interpretation of the law. Once you have been accepted as a passenger and boarded the plan and been seated, there's no legal reason for the airline to eject you without cause.


a bit more complicated. I believe what I read was

United knows the cheapest tickets on the flight are $200. They know DOT mandated compensation for involuntary bumping is 4x cost of ticket. Hence, its not worth it to them to offer more than $800 in compensation as they can just bump people involuntarily for the same value.

Demonstrating why the DOTs rules for involuntary bumping create perverse market incentives re overbooking.


>Demonstrating why the DOTs rules for involuntary bumping create perverse market incentives re overbooking.

Without the law, United wouldn't even have to pay 4x. The remedies for regular breach of contract aren't very good.


the law can be that overbooking is allowed but airlines also cant involuntary boot anyone. They have to incentivize someone to get off. I'm sure if they went up to $2k in cash someone would have taken them up on the offer and just ubered to ($400ish if I remember what my check showed me) to their destination. For me, $800 (even cash) wouldn't have been sufficient for me to convince me to uber to my destination, even if I wouldn't have lost money on the transaction.

i.e. airlines are only allowed to purposefully overbook due to DOT rules, the same rules provide what I perceive as a perverse incentive when it comes to encouraging involuntary bumping.


The part you are missing is that airlines don't need a law that lets them overbook. They absolutely can involuntary boot anyone for any reason (other than discriminatory reasons that are otherwise illegal). Booting a person would be a breach of contract, but breaches of contracts aren't illegal.

Hell, they could update their contact and then it wouldn't even be a breach of a contract.

The law was written to reign in their behavior. Without it, they have a lot more freedom.


> Carriers can negotiate with their passengers for mutually acceptable compensation."

How do you negotiate with an entity that has the ability to call in the goons on you but you cannot?


If you fly with any frequency, you witness this very often. Any time you hear them asking for volunteers at the gate and offering money. It's an auction system used hundreds of times a day by airlines all over the US.


This incident occurred when the paying customer was already seated on the plane. Normal overbooking negotiations happen at the gate. There are no goons dragging you out of the airport in a normal overbooking situation.


It's trivial. Announce over the PA that you need X volunteers and you're offering $Y for it, and anyone who's interested should push the flight attendant call button. If you don't get enough people, keep increasing $Y until you do.


this is the big mistake that united/republic made. if you deny boarding before the gate the passenger has very little recourse. if they try and run the gate they are going to get very little sympathy. however, once the passenger is seated they suddenly have the option of not moving which is going to cause lots of problems.

i don't travel much and i've been on a flight where they have deboarded people after people had seated so i don't think this is that uncommon. we also thought it was a really good deal. like ~200 EUR + accommodation for the night + ticket for the next day but none of us could take it because we had luggage in the hold.


Yes, because European airlines are a lot nicer in that regard. "200 EUR" (or whatever amount).

In the US you hear "offered $800 compensation". It's not cash. It's a voucher for use only on that airline, only within 12 months, and only on select full-fare ticket classes. So an $800 ticket may only get you another round flight from Chicago to Louisville (around 500km/300mi).


Yeah, the compensation offered by American airlines is a joke. There have been many times where I could have easily volunteered to be bumped, but I've never bothered to volunteer because I'm effectively being asked to do so for free. I don't fly frequently enough on the same airline for those vouchers to be worth anything to me.

Offer me some cold, hard cash, and that would completely change the game. I have, very rarely, seen airlines resort to that if the vouchers don't do the trick. I'd be utterly shocked if an offer of $800 cash couldn't produce four volunteers on a fully loaded plane.


> In the US you hear "offered $800 compensation". It's not cash. It's a voucher for use only on that airline, only within 12 months, and only on select full-fare ticket classes. So an $800 ticket may only get you another round flight from Chicago to Louisville (around 500km/300mi).

This is wrong. By Department of Transportation rules, the airlines is required to pay up to 400% (max of $1,300) for an involuntary rebooking that results in a two-hour delay or more. Airlines might try to get you to accept less by offering voluntary rebooking for less, but if they bump you involuntarily, that's what they're required to pay, and it's not sufficient to offer only a voucher with restrictions.

European airlines pull the same sorts of tricks to try to reduce the amount that they pay out, or to get travelers to accept vouchers instead. It's not limited to the US.


I don't really get the complaints about the vouchers. Every airline offers are good for any ticket directly sold by them...(there are specific ticket classes that cannot be booked directly with the airline that will not be allowed, but a normal person cannot get those except through vacation packages). This only comes up as a problem if you buy a vacation package through the airline and want to use the voucher to pay for the tickets. Usually you'll end up having to pay more in order to bump the ticket class up in that case, but not $800 for a short haul flight.


Because an $800 voucher is not the same as $800? I'm sure you understand the difference.


$800 for Chicago to Louisville is a bad example. I can get a round-trip flight tonight between the two for $200...

$800 round trip is like Boston to Hawai'i next week.($822 from next monday to the 1st of May). That's 8,081km/5,021 miles. It honestly wouldn't be that bad.


No you can't - at least not with a voucher.

I found the flight you're looking at:

" Chicago to Louisville O'Hare Intl. (ORD) to Louisville Intl. (SDF) American Airlines 3520 operated by Envoy Air As American Eagle Economy / Coach (V) Canadian Regional Jet 700 "

V class is "Discount Coach". (http://www.cwsi.net/united.htm)

Only full-fare refundable ticket classes are eligible for voucher use. In essence, "Y" class: "1st Tier Economy. Full Fare unrestricted coach class".

In fact you couldn't fly ORD to SDF at all on a voucher because every seat on the "dba Express" carrier flights are "Discount Coach" or "Deep Discount Coach".

If anything, this proves my point. Because an $800 voucher sounds great, until you realize this.

Your other example?

https://www.expedia.com/Flights-Search?trip=roundtrip&leg1=f...

No, you're looking at $2,600+ for BOS-KOA return that's eligible for voucher use (not sure if you can use a voucher as part payment).


I've been on delta flights where flight attendants came onto the plane and started the bidding process in this same exact scenario (last minute crew). I picked up a $600 voucher to arrive at my destination at the same time (different layover).


> Any time you hear them asking for volunteers at the gate and offering money.

I can't believe people keep bringing this up. THIS WAS NOT "AT THE GATE". The passenger had already boarded and been seated. The "volunteer at the gate" and "overbooking" situations do NOT apply anymore.


They don't have this ability. It violates FAA regulations. And in this case also violated the cited trespassing rule.


Edit:

I didn't explain the Rosa Parks analogy fully, so here's my thought process:

1. Sometimes there are unjust laws or company policies

2. People have busy lives, and in general just go with the flow.

3. Putting a face and a concrete story to a policy is what really makes the general population realize the unjustness of a policy. Public uproar leads to market and political policy changes. Rosa Parks' story led to uproar and changes in a similar way that Dr. Dao's story has. United has already changed their law enforcement policy and crew booking policy. Delta upped their max amount for compensation. The situation was talked about in a presidential press conference, and by countless politicians. This wouldn't have happened without the public uproar, which wouldn't have happened if Dr Dao went peacefully. Future airline consumers now have more rights because of Dr Dao, and they should be thankful for his actions (I know I am).

I will clarify again, all analogies break down, and I am not comparing the magnitude of the injustices or the societal importance of the policy changes... just the general process. They do seem similar to me.


> (a) There was an unjust system and

There was a legislated racist system.

The bumping laws are not discriminatory and are good for everyone. Airlines can stay more competitive (offer passengers cheaper seats) by being able to bump passengers and fill as many seats as possible for every flight. The compensation is set at a price point to disincentivise bumping. Its a completely free market approach.

(b) It took an individual to stick up for the just result, even though it was breaking the rules.

What is the just result? The law is still the law. Next time this happens, the passenger won't act like a child, and it won't be a headline.


You are wrong. The law permits denial of boarding in the event of oversold flights, however, the passenger was already boarded and the flight was not actually oversold.


If an airline says someone must leave the flight, the person must leave the flight. Simple as that. I can't imagine living in a society that does not allow the airline to do so.

They can fight it out in court if they like afterwards.


Why is being able to remove paying customers such an important right, but not getting what you pay for? Kicking out a paying customer who has committed no wrongdoing is essentially theft.

Airlines should be able to kick people off for actual good reasons, like if they're a safety threat. But "we want that seat more than you do" is not a good reason. For that, they should be required to secure the consent of the person in question by whatever means necessary, probably by paying them enough to make it worth their while.


>Why is being able to remove paying customers such an important right, but not getting what you pay for? Kicking out a paying customer who has committed no wrongdoing is essentially theft.

No it isn't. The customer would have to be compensated for the damages.

But you should have the right to break contracts.

>Airlines should be able to kick people off for actual good reasons, like if they're a safety threat. But "we want that seat more than you do" is not a good reason.

My guess is that the reason here was "If we dont kick you off, we have to cancel/delay another flight"


That's probably what they thought, but that reason is BS. All they had to do to avoid canceling or delaying the flight was to increase their offered compensation until someone accepted it voluntarily.


I see the difference between denied boarding and deplaned as legalistic. Its essentially the same thing.

Overbooking is legislated. Don't like it, change the legislation.

I have been in situations where I am offered $800 to be voluntarily bumped. This is okay with me.

I would prefer not to be bumped off a flight, but the compensation is very generous, and I understand that it allows airlines to be more efficient and that they make really small margins and a lot are struggling. The free market is working and I pay a really low price for tickets.

I don't think this is the argument though. Its about one passenger kicking and screaming instead of doing what every other passenger would have done, and then take it up with the courts if necessary which would create new precedent that could be used to justify modifying the legislation.

I don't want to see people being dragged off planes, and the answer is not to "never drag people off planes". We live in a civil society where people are wronged, but they can pursue it in the courts.


I agree that there's no fundamental difference between denying boarding and removing someone who has already boarded. If done involuntarily, both are effectively theft.

When denying boarding or removing a passenger who has done nothing wrong, the airline should be required to secure their consent. Then the question of "drag people off planes" would never even come up. That, and the subsequent court case, can be reserved for people who actually do something wrong.


> If done involuntarily, both are effectively theft.

You sign a contract when you buy a ticket. You willingly agree to the terms. Can you make a contract that someone can steal from you? No.

> When denying boarding or removing a passenger who has done nothing wrong, the airline should be required to secure their consent. Then the question of "drag people off planes" would never even come up. That, and the subsequent court case, can be reserved for people who actually do something wrong.

In a civil society, we resolve disputes with civility in the courts or through arbitration. Not kicking and screaming. Simple. If this goes through the courts, then we will have some new precedent, that could be made law. The kicking and screaming don't help no one.


Why does "we go through the courts" not also apply to removing passengers? Based on what you're advocating, it seems like the airlines should let him stay and then sue him, rather than having him forcibly removed.

I think I understand the principles you're espousing, but you seem to be applying them only to one side.


> but you seem to be applying them only to one side.

I guess the principle I am arguing for is when one side is prepared to use physical force (which they believe is justified) to remove someone from their private property, then the "trespasser" should abide by that (for the time-being), and seek legal remedy.

I see this as the only option to remaining civil. I don't see how society can function without violence without this being adhered to.

Also, when someone is charge with private security or as law enforcement, they should be respected where they physically enforce something. Again, once they have made up their mind to enforce something physically, I don't see a way to maintain civility in any other way than respecting their wishes.

In this case it was the airline's private property, and they felt justified to physically remove someone.

Now whether or not this is justified, is a matter for the courts to decide.


You focus entirely on what happened after the law arrived, and ignore the circumstances that led up to it.

I completely agree that once they say, "get out or we'll take you out," you should get out peacefully, and pursue any remedy afterwards.

However, I also contend that in a case like this, where the passenger was not any sort of threat, it never should have gotten to that point in the first place. The idea of preserving civility by preferring nonviolent responses says that the passenger should have left peacefully, and that United never should have tried to force him off.

This is what I mean by "applying them only to one side." Both parties were in the wrong, but you're giving the one with all the power (and the one that started it) a free pass, and focusing all of your criticism on the customer.


> I completely agree that once they say, "get out or we'll take you out," you should get out peacefully, and pursue any remedy afterwards.

Cool :)

> and that United never should have tried to force him off.

But once you have decided someone needs to leave your private property, you must carry this out. There were three other passengers who left peacefully, and to ask another passenger to leave because someone refused would have set a precedent.

I really don't see United with any other choice. Its their private property and they need to be able to do as they please. If they break the law, then they get punished. But its their private property.

> Both parties were in the wrong, but you're giving the one with all the power (and the one that started it) a free pass, and focusing all of your criticism on the customer.

I don't see United in the wrong. Its their private property and they can do as they wish. I would have done exactly the same in the situation. I would never allow a passenger to stay on the plane when they are ordered off of it.


Why do you begin the analysis with "once you have decided someone needs to leave your private property"? Where United went wrong was deciding that they must force someone off the plane, rather than coming to a mutual agreement with someone to leave the plane.

Once they've decided to do this then, yes, they need to follow through. But they didn't have to make that decision, and they shouldn't have.

By taking the decision as a given and only talking about what happened afterwards, you're ignoring the whole problem.


We can both say what we think both parties should have done, but this is entirely subjective and would come down to ideological differences and feelings.

> Where United went wrong

This is where we can find some truth to the matter. What does wrong mean here.

Each side could have averted this event. And each side lost something from this event.

Dr - Lost his dignity, became a celebrity with his face plastered around the world (good and bad - i.e. some people like myself think he is an idiot), physical injury, mental anguish, etc.

United - Share price, reputation, had to apologise, may lose customers, etc.

For both sides there are lots of negatives. United clearly had more to lose (tangible shareholder value and reputation) so they should have not created the situation.

I wish more people would look at this for what it is, which is childish behaviour from a professional adult, and just move on, but alas in today's world it seems that every event is being filmed and ready to go viral, so perhaps the next video we see will be me sitting on a plane that is being delayed hours while someone is being coddled and sweet talked to get off a plane they are being bumped from. This Dr may miss his appointments with his patients, but what about all the other hundred passengers who will be late or miss their connections.


Wrong in this case means using violence when it was not necessary.

This seems to be the standard that you're using to condemn the passenger. Why are you not applying that standard to United as well?

Note that, if we accept that violence is acceptable to remove a noncompliant passenger, then violence was chosen (at least as a potential outcome) the moment that United decided to remove people involuntarily.

Why do you insist that "it is" childish behavior from a professional adult, exclusively and ignore the behavior of the airline, which brought violence into a situation that did not call for it?

This is why I don't say that you're wrong, but that you are being extremely one-sided. You continue to attack the passenger's behavior while ignoring or outright justifying the airline's behavior.

The passenger should have complied, and the airline should never have put themselves in a position where they might have needed to threaten force. Do you not agree?

If you do agree, then understand that people focus more on the airline for some really good reasons, namely that they started it, and they wield all of the power. We place more responsibility on entities which start something than those who merely respond, and more responsibility on entities with power than those without.


Its comes down to inconveniencing all the passengers because one person doesn't comply. As a passenger I would appreciate someone being removed like they were. Otherwise what if I am the next person chosen to get off the plane. If I were chosen I would get off the plane.

So from my perspective, they did the right thing, if I evaluate the outcome selfishly.

I think its all about personal feelings anyway. I feel angry that someone thinks they are to be held to a different set of rules than anyone else (as other passengers got off), and that they think its okay to inconvenience all the other passengers.

Other people look at the outcome, and feel sorry for the guy because of his injuries, and are angry at law enforcement because they are anti-authoritarian - maybe something to do with their upbringing or their status in society I don't know.

And I understand that on a human level that people feel differently. But one is more rationale than the other. And this is what I believe separates the political spectrum in the US too - but that is a debate for another day.


You once again ignore the possibility of not removing anybody involuntarily, and instead increasing the compensation until someone chooses to take it and leave.

I don't understand why you're so obstinate on that point, to the extent of not even acknowledging the possibility. It certainly doesn't fit with your supposed "violence as a last resort" stance.


> Its their private property and they can do as they wish.

This statement right here so totally exposes your pro corporate bias. No, a person cannot "do as they wish" even on their own private property. We still have rights as citizens. We still have rights as CONSUMERS even.

Do you disagree? If not then you need to reevaluate your whole stance because the foundation is incorrect.

We do not lose our rights as consumers when we board a plane. They are rules and regulations to protect both the carrier and the passenger that cannot be ignored.


I said: "Its their private property and they need to be able to do as they please. If they break the law, then they get punished. But its their private property."

You said I said: "Its their private property and they can do as they wish."

I chose my words carefully, and you have removed some to create your scarecrow.

They have interpreted the contract in one way and acted upon it. Even if the man interpreted it differently, he still should have left.

But ultimately it comes down to who has what to gain and lose. United has more to lose, so United shouldn't have done it.


Wat? That's a direct copy/paste from your comment. It's right there: "Its their private property and they can do as they wish."

Did you forget that you wrote it, neglect to go back and check, and then attack this person for quoting your literal words? Unbelievable. It's not a "scarecrow," it's a literal, unadulterated quote.


> That's a direct copy/paste from your comment.

Sorry, I cannot find me ever saying that.


Last paragraph, second sentence: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14159003


My apologies.

But it is a reference to my earlier sentence where I add: "If they break the law, then they get punished. But its their private property."

The point I am making is that I think its better to leave someone's private property, than to stay, when there is a dispute and there is the threat of physical confrontation. They have more claim to kick you off than you have to stay when force is involved.

I am talking about before we know who is in the right. If I trespass on someone's property that I believe I can rightfully be on, and they threaten to physically remove me, I will leave, and get the police to remove them. If someone trespasses on my property that they claim they have a right to be on, I will make them leave with force if necessary, and then they can get the police to remove me.

I think its sensible to default to the owner in these situations.

But I agree its a weak point and if we examine tenancy laws then it definitely doesn't universally hold well. But a good rule of thumb.


> You sign a contract when you buy a ticket. You willingly agree to the terms.

Perhaps you do, but the rest of us simply sigh and pretend we agree because in fact there is no alternative besides walking to our destination.

The principles of contracts assume that both parties are of similar power and that both have alternatives; in the case of air travel neither of these are true.


> In a civil society, we resolve disputes with civility

Exactly, this is why the airline should not apply force towards him. You're setting double standards here - airline applied force = good, passenger kicking = bad.


And obey authority.


The difference is the physical logistics of denying a person passage to board vs physically removing them.

The second scenario is an exponential escalation of the situation.


What if he runs on the plane? What is the difference?


>I can't imagine living in a society that does not allow the airline to do so.

I can't imagine living in a society where the airline is allowed to fix their fuckups by using a force towards a paying customer. They should let the passenger to stay on the plane and fight it out in court if they like afterwards.


Interesting point. But I see the after boarding vs. before boarding to be essentially the same.

Say the passenger forced his way on the plane after being bumped. Is this any different?


ianal but according to this analysis, this particular situation hinges on the fact that United's policy only applies to unboarded passengers, and Dr. Dao was correct to assert his right to stay on the plane: http://www.natlawreview.com/article/united-airlines-dr-dao-a...


I do not think Dr Dao was aware of his rights or asserting them.

Yes, in court he can make this argument.

But is it really acceptable for a grown adult to be dragged off a plane? I don't want to live in a society like this, and I don't think the correct solution is to "never drag people off planes". We have a court system to resolve disputes and I think it is far better that whatever injustice people feel, it is resolved in the courts, not kicking and screaming.


I think we agree on the basic principle of the case, but not the solution that follows it.

I do agree that it is not acceptable for a grown adult to be dragged off a plane.

I think it's a straw man to say that don't "never drag people off planes" is one of the possible solutions. if he turns out to be within his rights, even if he didn't have a full understanding of the legality of his decision at the time, then I think he was right to resist being removed from the flight.

Saying that hypothetically he could have resolved it in court later, without being dragged off the plane is missing the point- I don't want to live in a society where it's acceptable to be dragged off a plane either, so let's not give united a pass on this situation just because it should be able to make similar actions in other (possibly legal) circumstances.


> then I think he was right to resist being removed from the flight.

See I don't agree with this. Its an argument for vigilantism. The courts are the appropriate place for this to be disputed. Private property and law enforcement should be respected, especially on airplanes. This is how we uphold a civil society.

If a security guard is going to kick me out of somewhere because they think I am someone else, I am not going to physically resist even though they may be wrong. I will discuss it outside if there is a problem. Same applies to any situation. I can't see how it can ever benefit someone to physically resist something like this. It will always end up the same.

> so let's not give united a pass on this situation

I don't see what other option United had and don't see wrongdoing. The only thing this media firestorm does is set a precedent that if you are kicking and screaming you won't be bumped from a flight.

Even if he was in the right, when you are told to get off a plane, or leave a store, it is the right thing to do regardless of whether you were legally in the right. Encouraging people into physical confrontation does not create a nice society to live in.


First, I don't think it's reasonable to simply say that in any situation the sensible and civilized thing to do is to walk away and "let the courts handle it". It seems extremely naive to say that we should never directly challenge the request of anyone in a position of authority because we can then address it in the courts later in a fair and civilized manner. I'm not saying that this is the right case or even that he was acting completely sensibly but as a blanket statement that it's always better to obey, no matter what the request seems absurd.

Second, I agree that encouraging physical confrontation is a bad way to go. But you seem to pin the blame on the passenger, and that there's some inherent violence or threat of violence in voicing an intent to remain on the plane. To my mind the actors who created a physical altercation were the police officers and not the passenger. Surely at the very least the video shows a certain lack of restraint in removing someone from an airplane, given the circumstances. (there was no direct threat or indication of violence or criminal activity )

> I don't see what other option United had

To me their options are clear, persuade one passenger on the plane to get out, or lose whatever amount of money they were going to lose by not having that crew on their plane. If in fact Dr. Dao was not in violation of any law, (and united should have known this to begin with, it is their responsibility) then that is what this situation comes down to. Allow the state authorities to escalate the situation into a physical altercation or lose x amount of money. Seems clear to me.


> we should never directly challenge the request of anyone in a position of authority because we can then address it in the courts later in a fair and civilised manner...as a blanket statement that it's always better to obey, no matter what the request seems absurd.

You are arguing for the use of violent resistance to authority. If you disobey an authority what do you expect to happen? We have the right to peaceful protest, a democratic government, and a justice system. The only alternative I see is a violent confrontation with police which is not the society I want.

> To my mind the actors who created a physical altercation were the police officers and not the passenger.

You cannot disobey the police. The physical altercation was most definitely created by the passenger refusing police orders. I like US police because they get the job done. If this was Europe it would most certainly have been a different story. Plane would have been endlessly delayed, etc.

> To me their options are clear, persuade one passenger on the plane to get out, or lose whatever amount of money they were going to lose by not having that crew on their plane.

If you leave one passenger on the plane, you give reason for every other passenger to refuse. Then what do you do?

I would have given the same order to remove him from the plane with force, and I would expect this to be carried out like so. If there is some sort of mistake, it can be cleared up afterwards without inconveniencing everyone on the flight.

To argue against this is to argue that no one should ever be forcibly removed from anyone else's private property. The argument clearly does not hold across different scenarios. Follow the police's orders and leave someone else's private property when ordered to is a consistent message that makes it easy for everyone to avoid violence. Allowing everyone to live by their own interpretation of the law ends in more violence and regret.


The correct solution can be to never drag people off planes. The cockpit crew simply stops their checklist at "passenger manifest is correct", and informs the passenger cabin that takeoff will be delayed indefinitely until after the "stowaways" deplane and return to the gate.

Planes aren't trains, either. They can fly on any heading, with speed and distance dependent only on fuel supply.

"We're very sorry, but due to scheduling conflicts caused by a disruptive passenger, this aircraft will now be departing for Fargo, North Dakota, instead of Louisville, Kentucky, with earliest possible takeoff slot in six hours. Please deplane and form a line at the gate agent's desk to arrange for alternate transportation, or stay on this plane as it is pushed back from the gate for six hours, with no airflow, locked bathrooms, and no easy way to return to the terminal, and then go to Fargo, where you will get no compensation from the airline, nor any assistance getting to any other destination."

I'd get off "voluntarily". If that's the bluff, I definitely wouldn't want to call it. After I get off, the pilot says, "Psych!" and the original flight to Louisville is back on, and everyone at the gate gets back on the plane without me. If any cop was called at all, he gives me a complimentary cart ride back outside the secured area, and talks the whole way about that one time Sheriff Andy let him put his bullet in.

A plane doesn't have to take off on time. It doesn't have to take off at all. Once the airline decides it isn't taking off with you on the plane, you're just not going to be seeing any cloud tops from where you're currently sitting. At that point, it's only a matter of what it's going to cost to make you leave. And you have to rely on the company's assessment of what would be the cheapest way to do that. Hopefully, the rule of law is strong enough that "beat him up" is costlier than idling a whole plane on the tarmac for a few hours.


>The correct solution can be to never drag people off planes. The cockpit crew simply stops their checklist at "passenger manifest is correct", and informs the passenger cabin that takeoff will be delayed indefinitely until after the "stowaways" deplane and return to the gate.

The correct solution in this case is that if an airline decides that they want to reclaim 4 seats that were sold to customers, that they figure out a way to get 4 people to voluntarily give up their seats. This was not the last plane out of Saigon. Likely a very small percentage of the flight would not leave the plane for any amount of money (family emergency, etc) and the rest would happily give up their seat for some amount of money. One person on that flight said they would give up their seat for $1500 and the employees laughed at him. For example, I imagine if they offered $10,000 that the vast majority of the plane would have raised their hands. Delta has increased their max offers to about that amount and I assume United will do the same.

>""We're very sorry, but due to scheduling conflicts caused by a disruptive passenger,

So someone who paid for something and doesn't want it taken away is now considered "disruptive"? If a landlord signs a lease with a tenant he can't just decide to kick the person out and use violence agains the "disruptive" tenant who wants the landlord to live up their side of the contract. The airline contract of carriage specifies reasons why someone might be denied transport, but wanting to reclaim your seat for use by their employee is not one of them.


"Disruptive passenger" is a thought-terminating cliche that recruits the other passengers into believing that it is the other passenger's fault for being kicked off the plane. It is exactly the sort of thing an airline would announce to shift blame from itself.

The passenger is not actually disruptive in the traditional sense, but is disruptive to the way the airline wants to run itself. The passenger has no access to the announcement system to rebut the assertion, so the airline can paint them in as bad a light as they like.

Or did you think that airline employees did not routinely lie to passengers for their own convenience?


I agree with everything you wrote here. In your original post it sounded like maybe what you were saying was that the airline should have used peer pressure as a means to violate their contract with a passenger. There are much better choices available than "beat him up"and "idling a whole plane on the tarmac for a few hours." - both of these are very bad choices. In the case of United, simply coming on board and saying a screwup happened and saying you are authorized to give 4 free round trip first class tickets on any destination where United flys would have quickly gotten more than enough volunteers.


A plane must followed it pre-defined Flight plans. A plane that does not take off as scheduled get pay a fine... that is the reason why, the rent-a-cop were used, to speed up the process so the airliner can take off as soon as possible.


Most passengers don't know that. Lying to someone sometimes works better than punching them in the face.

And flight plans can not only be changed and refiled on the ground, they can be altered in the air by talking to a control tower over the radio.


Nice story. But I don't want to be on that plane or live in that society, and I am happy that the US police still have the guts to enforce the law and follow orders.


Though in this particular case, they were breaking criminal law in the course of intervening in a civil dispute. They were attempting to simultaneously act as police and as private security personnel for the airline.

One cannot serve two masters. You cannot serve the public interest as police and a private interest as a security thug at the same time.

Following orders takes no guts. It takes guts to refuse to obey an unlawful order. The Nuremberg Principle still exists.


> But is it really acceptable for a grown adult

This is not really a matter of being grown up or not. This is about standing for something that one believes is their right.

I agree with you in that we have a court system to resolve disputes. What I don't agree with is that there should be "the chosen ones" in the society - in this case a big company - who can apply force instead of resolving dispute in the court.


If you don't allow law enforcement to do their job, the world would grind to a halt. If the flight was cancelled because of this guy, I think the passengers would quickly turn on him.


"A completely free market approach" would not allow airlines to involuntarily remove passengers who have already paid for and used a ticket. A free market approach would involve offering greater and greater compensation for voluntary removal until enough people took it.


Ok "completely free market approach" was a bad statement.

A "generous free market approach" maybe is better, as the penalty for bumping is steep.


No, it would involve whatever the contract between the passenger and the airline says. Which is very likely to favor the airline as they wrote it.


Exactly...I don't get the complaints about the existence of IDB legislation. If the airlines got to write the contracts themselves, they'd say you'd get no compensation at all outside of a refund of your ticket price if you can't be rebooked.


I'm OK with its existence. I'm not really OK with its content. min(4 x fare, $1,350) is way too low. Make the minimum compensation for involuntary bumping $10,000 (cash, not stupid vouchers) or something, and then maybe we'd see some sense.

I'm sure there needs to be some way to remove people against their will if something really crazy happens. But it should be the absolute last resort if all else fails, not a way to cap losses to a low amount.


A free market solution would include revevant laews and regulations.

Compensation would come from means to achieve it.

Pleaae tie free market solution as above to compensation


Only on HN would somebody compare the United incident to Rosa Parks in the segregated South.


That's a facile truth about an overblown analogy, buy there's good insight in that analogy: this could be a tipping point for a rights of individuals and the mass public vs exploitative rules of large corporations. Like 'The Jungle' a century ago. Probably won't be, but could be. Hasbrouck shows how the evidence has been building over the past few years, each time picking up more steam.

And in the regards, Rosa Parks was just a small, single incident that has become iconic, so in that regard it's a good choice.

Now this United event was spontaneous, while Rosa Parks was planned action (NAACP leaders saw what Claudette Colvin had done and recruited an activist, Rosa Parks, as part of a managed publicity campaign). It was used to good effect (in both the sense of working well and in support of an important and good cause). The thing that has fascinated me the most about the United event is that now that everyone has a camera and the opportunity to write, some balance of power is being restored.


If you think there is insight to be gained by this analogy, you clearly do not understand the magnitude and the background leading up to the Rosa Parks incident. They are not comparable in any way shape or form. There is literally no insight to be had. It's a horrible analogy.


> you clearly do not understand the magnitude and the background leading up to the Rosa Parks incident.

Indeed don't know you, treehau5 and how your life has been, any more than you know mine.

But yes, I do have some idea: when I first came to America in the 1960s with my parents we landed in D.C. My parents knew to drive north because had we tried to stay in Virginia we would not have been permitted to all stay in the same hotel. At the time of their marriage my parents' could not even get married in my native country, although the marriage itself (performed elsewhere) was legal, unlike in parts of the US.

I have seen firsthand the effect of racial laws on my direct family. I myself have been barred entrance to a hotel on racial grounds (though thankfully I think those times are behind us). I don't sit around complaining about it, or even thinking about it every day for which I am thankful: not everyone has that luxury. But yes, I think I have some understanding.

You are correct in that I was not here when Rosa Parks staged her protest so I do not understand firsthand what it was like in the South before the civil rights movement was accepted by whites. Perhaps you do. But I am very much aware of the benefit I have derived from her effort. As well as the social reasons why Colaudette Colvin's protest could not have had the same effect -- and how today's calculus has changed.

> There is literally no insight to be had.

You blandly make this claim but do not support it. I did in fact claim there was insight to be had. You can disagree, but simply stating your disagreement provides no explanatory value.


It seems the area where they are connected, is the rights of "Average Citizens vs Big Companies". Or better yet, poor people. (Yes I know he's a doctor, and has means to legally defend himself- he's an exception.)

But how would you or I fare in this? We'd get assaulted, arrested, lives put in turmoil, and for what? Yeah, a pile of debt.

Black people in the US have a substantially more of this to go through, primarily due to racial targeting and profiling. That's not to even discuss targeting crack cocaine and "nigger weed" for extra punishment (marijuana, go look up Hearst, Nixon, and others' comments *why marijuana was illegalized).

So yeah, the analogy does sound rather decent. Except it's not White vs Black, but Monied vs Poor.


The how and why these people were asked to get of the plane isn't the story. There is a big mash of different companies behind the uniforms. We know they are all cut-throats. But people are asked/told to get off planes every day. It isn't right but happens without issue every hour of every day. So for me this story begins and ends with why violence was used against this particular person. That has much less to do with United than it does with the rent-a-cops who work in places like airports.

Real cops don't, shouldn't, wear jeans. These guys showing up in t-shirts and jeans says to me they are thugs with no respect for their job. That they didn't first clear the other passengers from the area means they are untrained. That they didn't ask to see the man's ID, that they didn't put pen to note paper, before laying hands tells me they are inexperienced. United may be financially responsible for its underlings, but that's just legal doctrine. I reserve my anger for those three realworld people.


Rather than blame the goon squad, you should blame the king for ordering them into action. Or, in this case, the subcontracting sheriff's deputy.

I think the more serious error here is the error you display: "people are asked/told to get off planes every day." That may be true, and maybe in most cases results in only a grumpy exit, but this situation seems to have exposed that it is not a legal requirement, and that people's generally co-operative nature has led to routine infringement of consumer's rights. Dr. Dao was not clearly obligated to exit the plane, and the justification for the "police"'s removal of him depends upon the now-questionable claim that they were okay to do so.

Certainly we are putting too much of a premium on peacefully resolving situations at the expense of fair treatment. Your story should start with whether Dr. Dao was, in fact, obligated to incur thousands of dollars in losses by being "randomly" selected to miss a work day on which an entire medical office depends, in exchange for 800 units of United scrip.


Aren't cops supposed to be a neutral party? Shouldn't they have inquired what was happening and tried to find all possible ways to communicate without force?

Cops in the US seem way too ready to snap into a confrontation. They could have spent 30 minutes discussing with the guy and it would had caused less disruption and delay to the other passengers.

This concept of a comply or die mentality is a real problem.


Do we not know how much discussion happened before the video was taken? The man was already asked to deplane multiple times and he aggressively refused.

Would a pretty please have really helped?


> he aggressively refused.

No comment necessary, you already did it yourself.


Not an expert, but my understanding after reading that article was that at an important level, whether or not Dr. Dao was obligate to exit depends on whether or not he was appropriately told to exit. If he was, he was trespassing; if not he was not.

In this way, it does come back to the police action, because they should have treated it more as an investigation, asking all the parties involved about what was going on, and attempting to mediate, and then when that failed, taken him off the plane.

Overbooking policy in the US is heinous, but at some legalistic level this seems to me to be more about how Dr. Dao's removal occurred, rather than about the overbooking per se.

Honestly, I'm disturbed by the classism that's run rampant throughout the coverage of this and subsequent events. Airline overbooking practices, security unprofessionalism, etc. are all just part of the system until it happens to a physician (whose services for a day or so should not in fact be critical, even if they are inpatient or critical care--a hospital or clinic needs to be able to cover for illness, etc.), or as in the case of a subsequent LA Times story, a wealthy businessman. But for everyone else? The plumber whose livelihood depends on scheduled appointments? Who cares.


The article raises the point about whether or not the police were acting under the controlling authority's (i.e., the pilot's) instructions, but that's not the only consideration. Other expert opinions have raised the point that the carriage of contract does not explicitly equate being denied boarding with being removed. In other words, the gate agents are acting like denying boarding allows them to remove Dr. Dao, when that seems to be a false but (until now) unchallenged assumption. Once you're seated, different rules apply.

Your point about classism is very fair, but a plumber would have an equally valid claim to Dr. Dao, insofar as being forced to accept a voucher incurs a much more real cost in lost business.


The trespassing argument is very shaky. There's good analysis out there of the regulations and contract of carriage suggesting the airline had no basis to order him off in the first place, and generally to claim trespass you first need to have the right to exclude the person. "I don't feel like performing my part of my contract with this person" doesn't get you there.

And since the instruction to leave his seat may not have been a lawful/reasonable one, the other prong of the usual argument ("federal law requires compliance with crew member instructions") might not get there either.


>to claim trespass you first need to have the right to exclude the person. "I don't feel like performing my part of my contract with this person" doesn't get you there.

It doesn't? Trespass is criminal while a contract is civil. The police don't enforce contracts do they?

Further, I should be able to break a contract at will (how could that ability even be taken away?) and accept the consequences.


What you're arguing for is the ability to manufacture a crime on someone else's part, at will. I don't think you would enjoy living in a society which allows that.


Why do we use "plumber" as an example of a "non wealthy" person? Ironically, your argument itself is classist by suggesting plumbers are somehow lower class in terms of wealth or financial status. http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1851673,0...


Not at all. They are saying that classism exists and people wouldn't care if it was a plumber, that doesn't mean they think that plumbers are lower status.

If they had said this happened because racists chose Dr. Dao since he was Asian that wouldn't make them racist either.


Many plumbers make amazing money. Idk how people think someone who can charge you 100+/hr for a specilized and critical skill is somehow lower class. Most people use "wage slave" for that discriptor now, usually service or retail.


It does matter, because the airline is not a king that can order police into action.

The airline can (and occasionally should) call the police. However, the police have a duty to investigate the dispute - if they instead act like a hired goon squad, then they should be blamed (and punished) for that, it's a violation of how they are allowed to work.


Agreed. I only wanted to dispute that the primary blame should be on the police themselves. And "Chicago police" is a whole topic itself.


Funnily enough, these "police" were actually rent-a-cops, not sworn officers. In effect, they were a "hired goon squad."


> Certainly we are putting too much of a premium on peacefully resolving situations at the expense of fair treatment.

I think we're not. In the civil world, you are expected to resolve the on-scene dispute without violence, and then later bring your case for damages.

Attempting to mitigate damages often does not go as far as violence, since after all (a) that'd result in criminal claims and (b) medical recovery is often more costly than whatever civil damages you were trying to protect against.


"you are expected to resolve the on-scene dispute without violence"

Only to a limited degree, and this forbearance is itself subject to abuse. When everyone politely agrees to "grieve later", it creates an organization-level moral hazard where large companies can pay less in lawsuits than they can save in expenses by abusing the individual's restraint. Walmart during the 1980s practiced a scorched-earth legal defence against any and all employment claims, clearly aimed to exhausting the ability of plaintiffs to sue, regardless of the legitimacy of their claims and depending upon their financial endurance to eke out a net win, which they did for a decade.


I'm not sure that's a great example. If Walmart employees had started to 'grieve' in store, they'd have been arrested for trespassing unless they moved away to a public street and picketed the location.

Picketing the location is a-okay, and counts as aiming to resolve the dispute without violence.

Resolving it "with violence" would mean attacking some floor manager who gets paid $13/hr, and immediately being imprisoned. This doesn't seem like it'd change corporate's strategy at all.

My real issue here is violence vs non-violence.... not necessarily using lawsuits as the only option---there are others, but I am a bit biased to believe lawsuits are best.


I agree that's not a great example from the perspective of what the individual should do. It's just the best example off the top of my head of an organization using its size to make lawsuits largely worthless as a remedy.

That said, I disagree that Dr. Dao is responsible for the violence that occurred or that he chose violence. His was a classic act of civil disobedience: he simply didn't comply, even when violence was used against him, and it's turning out that the predicates for using violence against him are falling apart. He wasn't trespassing, the police acted incorrectly, the gate agents acted incorrectly, and the whole airline business leading up to that moment has built up a faulty expectation of what's allowed and expected. The Walmart equivalent wouldn't be attacking a floor manager, it would be staging a sit-in, which would be much more clearly a simple case of trespassing because it's a store rather than an airplane.


Careful. Even in the most "business friendly" parts of the US, workers still have some federal-level protection for organized action, meaning there are things workers can do which the business cannot just decree to be off-limits and force them out.


> in fact, obligated to incur thousands of dollars in losses by being "randomly" selected to miss a work day on which an entire medical office depends, in exchange for 800 units of United scrip.

But its the law and he knew full well that there was always a risk that he would be bumped from a flight, as any passenger does.

If he did not want to be bumped he should buy a business class seat.

Now the fact that it can be argued legalistically that he was not "denied boarding by bumping", but was "deplaned", is something he can pursue in the courts if he chooses to. But I don't think he was even arguing this at the time.

His behaviour was simply childish.


> But its the law and he knew full well that there was always a risk that he would be bumped from a flight, as any passenger does.

The contract with United says you can be denied boarding, but not much about boarding and then being kicked off after.

> If he did not want to be bumped he should buy a business class seat.

That's no guarantee. http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/aviation/328495-uni...

> Geoff Fearns, who purchased a full-priced first-class ticket to travel from Hawaii to California, was asked to get off the plane by an airline employee because the flight had been overbooked, according to The Los Angeles Times. “That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute,” Fearns told the newspaper. “They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me.”


This guy didn't get kicked off the plane...he was put in an lower class (and some guy in Economy maybe got bumped).


The article states first he "was asked to get off the plane by an airline employee because the flight had been overbooked".


> The priority of all other confirmed passengers may be determined based on a passenger’s fare class, itinerary, status of frequent flyer program membership, and the time in which the passenger presents him/herself for check-in without advanced seat assignment.

https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriag...

Seems this is part of the contract.

Who would he be angry with if the weather caused the plane to be grounded?


All of that's in the "denied boarding" section. This guy, given that he was on the plane and sitting in his seat, wasn't denied boarding. He boarded.


I was responding to your "That's no guarantee." statement.


Did you miss the part where the law says they were not only under the legally mandated entitlement, but also not fulfilling the part where the law demands they pay out cash?


Did they not pay out the compensation? I can't seem to find that part.


They offered $800 vouchers, which are limited flying coupons. Legally they're required to offer cash up to $1350. They'd already failed to exhaust their legal duties in this situation, and if this actually ends up in court, one argument sure to be raised is that they used the police and an abuse of the "deny boarding" part of the contract of carriage to keep their expenses down, which was what they seemed to actually be doing: Republic is a subcontractor operating under bankruptcy protection.


> abuse of the "deny boarding" part of the contract of carriage to keep their expenses down

If they keep their expenses down is does benefit customers in paying less for tickets.

> They offered $800 vouchers, which are limited flying coupons. Legally they're required to offer cash up to $1350.

Legally, they can negotiate with customer. If they refused to offer cash that is illegal. But they can offer whatever they like.

"As you can see, in many cases you’re entitled to a sizable cash payment, up to $1,350. However, here’s the dirty secret of the airlines. In a vast majority of cases they’ll only offer cash compensation if you specifically ask for it. Otherwise they’ll offer you the same voucher they gave anyone who was voluntarily denied boarding."

http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2017/04/11/what-are-y...


They are also legally required to inform you of your rights once your ticket has been revoked. Judging from the fact they still were calling him a "volunteer" as of the CEO's press release the next day, I'd bet they did not actually go through any of this process of revoking his ticket. If this is a policy then these internal policies are wrong too.

I don't know what conversation they had with him, but I'd wager a guess their policies are slanted in the direction of calling it a voluntary bump no matter what actually happens. If you don't ever actually revoke their ticket, you never actually have to pay out at 400% of the ticket value! /s

It is not the passenger's responsibility to know their rights and request the cash payout either, it is the airline's responsibility to apprise them of their full rights when the ticket is revoked for any reason. Negotiating would be offering $1600 in vouchers (or say, a value in excess of 400% ticket price) to avoid a cash payout. I would call it "negotiating in bad faith" to offer a lesser value of non-cash vouchers than the amount that the passenger is actually entitled to receive in cash, by law. (At least once you've decided, as in this case, which passenger is the passenger that is being bumped.)

I don't know what exactly "revoking the ticket" means, or if it has anything to do with a physical boarding pass, but I've heard lots of conjecture suggesting that since he was boarded and in his seat, they would not have been within their rights to revoke his ticket at all. He would have had to meet one of the "Rule 21" criteria for Refusal of Transport, in other words, those cases limited to reasons including government request, safety, failure to pay, or in cases of international travel where your documents are found to be not in order.


> "negotiate"

A negotiation with an entity that "can" (for varying definitions), and will, have you trespassed or otherwise forcibly removed is not a particularly fair "meeting of the minds". It's somewhat what happened here. Passengers _were_ negotiating. Someone offered to leave for $1500, then $1300, on video, and the gate agent responded. "Not happening. Someone's getting off or the plane's going nowhere", and look at the result.

That's "my way, or the highway", not a negotiation in any meaningful sense.


> Passengers _were_ negotiating

I mean after involuntary bumping which is allowed after making an offer for voluntary bumping which is not required to be negotiated.

By "negotiation" it means they can offer free flights or vouchers.

This is very common place. The final mandated offer is subject to many conditions as outlined here: https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights which would be specific to each customer.


> So for me this story begins and ends with why violence was used against this particular person

This person had a backbone but wasn't threatening enough for the staff to try someone else.


Don't you have enough anger for them AND united? I do.


I was surprised to learn that there are these apparent pseudo-police in airports, probably with pseudo-training and expertise. The best folks are often on the big city police force that can afford better training and background checks - as you go farther away from that, you are more likely (but not always) going to find people with some issues.


IME in the US the State Police have the best training and highest standards, although a big city Detective might individually be more skilled.


My anger at united is surpassed by my anger against Air Canada. Whenever someone books me on a Vancouver-SFO trip using Air Canada one leg ends up on a "United" aircraft. The free market means my ticket on my national airline is sold to United, and then to whatever subcontractor is renting the United logo on the day. They are just the middleman in the chain of misery.


You can see in advance what company operates each leg. It's not a secret.


As the linked article demonstrates, you actually can't reliably or easily. For practical purposes it is often a secret.


No, it is not a secret. Anybody who claims you can't reliably see if something is a codeshare or regional well in advance is lying, flat-out.

I just went to Air Canada's site, punched in a one-way YVR-SFO and picked a date. And do you know what? I see three types of listings:

* Air Canada flights, which show an Air Canada logo.

* Codeshare flights, which show a Star Alliance logo and say "Operated by United Airlines".

* Regional-affiliate flights, which show a variant Air Canada logo and say "Operated by Air Canada Express -- jazz".

In what way is the airline hiding that information from me if it's shown up-front in the listing when I'm selecting flights? Where is the deep dark secret way they're hiding this, if it's literally right there on the page?

Plus, when you book a codeshare flight your confirmation email will have the same information in it, and will tell you "At the airport, check in at the (operating airline) ticket counter". The idea that this is some sort of secret thing that's hidden to deceive people is simply ludicrous.


Not all of us book our own flights. Sometimes my only input is "Air Canada, direct if possible please". I've also been bumped from an actual Air Canada flight onto one of their "partners" totally against my will long after my purchase. After a long day, and then being bumped, I'm not in the mood to fight petty contract battles with a gate agent.

The absolute worst version of this happened to me on a SFO-YVR flight with a stopover in seattle. The seatle-vancouver flight was cancelled due to "weather" ... or more likely that there were only five of us booked on the flight. Plenty of other planes were operating out of Seattle that night and ours was the only one cancelled. So we were bumped from "Westjet" to a BUS COMPANY for a drive to Vancouver as that was cheaper than putting us in hotels overnight.


If you don't book your own flight, and have no control over the choices made on your behalf by the person doing the booking, that's not really the airline's fault.

And codeshares have helped me out more than once. For example, a few years ago I was scheduled to fly Kansas City to Toronto on US Airways, connecting in DCA. On the way to the airport in KC, I got a call saying my flight to DCA was delayed and I'd miss my connection, but (since this was back when US Airways was a Star Alliance member) they'd rebooked me onto the direct Air Canada flight from Kansas City to Toronto, so I'd just need to go to the Air Canada counter and show my passport to pick up a boarding pass.


Do you know prior to paying for your discount fair?


You can check this for yourself:

1. Go to https://www.aircanada.com/us/en/aco/home.html

2. Select "One-way". Enter YVR (Vancouver) as "FROM" and SFO (San Francisco) as "TO". Depart on a date of your choice in the future. I'm going with 2017-05-01.

3. Look at results showing you whether each flight is mainline Air Canada, regional Air Canada Express affiliate (with regional affiliate identified) or Star Alliance partner flight operated by United.

4. Ask yourself whether you had to buy a ticket to see that.

You can do this with other airlines, too. For example, go to delta.com and ask for a one-way from SFO (San Francisco) to AMS (Amsterdam) on 2017-05-11. When I do that I see the first option listed is a direct flight, which says "DL 9389 is operated by KLM." Further down I see one with a connection in Paris which tells me "DL 8456 & AF 1440 are operated by Air France." There's one with a connection in Los Angeles which tells me that for the the SF-LA hop, "DL 4915 is operated by SkyWest DBA Delta Connection."

This is not secret hidden information. In fact, it's the opposite: airlines and third-party ticket agents are legally required to disclose the carrier who will operate the flight, and the US Department of Transportation will fine them if they try to keep it secret.


Air Canada isn't a national airline; it's been private since 1988. It's about as national as Delta is in the US.


They could have used common sense. Be polite. Raise the ante. Negotiate. There was a manager/person in charge who didn't use common sense and then it escalated to more parties without common sense. Low EQ who only know threat of force and escalation of force.

Our loss of wisdom https://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_our_loss_of_wisd...


There are some counter-intuitive effects of the "common sense" approach. If people know that resisting longer will get them more, they will work to delay the process in an effort to maximize the airline's bid. This will impact schedules and ultimately lead to more hostile deplaning situations as people attempt to hold out for more.

Managers/overseers could intentionally place belligerent people on the plane who refuse to get up for less than $x000, use their authorization to grant the override, and then split the money with the passenger. In practice, the DoT minimum mandate could work as a soft ceiling, but managers may say that they negotiated past it to prevent a hostile situation with bad press like this one.

Consider that most passengers are paying +/- $125 for each flight (a direct round trip is 2 flights, connecting round trip 4 flights, a complete itinerary will usually be in the $300-$500 range depending on the details). Even at $200 the vouchers cost them money. It can have an impact if they start paying out $10k per flight in bumped passenger compensation.

You can argue that they shouldn't oversell, but then they're carrying empty seats from people who miss the flight, which is also a waste of money. Since they're already paying ~4x as much as the customer paid them with an $800 voucher, there's plenty of incentive to fine-tune the overselling algorithm just right and limit the necessity of passenger bumps.

I'm not necessarily saying this approach is worse than their current approach, but I just want to point out that it's not as simple as engaging in an open auction over the seats.


All of your arguments are based on the assumption that an over-capacity situation which is only discovered after boarding is common and easy to manufacture.

Also, remember that the compensation for voluntarily yielding one's seat can be "paid" in non-transferable flight vouchers. Airlines don't issue cash for that, and airline employees already have free-travel privileges. To get the right to cash compensation you need to be involuntarily denied boarding, and IDB "pecking order" is not under the control of the agent at the gate.


You should optimize and design the system so it works the service of the 90% good-natured, cooperative people, then work to minimize the effect of the bad apples when they occur.


They offered $800 to get off the flight.

This is what they have to pay by law. Bumping is legal, and must pay if the bump involuntarily.

I don't know how a grown adult can get into the kind of situation where they need to be carried off a plane.

Absolutely ridiculous that anyone thinks the behaviour of the passenger is acceptable in society. And he is a doctor. This is so unprofessional and I would fire the man if he worked for me.


Pre-boarding bumping is legal. There's some discussion about whether post-boarding bumping is legal, with many people saying it isn't.

$800 is not "what they have to pay by law"; it's the maximum someone would be able to claim if they had to force the claim. There's nothing stopping the airline offering more.


> Pre-boarding bumping is legal. There's some discussion about whether post-boarding bumping is legal, with many people saying it isn't.

Honestly, I see no difference regarding the intention of the law. Essentially it is the same. You would only be able to argue that Dr Dao might have thought that once onboard he was not able to be bumped and made arrangements based on not having been bumped. But I don't think this happened in this case.

Yes, you can argue it legalistically, but I don't think Dr Dao was making this argument, nor does it make sense in the spirit of the law.

> $800 is not "what they have to pay by law"; it's the maximum someone would be able to claim if they had to force the claim. There's nothing stopping the airline offering more.

" Compensation for Passengers Denied Boarding Involuntarily

For passengers traveling in interstate transportation between points within the United States, subject to the EXCEPTIONS in section d) below, UA shall pay compensation to Passengers denied boarding involuntarily from an Oversold Flight at the rate of 200% of the fare to the Passenger’s first Stopover or, if none, Destination, with a maximum of 675 USD if UA offers Alternate Transportation that, at the time the arrangement is made, is planned to arrive at the Passenger’s Destination or first Stopover more than one hour but less than two hours after the planned arrival time of the Passenger’s original flight. If UA offers Alternate Transportation that, at the time the arrangement is made, is planned to arrive at the Passenger’s Destination or first Stopover more than two hours after the planned arrival time of the Passenger’s original flight, UA shall pay compensation to Passengers denied boarding involuntarily from an Oversold Flight at the rate of 400% of the fare to the Passenger’s first Stopover or, if none, Destination with a maximum of 1350 USD."

https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriag...

Compensation depends and is customer-specific. So would need to be resolved with the customer - who could always claim the maximum amount or agree to alternate arrangement.


> Essentially it is the same.

This is a very subjective statement.


What is the difference? One guy got to walk down a corridor and sat down in his seat. The other guy didn't. It is the same.


That's not how law works, is it?

One woman forgot to pay and walked out the store with an item; another women chose not to pay and walked out the store with an item. In England the second has committed theft, the first hasn't. What's the difference?


> They offered $800 to get off the flight.

Another problem, as (if you had read the article) United is _required_, by the DOT, to offer at least up to $1350. If the passenger can show that United refused to go up to $1350 they are in violation of DOT regulations (and indeed there's video of the gate agent laughing at someone who offered to deplane for $1500, "No, that's not happening. Someone is getting off this plane or it's not going anywhere") - indeed it's a challenge because United doesn't want to compensate more than it has to, but it also has obligations.


It's not at least up to $1,350. They can offer _as little as_ $1,350 even if the ticket costs more than $1,350/4 = $337.50, but there's no upper limit.

Apparently their policy is to never go above 4x the cost of the ticket (they said it's $800 in this case, your computation in another message said $1030, but airline fares are really complex). That's a valid policy. But they should definitely have offered cash instead of vouchers.


> But they should definitely have offered cash instead of vouchers.

They are allowed to offer vouchers or free flights.

https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights

Should the law be different. Maybe. But the law is the law.


Yes, but only for voluntary bumping. Involuntary bumping requires the airline to pay cash if the passenger insists on that. It seems reasonable to offer cash before moving to involuntary bumping. Anyone who can read would request cash rather than vouchers worth the same $$$ (a $2000 voucher might be different, but they didn't offer that, either).

And even if they didn't, they could have drawn say 10 passengers instead of 4, and given them "a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't" as mentioned in the page you linked, They might very well have found 4 people who would have refused a voucher but would have accepted a $800 check.

Or skip the stupid lottery and go with involuntary bumping of the 4 people who checked in last. Well, pretty much anything but what they did.


> Involuntary bumping requires the airline to pay cash if the passenger insists on that.

Not even "insists on it", they are required to pay cash or check, only, for IDB.

Their "dirty little secret" (which makes it sound 'naughty', as opposed to the more accurate 'illegal') is that for many years they've been offering vouchers in this situation.

And then there's this argument that the gate agent came on to the plane, and asked for volunteers, and then having no/not enough volunteers began involuntarily denying boarding, and the argument is that "having boarded, any removal of a passenger is involuntary, because by definition/law, voluntary denial doesn't involve demanding passengers give up seats after boarding or refusing to fly the aircraft".


"Those travelers who don't get to fly are frequently entitled to denied boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash."

Eh. No. We're talking about the point at which this became Involuntary.

The same site you link to has no mention of vouchers when it's involuntary, which is also the subject of my initial calculation and quote.

As this article, and many others have stated, this is but one of the issues with the handling of this situation, that United (though not the only airline by any means) has been quite happy to perpetuate the myth that airlines "only" have to offer vouchers. They can choose to offer vouchers for voluntary denial.

They are REQUIRED to ONLY offer check or cash for IDB situations.


Point of fact: maximum is now, by my calculation of the numbers, $1450. 14CFR250.5(e) included an inflation factor based on CPI-u, since August 2011.

And that's $1450 cash. If you want to give vouchers, they have to be worth more than the cash equivalent to begin with, and the customer has to give voluntary, informed consent to accept them. No one in their right mind would give expiring travel vouchers value equivalence with the same face value in actual cash.


> Another problem, as (if you had read the article) United is _required_, by the DOT, to offer at least up to $1350.

"Request for Volunteers

UA will request Passengers who are willing to relinquish their confirmed reserved space in exchange for compensation in an amount determined by UA (including but not limited to check or an electronic travel certificate)."

https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriag...

The can offer what they like. Once it becomes involuntary, they can still offer whatever they like. But legally the passenger can claim the maximum amount in cash.

The final compensation is also more complicated and depends on the replacement flight, original ticket price, etc.


You know what trumps United's Contract of Carriage?

https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights

"If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum)."

Refusing to offer any more than $800 is illegal for any passenger who paid more than $200, fees inclusive, for their flight.

Given that the lowest fare currently offered by United for a one way adult fare between Chicago O'Hare (ORD) and Louisville (SDF) is $228.20, with at least $29.32 in fees (not including bags), then United is clearly legally obligated to have offered AT LEAST $1,030 (another example of their sterling customer service, even that would be the absolute minimum legally required and they couldn't even bring themselves to do that).


> You know what trumps United's Contract of Carriage?

Agree.

> clearly legally obligated to have offered AT LEAST $1,030

Disagree.

It says they can negotiate with the customer:

"Airlines may offer free tickets or dollar-amount vouchers for future flights in place of a check for denied boarding compensation. However, if you are bumped involuntarily you have the right to insist on a check if that is your preference. Once you cash the check (or accept the free flight), you will probably lose the ability to pursue more money from the airline later on. However, if being bumped costs you more money than the airline will pay you at the airport, you can try to negotiate a higher settlement with their complaint department. If this doesn't work, you usually have 30 days from the date on the check to decide if you want to accept the amount of the check. You are always free to decline the check (e.g., not cash it) and take the airline to court to try to obtain more compensation. DOT's denied boarding regulation spells out the airlines' minimum obligation to people they bump involuntarily. Finally, don't be a "no-show." If you are holding confirmed reservations you don't plan to use, notify the airline. If you don't, they will cancel all onward or return reservations on your trip."

But the customer has the right to ask for the minimum. If the customer agrees to something else, then that is that.


No offense but did you read the article and the referenced texts it's citing?


Yep. And I am arguing that there is a lot of analysis over something that should not have been a media firestorm, but a simple dispute with an airline that probably happens 1000s of times per day.

Take away the kicking and screaming and you have a standard airline dispute of which you can find thousands.


The kicking and screaming. That's certainly a nice way of putting it.


GP is so sympathetic to the airline, it is a caricature of a discussion. Yes, kicking and screaming and let's ignore the material damage and bloody assault to the customer who legally paid for the seat and was forcibly removed.


Watch the video. He is literally screaming. Why would you refuse an order from the police. I think its an ideological difference, but I can't imagine refusing or resisting police. I think young people today get kicks from refusing authority, but it is simply not rationale.


But the police wasn't really police. And it's argued in court if he even had the right to remove the passenger.


> there is a lot of analysis

Yes, finally. Airlines should not be allowed to overbook. Period. I'm pretty sure most of the people would be more than happy to pay a little bit extra to have guaranteed seat.


What's a little bit extra? I don't even pay 30$ to choose my seat.


If I understod correctly they offered $0 plus $800 worth of airline credits.


Does anyone else worry from a safety perspective that the pilots flying these "subcontracted" flights are probably paid very low? I read somewhere that even Captain pay at some of these guys can be 60-70K. I know FAA license requirements are stringent but I would have a hard time believing that working for shitty, bankrupt or nearly bankrupt low-cost airlines that don't pay well has to affect your performance to some degree?


Is that all? That's ridiculously low.

Here's a news article [0] pointing out that Qantas pilots earn up to $536K a year, with second officer roles beginning at $110K. (At the time of the article, 1 Australian Dollar was worth more than 1 US Dollar [1].)

[0] http://www.smh.com.au/business/qantas-pilots-get-paid-more-t...

[1] http://www.x-rates.com/historical/?from=AUD&amount=1&date=20...


you are comparing US regional airlines to an international airline. apples to oranges


I'm not worried, because the incidents aren't there to support any concern. Flying is safe if a poorly paid pilot is flying the plane, too.

It seems like flying commercial flights has a "good enough" bar that the US government does a good job of making sure everyone who operates flights is over.


One such incident was Buffallo.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/nyregion/14pilot.html?_r=0

"Members of the board said that the crew of the twin-engine turboprop that crashed, killing all 49 people on board and one on the ground, was set up for fatigue and inattention before they even took off, partly because of the structure of the commuter airline business. "


But that wasn't related to their remuneration, rather the structure of the commuter airline business. The copilot was fatigued by living in Seattle but working in Newark for a paltry $24k. Paying her more wouldn't have helped, in fact it might have encouraged more new pilots to try the same.

On the contrary side in Ireland last month we had two experienced pilots, each earning > 120k Euros, inadvertently and fatally fly a Coastguard helicopter into a rock at night. Accidents happen regardless of pay grade.


Still, having depressed colleagues around you does not help with a persons well-being. It helps to have a healthy working environment with nice and permanent flight attendees. They could notice when a pilot gets depressed before something bad happens.


Paying more could help relocate and live in a comfortable distance to where you are based as a pilot.

Renumeration is part of the structure.


But she didn't have to take that job.

No one can account for the fact that someone from Seattle didn't have the resources to take on the job she desperately fought for.

You know what I wanna be? A movie star!

Pay me more than other entry level movie stars because I can't afford to become one on my own, please. I don't want to work at the Starbucks down the street. I want to move to Hollywood, but can't afford it, so pay me more money now to make me the star I know I am going to become once I have the money.


While I understand the power of anecdotes, and I'm sure you could continue to push our availability heuristic into overdrive, the fact is that air travel in the US is incredibly safe, even with current practices related to pilot pay and treatment.


I haven't said anything that air travel is not incredibly safe - but I am sure it could be _even_ more safer with human working conditions for the whole crew.


First Officers are paid as low as 25k.


Are you trying to say that 60k is low?


$60k is probably not a good estimate.

In the US, a pilot's wages are determined almost exclusively by seniority with the airline. And working at a regional means you're at the very bottom of the bottom of the seniority scale. Starting pay at a regional have clocked in under $30k/year for quite a while. A lot of this is because crews aren't paid for all the hours they spend working -- they're usually only paid for the time from closing the door of the flight they're operating to opening it at the other end. On the junior end of the scale, pilots sometimes go days without sitting behind the controls of a plane because their duties consist of sitting on standby in an airport in case some other pilot can't make a flight.

Throw in the inconsistent flight hours when they do fly, the fact that they usually come in with six figures of debt from flight school, and have limited mobility since switching airlines kicks them right back down to the bottom of the seniority ladder, and you're talking about effectively poverty-level living conditions for the first few years of a pilot's time with an airline.

This is where the alleged "pilot shortage" in the US came from: airlines mistreated their junior ranks so badly, for so long, that they started running out of people willing to put up with it. There are some signs of adjustment at the regionals, but they run on such razor-thin margins that it's not clear they'll really be able to fix this.


For the amount of time and effort it takes to become a pilot? Not to mention the constantly being away from your family, and having the lives of thousands of people in your hands month in and month out. 60k is absolutely low.


Yeah, I'm kind of inclined to agree, excepting for indirect compensation that might not appear as part of taxable salary.

Considering how much expensing for (airline) food and (corporate rate) hotels enters the picture, there's probably a substantial additional cost lurking behind that salary.

Travel is a choice. That decision is made by the individual. Some people absolutely love being away from their families, believe it or not, and love to travel besides. You adopt that reality simply by taking the job. There's no accounting for that. It's a reality that confronts the individual alone.

But, the 10 or 300 souls on the plane are absolutely a good reason to pay pilots a little bit more.

But then again, teachers should be paid more for working with children. And airplane mechanics are every bit as important as the pilots.

So I guess it comes down to how much passengers care about whether their plane crashes, and how much they'll spend to gamble on getting somewhere faster than by boat or train or bus. Passengers don't have to fly, do they?


>Travel is a choice. That decision is made by the individual. Some people absolutely love being away from their families, believe it or not, and love to travel besides. You adopt that reality simply by taking the job. There's no accounting for that. It's a reality that confronts the individual alone.

I'm sorry but that's the most ridiculous statement I've ever read in my life. I have never once had any company ever try to pitch travel as a "perk". There's a reason why they call out the amount of travel in the job description, and there's a reason any job I've ever had that has a lot of travel they make sure you realize it's part of the job due to the burden. Furthermore, every job I've ever had that included lots of travel compensated you MORE because they understand that burden.

If you're ever in a position where you're a hiring manager and you try to fill a travel-based position by telling candidates that they're getting a lower salary due to the "perks" of travel, you'reg going to be searching for a LONGGGGGGGG time.


Unless 60-70k is some sort of regulated minimum salary, that's exactly what the market will bear, isn't it? Seems appropriate.


how many of them have crashed in the last 10 years? 20 years? Ever?

Republic has never had a fatal crash. American Eagle has had 2 in the last 20 years. none in the last 10. after 11 million flights.


Colgan Air 3407 crashed and many reports cited very poor pilot pay and poor pilot skill as probable cause


FYI, I've added an update in the comments to my original article at:

https://hasbrouck.org/blog/archives/002292.html

I finally spoke with United Airlines spokesperson Charlie Hobart today, after this article was published.

Mr. Hobart told me that the gate agents handling United Express flights at O'Hare, including those who called in what Mr. Hobart described as "Chicago Department of Aviation security officers", were employees of United and not of Republic or a third-party contractor.

Mr. Hobart claimed not to know whether or not "CDA security officers" are sworn law enforcement officers. That claim to ignorance strains credulity, unless United has deliberately kept its own spokespeople in the dark. And if United still hasn't been able to figure out, 10 days later, whether these thugs (I use that term deliberately, in its original sense of organized gangs that prey specifically on vulnerable travellers) were really police, how were passengers supposed to figure that out in the moment?

"I don't have access to that level of detailed information," he said in response to this and most of my other questions. When I asked if he could find out, he declined. "I'm not going to get into that level of detail."

Mr. Hobart said he didn't know whether the passenger was asked to leave by United or Republic employees, whether the "officers" were asked to remove the passenger by United or Republic employees, whether the officers talked to the pilots before removing the passenger, or how the officers identified themselves to the passenger.

"They were unable to obtain the cooperation of the passenger," Mr. Hobart said. He referred all my other questions to the City of Chicago Department of Aviation.


> , but it was a Republic Airlines flight operated by Republic Airlines pilots and flight attendants and under the operational control of Republic Airlines management.

What's the point of mentioning that? They are wearing United Uniforms even. However United wants to distribute its routes, how it hires its contractors, flight attendants etc is its business.

It seems like a way to divert blame. (United is great, it's those pesky contractors again). Otherwise I don't see why this point is prominently put at the very top. Maybe in a thorough analysis it is interesting to mention it, but it would some place at the end.


If you keep reading it becomes apparent why this is actually quite shady and not a clean dodge for united. It's an attempt to use lower-wage non-union workers, made more interesting by the fact that Republic are going through bankruptcy (and therefore aren't themselves being sued by the passengers, since there's some sort of limit on the compensation they could get) and that United are semi-OK with taking the blame to permit Republic to recover a bit


If I buy a ticket from United Airlines, I don't care if they contract it out or code share things with some other company. Your ticket is with one company. It's their responsibility to hold another / the contracted company accountable, not yours.


I agree with you, but I think the author was attempting to describe the subtle incentive structures that motivated the contractors to act as they did.


Agree. I had a similar dispute with a codeshare ticket in the past. You make a contract with the airline that sells you the ticket and it is their responsibility to resolve the issue with their carrier.

In a codeshare dispute, both airlines will blame each other, but it is important to focus all your efforts on the ticket seller.


> quite shady and not a clean dodge for united.

The emphasis on the contracted airline seems like is helping United by diverting blame away from its brand. Legally United might be able to dodge a few issues based on it and technically they might be in the right over what they did. Morally and as far as public perception goes, they should bare full responsibility.


Republic might be cheaper, but it's employees (Pilots, flight attendants, etc..) are union.


Why does Lufthansa use Cityline and/or Germanwings or any number of similarly positioned companies to do their bidding on lower density routes?

Nearly every major airline in the world that serves feeder routes does this.

Remember that Republic also does the American Eagle flights.

If these contracting arrangements weren't possible, then you'd see many major airlines dropping the routes.

The typical plane for the route in question holds 76 passengers. With margins around 1% or less, that flight is making a tiny profit. Let's say, just for the sake of argument that the average ticket price was $200. That's $15200 in revenue for the plane (excluding cargo.) That airplane typically has two flight attendants, two pilots and an assortment of ground crew. Also remember that close to 50% of ticket revenues are actually taxes and fees that don't go to the airline but to government. So that $15k is now closer to $9k -- that's revenue, not profit. This if for a nearly 1 hour flight.

Do you know the operating costs of your average Embraer 175? Landing fees? Gate slot fees?

My point is that United/American definitely don't want to pay higher union wages for routes that are operating on razor thin margins as it is. If they raise ticket prices, planes will be less full, crushing the margins even more, if they pay more, that also crushes the margins. Either way, even a slight increase in costs somewhere in the system destroys the profitability of the route.

Perhaps we should be complaining about government taking such a huge proportion of taxes and fees rather than United trying to minimize costs. For a business making literally 1% margins on most flights, we certainly have a lot of opinions about how bad they are when they try to keep costs down.


The subcontracting of routes isn't what I meant was shady (maybe a bad choice of words) - but the whole "things aren't as they seem" vibe. Plus since United could rightly have lumped the entirety of the blame for an insanely high profile screw up on someone else and issued the usual press release about how they're gonna hold their suppliers to higher standards in future blah blah. But they didn't, it's just ... weird


It matters because it (a) sets the counterintuitive financial incentives that caused this situation and (b) explains why they couldn't pick seemingly reasonable alternative solutions which could have fixed this problem, but weren't possible because of this organization.


It's highlighting the fact that this stuff is complicated, and can't just be reduced down to "united employee told united passenger to leave united flight" because each 'united' might not be the same, or even related to united


My point is that it doesn't matter how United distributes and picks its contractors. It should bare the brunt of the blame and responsibility.


I mean to say, this article wasn't just a reaction to the particular incident, but also a meta-commentary on all of the articles that read "united did x, united said y, united shouldn't have z" Not so much to shift the blame from united, I agree with you, this situation was/is bad, but it creates sympathy for passengers who are easily overwhelmed and also attacks pieces that reduce it down to something simple.


For example it may mean that they're not allowed to put you on the next United flight. It makes the situation even more complicated.

It doesn't shift the blame from United to Republic or vice versa of course.


It wasn't obvious to me from the title but this is a good i depth article from obviously an industry expert. Recommended reading if you are interested in this subkect


From the DoT site

If the airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn't required to pay people who are bumped as a result. In addition, on flights using aircraft with 30 through 60 passenger seats, compensation is not required if you were bumped due to safety-related aircraft weight or balance constraints.

I'm not sure I understand this exception. Yes it kind of make sense that when it becomes a safely issue the airlines don't have to pay in that they will not play around with safety but isn't it still mostly airlines fault .. lack of proper maintenance or planning. But even it's an accidental case with no fault for the airlines it's also no fault of the customer and you are making individuals pay for the incident and protecting the corporation how does that make sense?


They don't want to incentivize the airlines even a little bit to fly with safety issues.


Statements like this need to be backed up with something of substance "victim of 'minor' but routine Chicago police torture who still feels the pain of my police-inflicted injury occasionally, more than 35 years later."


The article wasn't about me or my experience. I disclosed this background fact in case some readers might think it relevant in assessing my reporting and analysis. I've spoken publicly before about my experiences with Chicago police (not the Aviation Department police), including "minor" torture. (I repeat the qualifier, although in quotation marks because no torture is truly minor.) It hasn't risen to the top of my priorities to write about it in detail, largely because there are so many more significant stories of Chicago police torture, told and untold.

I wrote about my first arrest by Chicago police (not the one after which I was tortured) here:

https://hasbrouck.org/blog/archives/002168.html

If you want to discuss my personal history, get in touch with me directly, or leave a comment on my personal blog, which is probably a better place for that personal discussion than this third-party forum.


Did you check the rest of his blog?


The American economy is running on fumes and wishful thinking. Various industries have had to cut costs, try to carry on, and try to conceal the inherent and inevitable crappiness. This is how United does it.


It's not only America, but I suspect that it's because of the expectation of infinite growth, which is a fantasy, because nothing can grow indefinitely.

So the market becomes more competitive, but the shareholders still want their return. So first you get the fat cut off, then you end up with corners cut right up to and over the point of illegality.

Eventually stuff like this incident and much worse happens.


Aha. I think in the case of airlines its more due to deregulation. Airlines used to be tightly regulated on price, forcing them to compete instead on things like comfort and convenience. Deregulation allowed them to compete on price, and thus it became unknown what level of service that the population honestly expected out of an airline.

It's as if we've had airplane tech for 70+ years, but only modern airlines since the 1980s.

We're unhappy because airlines now charge 1/3rd of their previous prices, and carry 3x as many passengers and operate a proportionately greater number of flights.

Being asked to do more with less money is a recipe for disaster when public expectations of service remain the same.


And airlines used to not make a profit. http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/02/ec...


Great point, thanks for that explanation. I never knew that.


This was a fascinating read. The money quote, in summary form:

* The flight was technically a Republic Airlines flight subcontracting for United Airlines.

* Almost none of the staff involved worked directly for United Airlines; they are subcontractors required to wear United Airlines' branded uniforms.

* Republic Airlines is bankrupt, and none of the parties involved in the lawsuit has attempted to shift blame to them.

* United Airlines is capable of bypassing union wage requirements by subcontracting through partner airlines, so they have a vested interest in keeping Republic afloat through its bankruptcy (and therefore, discreetly accepting blame).

* The plaintiffs have a vested interest in suing United Airlines, not Republic, because Republic would likely be shielded from paying much if anything due to its current financial standing.


The infuriating thing about all of this is how deliberately obfuscated and phony everything is:

* Airline employees who aren't quite airline employees

* Cops who aren't quite cops

* Reserved seats that aren't quite reserved

Doesn't anyone honestly sell a real product that you can take at face value anymore?


This rubbish is everywhere. Contract cleaning (offices etc) for instance, used to be a profitable small business. Not enough to be rich, but enough for a big house with some decent amenities and to raise a family on a single income. Then in the 90's these gigs went into a pyramid of contracting and sub contracting companies where the company buying the service is paying more but the grunt doing the work is lucky to be on minimum wage.

At a time where small business software should have been making these middle men completely useless they were getting bigger than ever.


Everything is marketing bullshit - I spent a decade running an ecommerce agency and got to see the bellies of many beasts.

For instance, there's a pig related tea brand in the UK which is universally seen as funky and independent and all that shite. They're owned by tetley, who are in turn owned by tata. The ownership structure is sufficiently complex to make them look independent - but they aren't. It's just good marketing.

Either way, this is just one of many examples that spring to mind - oh, also, call centres - in the U.K. you can call pretty much any large business you like and you'll be talking to one of two huge call centre operators.

Then... where do you draw the line? Is private equity backing problematic when its obfuscated? Or just contract primacy?


Oh, TeaPigs? With the dachshund mascot on the Darjeeling Earl Grey, and the brown-paper boxes, and the overpriced wares? Yeah, you can get those everywhere; they're clearly _way_ too mass-market to be properly independent. If you're spending cash money the on indie feel of things, you'll be buying BigCorp sooner or later. Better to just buy quality.

> Then... where do you draw the line? Is private equity backing problematic when its obfuscated? Or just contract primacy?

Well, we're taught that the free market is efficient only when you have property rights, low barriers to entry, and low transaction costs. While monopoly issues get most of the antitrust press, I suspect that a lot of the other things people don't like about BigCorp world and the gig economy is the way that high transaction costs around hiring, firing, and most especially, contracts of all sorts. Any time these issues are complex and involve expensive lawyers, BigCorp tends to win. It's at the roots of a lot of problems these days.


Yeah, them - they're essentially an independent business unit of Tata global.

One thing that I found consistently interesting was that more often than not, their employees thought they were working for a small, independent business - and the principles would often use "we're only little" in negotiations.

When you manufacture a reality for long enough it becomes real - at least, real enough in the minds of beholders that any opposing reality is dismissed as priggish or jealous.


> If you're spending cash money the on indie feel of things, you'll be buying BigCorp sooner or later. Better to just buy quality.

Most of these start out as quality. Then what happens is that during some survey BigCorp finds out that SmallQualityCorp is nibbling away at their sales & profits and then the next thing you know SmallQualityCorp has been acquired by BigCorp.


Although what you find frequently is that SmallQualityCorp was started by BigCorp at arms length with a view to bringing them under the umbrella once they have traction.

"Sports nutrition" (the "what the hell do we do with all this cheese making byproduct industry") is rife with this - there are only two suppliers, and many, many brands and offshoots. It happens in retail, too - you see a single entity pushing multiple seemingly independent brands to target different market segments.


Then how is MyProtein so much cheaper than like everyone else?


Volume over per-sale margin. It's the exact same stuff from the same suppliers as you'd get buying a premium brand like Sci-MX etc.


See: Snapple


> in the U.K. you can call pretty much any large business you like and you'll be talking to one of two huge call centre operators.

And whose employees aren't even near the UK. Call centers are some of the most easily outsourced jobs. And what with the UK having exported the ability to communicate fluently in English through its many years of empire building they've only themselves to blame for that one.


Actually, over the past few years you've probably found more British accents than not - because they are using domestic prison labour at an increasing rate.

Oh, for added gags, one of the massive call centre operators (Serco) also operates prisons, which have quietly gone private over the last decades.


Wow.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/aug/08/prisoners-ca...

> Oh, for added gags, one of the massive call centre operators (Serco) also operates prisons, which have quietly gone private over the last decades.

That's disgusting and ought to be illegal.


I can vouch for this story. My parents went through this scenario exactly. They had gotten into office cleaning because it was relatively well paying in the 90's. But in the 90's middle men came into the mix.

Someone with better sales ability would win the contract for cleaning office, and subcontract it to someone else. And even that 2nd person might subcontract it to someone else. Eventually, the person really doing the actual cleaning barely made above minimum wage.

What does MBA school call this? Reducing cost? Increasing efficiency? Reducing risk?


Read "Debt: The First 5,000 Years." I cannot endorse this book enough. It is the most influential non-fiction book I've ever read.

Basically it's called using money as a means to make money, and this was frowned upon in many civilisations. Even today, in much of the Muslim world they do not charge interest. They do have higher bank fees (no free accounts, no free checking or electronic transfers).

Keep in mind if we travelled back in time even 100 years ago, charging 29.9% interest would be far beyond the limit of usury.

Today in the western world, we accept the idea of being able simply move around money as a career that is beneficial to society, versus simply using money for trade and exchange. I really think this is one of the worst things we could have accepted as being morally acceptable. Board executives at JPMorgan Chase, PNC and the other banks that caused so much destruction in 2008 should have been thrown in jail next to rapists, paedophiles and murders. Instead they destroyed thousands of lives and made off with millions in bonuses.


> Board executives at JPMorgan Chase, PNC and the other banks that caused so much destruction in 2008 should have been thrown in jail next to rapists, paedophiles and murders.

What strange ideas of justice the world has!

In an ostensibly advanced country, America, one side of the political spectrum would be have us remain willfully oblivious to police abuses, corrupt prosecutors withholding or fabricating evidence, and the systematic dehumanization not simply of prisoners, but of any peripherally involved with the machinery criminal justice system, especially for the purpose of deporting undesirables.

(The prison guards who put an inmate in the shower and turned on the hot water until the skin was peeling off his corpse? Normal. The immigrant detained by ICE for months and months, given aspirin for his developing penis cancer despite agency doctors' recommendation to get him to a proper examination until it was far, far too late? Incredibly normal. Predates Trump.)

The other side of this political spectrum skims over meaningful questions of actual fraudulent or unethical business practices, issuing instead a blanket equation of the practice of making loans to people who assumed their house would apprecuate in value with crimes such as murder and child abuse.

And these aren't even extremes. Both positions are pretty mainstream, real crowd-pleasers.

What the hell is wrong with us? Can we not aspire to build a world where there is actual justice, and not mere retribution against our political foes and other un-persons?


What you're implicitly arguing is that since we don't prosecute injustice evenly, we shouldn't prosecute injustice at all. There's always going to be something worse happening, it shouldn't distract us from doing what is right. You could easily make the argument that since we allow North Korea to have prison camps, we can't throw murderers into prison because actual justice doesn't exist evenly around the world.

Also finish the food on your plate, there are starving kids in Africa.


The bankers did more than make shaky loans. In some cases they committed actual fraud, amounting to billions of dollars, which had effects like wiping out people's retirement accounts.

I think you're right that they deserve less punishment than murderers. But what they got is less punishment than some people get for standing on the wrong street corner.

For details, on both the bankers and the people on street corners, see The Divide by Matt Taibbi.


A murder destroys a single life, or handful of lives, directly. Is a bank executive who wilfully commits fraud that damages million of lives better or far worse?

Regardless of how bad it is (and I do think there are arguments to be made both ways), being allowed to effectively escape punishment because the distributed nature of the crime makes it hard to comprehend its real impact is both wrong and damaging to society in the long run.


>Basically it's called using money as a means to make money, and this was frowned upon in many civilisations.

I was watching the history of York castle on Netflix. In England the Christian people wouldn't charge interest on loans but the small Jewish community did, I assume it meant a person could borrow more?

Anyway there was a huge riot by the Christian townsfolk they wanted to kill the Jewish men, women and children. Which also meant all debts held in Jewish books were wiped out.

All the Jewish people of York took refuge in the York castle keep but in the end were going to be killed by the people of York. The men slit the throats of their wives and children then the mend committed suicide.

http://www.historyofyork.org.uk/themes/norman/the-1190-massa...


> I assume it meant a person could borrow more?

It meant the lender was more willing to lend. The lender could make a business of lending if he charged interest, and not if he did not.


Intrigued by how can it be cost competitive for the middle men, why aren't small business selling directly? Is the sales part the only edge of middle men?


Because a small company has the ability to supply cleaning to X square metres across one city.

A middle-man can say "We will supply your cleaning in several cities no matter your office size."

So a company pays a higher cost - but only has to deal with one contract, which saves them effort elsewhere.

It's the same as taxi companies. It would be cheaper for you to call a small firm with lower overheads, but you're happy to pay a premium for convenience.


>So a company pays a higher cost - but only has to deal with one contract, which saves them effort elsewhere.

They have fewer contracts at any given time but also the contracts can last longer.

If I directly hire people to clean an office, when they don't want to do it anymore I need to find other people to do it. Selecting people, negotiating, getting payments set up with accounting etc. Its a distraction from more important stuff so I want to do this as rarely as possible.

If I hire a company/agency/middleman they can replace people without me having to even be aware its happening. At the point "keep the office clean" is essentially solved. Its possible I will never need to think about office cleaning ever again and I can get on with running my business.


You need the pigs. They're helping all the animals. That horse isn't really going to the glue factory. We just reused that glue factory truck, but really he was going to a retirement home (paraphrasing Orwell's Animal Farm).

When people plant themselves in the middle, they essentially sell themselves as being necessary. Are they necessary? It depends .. but usually not.


Middleman have some utility but I think often they extract more money than the value they provide.


A lot of this played out with single location companies and single city contracting companies (before they start merging). So I don't think that's the reason.

I suspect it was cost. The middle men would just under bid and then under deliver.


I see it in a slightly different angle, it is the company's Chief Officer for Cleaning Matters ;) that manages to work less (have convenience) at the expense of the company which pays more money for the service (besides the wage of the COCM ). Coincidentally that is also the same person that will convince everyone else in the company on how convenient the "global" contract is.

There are a lot of activities for which sub-contracting makes sense, particularly when there are possible economies of scale, but when the activity is merely (or largely) labour, there are only four possible overall outcomes:

1) the actual workers are paid less than what would be fair

2) the service is inferior to what was expected/agreed upon

3) the service costs more (the middlemen somehow have to take their part)

4) the contractor or sub-contractor has made wrong estimation of the costs and before or later they close or go bankrupt


Hmm, Uber for office cleaning?


So the yellow pages was basically just an uber uber?


That is a nice example of why the free market is not neccessarily the guarantor of efficiency.


But why? It exactly looks like a problem that free market should be able to solve.


Because "free market" in practice means "what the big fish allow to happen with the help from their friends at office".

The only one who can guarantee a free market (e.g. big players not monopolizing, abusing their position, underbidding and then killing small more efficient players, etc) is the government/law.

But the government is also often in the hands of big players, and passes laws to their favor.

And even when it isn't, they have the upper edge in other ways (purchasing and negotiating power, better lawyers, more money to burn, etc).

Heck, even the simple fact that "bigger player = more advertising money" can make free competition from a newcomer a non-starter. Even if the new company can make something for cheaper (despite the better economies of scale of the big players) people don't buy cheaper, they mostly buy what they know.

Hence, free market is a myth, perhaps even more so than communism.


I am not an economist, but I think it is a problem with information assymetry. The cleaning worker does not have many connections to CEOs, to wich he can sell his services, but the middle men have. The middle men can leverage this situation to gain the profit, the cleaning worker would have gained. But I have no idea, why this would evolve into a pyramid scheme. One level of "management" would have solved the "information assymetry"-problem, without inefficiency (and this could be done in a fair way, so the worker can profit too).


> The cleaning worker does not have many connections to CEOs, to wich he can sell his services, but the middle men have.

Bingo.

Additionally, in many cases the person/team carrying out a procurement process may require (often by law or company policy) a ridiculous set of documents that some sleazy company is an expert in navigating, and exploiting any loopholes or poorly-written selection criteria. They deliver crap service that barely qualifies, but the procurement person/team can say, "well technically they fit the criteria" so their ass is covered. The procurement team is not rewarded for selecting the best candidate, so they minimise their own exposure.


Also the problem is in many businesses the person choosing the cleaning company isn't spending their own money. So if company A is more expensive but Company B will take more effort to onboard due to the fact they aren't familiar with the paperwork. The employee (often on salary for unlimited hours) will pick the easier option.

Another reason to support small businesses, it helps keep markets honest.


Not a free market if there is information assymetry, it's there in the first paragraph:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_market

It says that there is a less assuming version, but I'd always heard the information thing.


Well, if that is the case, the free market is a pureley theoretical concept, that is not realized anywhere in the world. And it cannot be realized, because there is always inevitable some form of information assymetry.


Something can be a theoretical concept and still useful. For politics you might want to favour transparency instead of obscurity.

As an employee in software I've been working through intermediaries for a good part of my career, so obviously interested.

I suspect that, at least in my country, it's more a matter of bad regulation than of information assymetry. But the mere fact that we're not sure which are the causes is in itself information assymetry.


economics 101 right here. free market is a theoretical model.


Since there is inevitably going to be information asymmetry, this is rather a "no true scotsman" approach to redirecting blame away for the problems that plague free markets in the real world.


"I support our free market! But since our free market isn't really a free market, I'm still right and it's not my fault if things go wrong!"


> The cleaning worker does not have many connections to CEOs, to wich he can sell his services

I think you might of hit on a possible explanation there, maybe it's wealth inequality? When there was more equality that CEO (or company owner, or just someone near the top) might have been going to the same bars or been part of the same local sports clubs as the cleaner, their kids might have gone to the same school. Now they probably live in other parts of the city.

Politics lately has been an example of this divide.


> might have been going to the same bars or been part of the same local sports clubs as the cleaner, their kids might have gone to the same school. Now they probably live in other parts of the city.

I don't think this ever the case, in any era. Rich people in many countries definitely send their kids to posh schools through their connections (e.g. slots available for those with a parent who attended), go to different bars and follow different sports (e.g. rugby union vs football/soccer, depending on the country obviously).


>Rich people in many countries definitely send their kids to posh schools through their connections (e.g. slots available for those with a parent who attended), go to different bars and follow different sports (e.g. rugby union vs football/soccer, depending on the country obviously).

Yes, but company owners in many countries weren't that rich that the other people they provided services to. Consider a company with 10-20-100 people, serving a city.

Now, those jobs go to huge conglomerates and companies with 1000s upon 1000s of employees, and CEOs that are 100x as rich as the people buying their services.


I'm not thinking CEO of MEGCORP here, but a typical business owner or office manager of a 5-50 person office, they aren't so detached. I'm not sure which end of the wealth divide the fall on though.


Markets exist to magnify political inequalities, not to deliver cost-effective and efficient solutions.

Businesses don't compete for customers. They compete for investor and shareholder cash. For most businesses, the point of optimum return for investors is in a completely different part of the graph to the points that keep customers happy and employees secure and well-paid.


The free market is only efficient when

- property rights exist, and are enforced

- there are few barriers to entry

- transaction costs are low

My money's on transaction cost issues. BigCorp has teams of people dedicated to making customer acquisition more effective and efficient.


A free market doesn't guarantee a free society. Over time, people who have more political power can deny that to others, forming de-facto monarchies and serfdoms.

Don't forget that the state humanity started from was a totally free deregulated market, the consequences of which was the formation of tribes ruled by the strongest, most vicious guy and his spear-happy friends. When you don't have regulations, the person with the most power can impose their regulations.


> What does MBA school call this? Reducing cost?

it's called making money on someone else's dime!


Contracted pilots are often paid peanuts too. Some non-union pilots are even on food stamps. They might even be better off driving for Uber, and that's kinda terrible.


This is crazy! Any sources for this?


http://www.pilotjobsnetwork.com/jobs/Mesa - First Officer (copilot) in their first year at the company makes $19/hour, and is guaranteed 76 hours/month. Equates to $17,328 pre-tax. It's why so many regional pilots commute, because they can't afford to live near the major airport which they're based at. The result is fatigued or sick (no pay if you call in sick) pilots operating these flights.

But hey, supply and demand. They wouldn't be able to pay so little if pilots weren't applying, and that won't change anytime soon because flying at a regional for a few years is a way to build hours and move on up to the mainline airline.


I'm pretty sure that "per hour" is "block hours", such that they are paid only when the door shuts.

So there's a fair amount of waiting around that's uncompensated. There is a per-diem, but I don't think it goes beyond average cost for meals, lodging, etc.


Their actual typical monthly hours would be more informative than their contractual guarantee.


Looks like the actual total at Mesa (including per diems, etc.) was $20,183 last year[1].

[1] https://www.alpa.org/news-and-events/news-room/2016-08-16-st...


It says on that chart that they did the same thing as your above comment, multiplying the guaranteed hours by the minimum hourly wage.

It could well be that they all work the minimum hours. I doubt it, this would be more expensive for the airline.


Well they're limited by the FAA to 1000 hours / year, so they'd have to be averaging 83 hours/month at most.


Please tell me you the ToS for every online service, every time it's updated. The internet-enabled side of industry virtually invented this modus operandi.


> The internet-enabled side of industry virtually

I see what you did there.

Are Internet services even obligated to notify you when they change their ToS, or do I really have to run a script every night that diffs the current ToS with last recorded one, for every service I use?


> Doesn't anyone honestly sell a real product that you can take at face value anymore?

It's all about risk. Outsourcing means companies transfer risk to other parties. Governments love to do it too, that's why entities like the EU are given sovereign power or public transport is privatised. What's this? A train crashed because of a poorly maintained rail? Scheduled maintenance overran and commuters are angry? The power grid is experiencing brown outs because there's not enough power stations? Sorry, that third party is to blame... bad third party! I totally understand why it's annoying, but I have nothing to do with third party etc.

So in a way, United taking the blame for these things is refreshing. They are treating the outsourcing as their own responsibility.


> refreshing

sigh

> they have a vested interest in keeping Republic afloat through its bankruptcy (and therefore, discreetly accepting blame)


Microsoft employees that aren't Microsoft employees..


Yep, Wipro, Experis and Unisys are popular now for MSFT.


Since Republic is contracting for United, United is probably liable under vicarious liability principles anyway, so conspiracy theories about why they don't try to deflect blame aren't really needed.


Agreed, but I was reiterating the author's (admittedly speculative) point here. It is interesting even if it's not conclusive; the incentive is at least there, if not the intention.

That said, I wouldn't call it a conspiracy theory. I'd call it shrewd business acumen. If the law permits you to reduce your costs using contracted third parties, you'll likely avail yourself of the opportunity when shareholders are demanding returns. It sounds sensational, but I think it's really quite mundane.


Conversely, it's common for contracting firms to include a clause requiring the subcontracting firm to indemnify the contractor. So United would be able to push it back onto Republic.


Indemnification wouldn't eliminate United's liability, it would just entitle United to sue Republic for reimbursement for whatever it had to pay. Which, given Republic's bankruptcy, puts United in the same problematic spot a victim would be in if they had to sue only Republic and United wasn't liable under repsondeat superior.


I also read this author's post about bankrupt airlines. I've always been aware of the subcontracted airlines (often I'd see two flight numbers rotating on the same screen or somewhere it would say X operated by Y) but I never stopped to think if I should check if one of those is actually bankrupt.

I don't fly within the US just because fuck the TSA (I'll take a train to Canada if I need to fly internationally), but I'm going to be more careful now about checking the subcontracted airline to make sure they're not in bankruptcy.


I don't think "X operated by Y" means subcontracted or that it implies that X is in bankruptcy. Companies do this all the time, one example is when you buy a multi-leg flight. They partner other airlines because they dont have a license to do one of the legs.

I might be completely wrong but thats what I always though, please correct me.


oh it doesn't, but in this particular case, Republic was contracted by United and they are bankrupt.

I was implying that if you see tickets and they're subcontracted to another airline, look up that airline and don't book if they're bankrupt.


Wouldn't that still leave United liable, and only obligate Republic to pay United for their loss?

Probably leaves United in a bad spot, considering Republic is bankrupt and United depends on them for services.


That clause is unlikely to hold against litigation on grounds that the paying customer was given the deliberate impression that he/she was entering into a contract agreement with United.

Unless of course the ticket contract with paying customers makes it a clause that United isn't responsible.


How can a bankrupt airline still be flying?

The whole thing really exposes the cracks and deliberate obfuscation in an industry I thought would be regulated like crazy.


There are several kinds of bankruptcy. One is the kind you're thinking of, where whatever's left is divided up and given to creditors. Another provides a sort of time-out for the business to work its problems out without creditors hassling them. When a business "emerges" from bankruptcy it's a successful conclusion of that second kind.

There are more kinds.


It is "regulated like crazy", by corrupted politicians like David Samson.

United even created his own route from Newark to SC so he can fly home...

In January 2015, federal prosecutors subpoenaed records related to Samson's personal travel, and his relationship with Newark Liberty International Airport's largest carrier, United Airlines, as part of a probe into a flight route initiated by United while Samson was chairman of the transportation agency that operates the region's airports. The route provided non-stop service between Newark and Columbia Metropolitan Airport in South Carolina, located about 50 miles from a home where Samson often spent weekends. United halted the non-stop route on April 1, 2014, three days after Samson resigned from the position. Samson referred to the twice-a-week route — with a flight leaving Newark on Thursday evenings and another returning on Monday mornings — as “the chairman’s flight.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Samson_(lawyer)


> Samson was ordered to pay a $100,000 fine and sentenced to a year of home confinement at the South Carolina vacation house that was subject of the crime

This really shouldn't amaze me anymore, but it still does. The justice system is a very different place depending on the amount of money and power you have.


So in today's capitalism, you can shift and dilute the blame so much, that you can literally beat up your customers.


>discreetly accepting blame

Have you seen the news and social media lately? United has been the butt of the blame "discreetly" the way James Bond making his way from point A to point B in a city while blowing up, crashing, and destroying everything in his path is "discreet".

Can you honestly name or a remember a PR disaster as bad as this one about any company in the past two years?

I would phrase it as "loudly and publicly accepting blame and a tremendous backlash".


> Can you honestly name or a remember a PR disaster as bad as this one about any company in the past two years?

There was one, funnily enough much of the bad PR was doled out by the airlines: samsung. Everyone that went though an airport got to hear "samsung galaxy devices are not allowed on this plane".


Can you honestly name or a remember a PR disaster as bad as this one about any company in the past two years?

Volkswagen was probably just as bad at the time. Now of course most people have kind of forgotten or at least moved on and VW just posted strong Q1 results, handily beating estimates.


Glad you brought that up. VW has even less to do with the dieselgate scandal than UA has with this O'Hare incident. VW uses engines and engine software parametrization from Audi. Audi uses engine software and esp. the cheating device from Bosch. Everyone else also uses it. But VW being the biggest of them all is getting the blame and has to pay the fine.


The VW group owns Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, SEAT, ...

If I remember correctly the Bosch cheating software was there for testing purposes but VW asked Bosch to leave it.

> Everyone else also uses it

No. Some companies optimize their engine to have optimal emissions in the exact conditions of the emissions test, but no other company has been found to have an actual digital switch modifying the engine's behavior only during the emissions test.


Oh my. Audi is the engineering part of VW, VW the low quality, mass market part of the brand. Engines are developed at Audi, they are the engineers after all, VW is a logistics and support company.

Porsche is the owner of the VW group. They bought most of the controlling stock.

Since everybody uses Bosch ECU's and most of the companies knew about this cheating low temp. switch in the ECU parametrization, it is no surprise that most of them have been caught using it. It is not illegal in Europe though, because laws are different here.

The only surprise is that media is ignoring it, and blaming VW who would be the last to blame.


Get yourself educated and watch the relevant CCC talk please.


> discreetly accepting blame

GP isn't suggesting there isn't any blame, but that United is low-key accepting the blame/'taking one for the team'. United has decided not to throw any of the involved parties under the bus, even though it is likely that most of them - possibly all of them - do not work directly for United.


This makes no sense to me. The subcontracted brands are worthless, like actually bankrupt, and nobody knows them. Why take the brand hit on "United"? I wouldn't call it "throwing them under the bus" to at least mention this. The amount of backlash against United and its brand is hideous.


> Why take the brand hit on "United"?

Maybe because United badly wants Republic to not go into liquidation? As to how badly - the dollar value is the difference between how much United is paying to contract versus how much they would have to pay their own Union staff.


It makes the brand look even worse if they refuse to accept responsibility for something that was ultimately their decision. It's their supplier [contractor].


Jesus! So far I naively thought that the rotting of commercial flying in America is created only by corrupted politicians who instead of forcing Government to investigate price fixing by major airlines, look somewhere else (over the last 5 years my summer ticket to europe went up about 10% Y/Y; meanwhile oil price went down some 40%, clearly there is a fix as oppose to gas stations where price of gallon follows cruide oil ups and downs). But this crazy trick of working with bankrupt company to avoid union that's pure devil's genius!

I can only pray someone from the Committee they meeting on soon read this or the article and can actually inquiry about this when they have a chance!

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