Silly people

Seeking to quell the uproar over a man being dragged off a plane, United Airlines announced on Tuesday that it would refund the tickets for all customers who were on the flight when the man was removed and that it would no longer ask police to remove passengers from full flights.

The airline said that passengers on United Express Flight 3411 on Sunday would be compensated equal to the cost of their tickets and could take the compensation in cash, travel credits or miles.

If you’d offered just a bit more cash back then this would never have happened.

And why are you compensating those who did fly?

Some grand gesture probably is needed but this almost certainly isn’t it.

30 comments on “Silly people

  1. Why restrict themselves to people who got to keep their seats? Self-immolation by the big cheese would make abused passengers around the world happier.

  2. Presumably, the logic is that those who witnessed the event might be upset by the experience. Probably worried about passengers suing for suffering PTSD.

  3. At this point I’d say the only grand gesture that will help is a fat out of court settlement.

  4. Believe it or not, there is a regulation that dictates maximum (yes, maximum, not minimum) compensation

    https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/250.5

    I can actually see how this happened. The gate agent offered the maximum they were legally able to, and probably the maximum they had any authorisation to. Didn’t work, so selected someone for replanting. Someone didn’t like it, so cops were called. Cops did what Cops were broadly supposed to do, with a little extra enthusiasm.

    That’s not to excuse it; it’s one of those situations where protocol overrides actual thinking. Just that the escalation was kind of built into the protocol.

    This is what annoys me about the initial letter from the CEO congratulating the staff for ‘following protocol’. There no recognition that it’s a stupid protocol.

    ‘I was only following orders’

  5. There no recognition that it’s a stupid protocol.

    Absolutely. There were people on here and other social media who were scratching their heads and saying “it was all perfectly legal”* and wondering what the fuss was about.

    * Though there are doubts whether what they did WAS actually legal.

  6. I think there is a difference between the maximum compensation one is legally entitled to, i.e. what an aggrieved customer can demand, and what an airline might voluntarily offer.

  7. I read on twitter, so it must be true, that the plane was delayed by 2 hours as a result of the incident and its aftermath, including the need to clean up the spilt blood. Thus the compensation

  8. Having (briefly) looked at the United terms and conditions, it always refers to people being denied boarding, which can be done pretty much at the airline’s discretion with some pretty paltry maximum compensation (have we had fiscal drag on these amounts?). It doesn’t seem to refer to people being thrown off the flight once they’ve boarded, except where they’re being disruptive or abusive. It’s perhaps a hole in the rules, but I’d have thought that a decent lawyer could make a decent case that the situation had gone past the point of no return, so United was acting ultra vires.

    From experience of HMRC’s position in this sort of situation, I think United might well want to settle out of court to avoid having a formal decision regarding the extent of their powers. The court might say they were permitted to do what they did, but on the other hand it might heavily restrict their ability to overbook…. possibly too much of a risk of the latter to have it in black and white.

  9. Believe it or not, there is a regulation that dictates maximum (yes, maximum, not minimum) compensation

    I don’t believe it. That regulation lays down the compensation for involuntary denial of boarding. The section on voluntary denial doesn’t stipulate any particular amount.

  10. tim , this is an economics problem, They said they used a computer to select a random. I’m thinking of some kind of blind auction, where the lowest amount of the passengers gets the comp and gets bumped. United should offer a prize for someone comiing up with the model. They should then put all their lobbying effort to get regs changed.

  11. The only way to fix the situation now from the shareholders point of view is for the CEO and his advisors plus half the board and the Chairman to go.

    Every day this announcement is delayed only adds more of the senior team to the list.

  12. — “Replanting = Deplaning ”

    It actually works okay if you simply read ‘cops” as ‘crops’.

  13. “Believe it or not, there is a regulation that dictates maximum (yes, maximum, not minimum) compensation”

    That’s not a maximum amount, it is a cap on the minimum amount. The airline could pay more, but isn’t obliged to do so.

  14. Agreed with Pro Bono & AlexM – the regulation quoted requires compulsory compensation for involuntary denial of boarding, which it caps. It doesn’t stop the airline offering more (and it says nothing about offering more for people to accept a voluntary reallocation), it just says they don’t have to.

    Also, from what I’ve read, the offer was in vouchers, not cash, making it a less attractive offer. There’s nothing in those regs that requires that (although it is allowed).

    Whole problem is they’re relying on selection and force, rather than voluntary markets. If they’d had a bidding system, none of this would have happened. British airlines do that (a friend flies regularly and has taken it several times – he’s got pretty good at judging when to accept).

  15. “I can actually see how this happened. The gate agent offered the maximum they were legally able to, and probably the maximum they had any authorisation to. Didn’t work, so selected someone for replanting. Someone didn’t like it, so cops were called.”

    They didn’t offer the legal maximum at all (which is $1350), they offered $800, and that not in cash but United flight vouchers, so worth considerably less than the face value, perhaps half, and its only worth that if you need another flight any time soon, otherwise its worthless.

    So if you needed to get home would you accept just over £300 worth of future flights for the inconvenience of an extra night (in some shitty hotel no doubt) away from home, or not getting to your meeting/appointment/whatever on time? Or would you say ‘Stuff that, I want to get to my destination that I’ve paid you to take me to’?

  16. The value of these legacy airlines appears to be in the legacy landing slots they “own”.

    UAL “owns” 70% of the slots at Newark NJ. The governor of NJ is getting a bit worried about what happens when the leasing companies ground all UAL planes because they want their money back.

  17. bloke in france
    “UAL “owns” 70% of the slots at Newark NJ. The governor of NJ is getting a bit worried about what happens when the leasing companies ground all UAL planes because they want their money back.”

    I wouldn’t worry; if the slots have any value, even if the airline is bankrupt the administrators will lease them out.

    If not, create more slots and lease them short-term subject to the existing airline not using theirs – so if there’s an existing 15:20 slot that isn’t being used, create a subordinated 15:21 slot (or, if the airport is Heathrow-level full, a 15:00:05 slot).

    But if the airport had any sense when they created these slots, there will be a non-use revert clause so if the airline can’t or won’t use them, they lapse and the airport can reallocate them.

  18. United might well want to settle out of court to avoid having a formal decision regarding the extent of their powers. The court might say they were permitted to do what they did, but on the other hand it might heavily restrict their ability to overbook

    The problem here for United is there is no win for them in court. Even if all of the charges raised by Dr. Dao’s lawyers were dismissed, the resultant rehashing of the airlines behaviour in a courtroom with United Airlines employees on the stand and probably even the CEO himself, given his interventions would be a PR disaster.

    Even if an out-of-court settlement is in the tens of millions at this point, United Airlines needs to settle to prevent the outrage of millions of Americans turning into a full-blown boycott of the airline.

    It’s not just the passengers, it’s the companies who have preferred travel partners. If they start implementing corporate travel policies which say their employees will be booked on United Airlines only as a last resort (where no other carrier is available), then United will go bust in a matter of months.

    Any company looking for a PR bump could claim to be being a “good corporate citizen” and supportive of fellow American’s could just issue a press release and free PR follows.

    This has ceased to be about a passenger incident or even about a man being beaten, this is viral. It has become about whether United Airlines lives or dies.

  19. “This has ceased to be about a passenger incident or even about a man being beaten, this is viral. It has become about whether United Airlines lives or dies.”

    What do you reckon it would take to get public opinion back on their side, at least enough to be prepared to fly United as an option? What would they have to give? Its going to have to be a pretty big (and probably expensive) gesture to get people to go ‘OK thats costing them, they might mean it’.

    Incidentally, to what extent is the public’s reaction to this event less about the event itself, and more about the public just being fed up with being treated like cattle by the airlines and the State airline security theatre? Are UA unlucky in that their actions have just been a catalyst to release a deep seated groundswell of public anger about how air transport is working in general, rather than the specific case at hand?

  20. Are UA unlucky in that their actions have just been a catalyst to release a deep seated groundswell of public anger about how air transport is working in general, rather than the specific case at hand?

    That’s always the way: BP got unlucky with Macondo, everyone was at it. Ditto Arthur Anderson.

  21. Are UA unlucky in that their actions have just been a catalyst to release a deep seated groundswell of public anger about how air transport is working in general, rather than the specific case at hand?

    I believe you are correct. There is a great deal of anger (not at all deep seated, very much at the surface) at the way flying in the US has turned from a relatively straight-forward way of getting from A-to-B into an excuse for shitty behaviour with the potential for being groped and irradiated.

    Strangely enough, Americans don’t like having to pay good money to get treated like cattle. They put up with it because they have to in order to get where they need to be in a country that is too large to travel across using other alternatives (car, rail, bus, etc.)

    Even when the company pays, they only put up with it because it is their livelihood. So when a paying passenger, who was not causing anyone a problem until United “randomly”* decided that he was ejected, gets beaten up by Airport Police / Security on the say so of an airline employee because “Computer says no!”, people get angry.

    This was a powderkeg that was waiting to blow and given the pro-airline staff / anti-customer attitude of the US airlines (not just United), people have decided that enough is enough.

    This whole incident was a problem of United’s own manufacture, but most airlines have the same or similar procedures. This was more of a systems failure than a matter of poor decision making by airline staff.

    They were under pressure and their options were limited by company policy which they would have been fired for breaking.

    When you take away an employee’s ability to solve problems then escalation happens automatically, which appears to be what happened in this case. Management had tied their hands to incentivise voluntary removal from the flight, so when Dr. Dao objected they felt their only option was to call the cops.

    Shitty behaviour caused by a shitty company trying to run an airline on the cheap, empowered by shitty laws, enforced by state sanctioned thugs.

    That was what caused this and why people are angry.

    * – …and it is unclear how “random” this actually was

  22. gets beaten up by Airport Police / Security on the say so of an airline employee because “Computer says no!”

    I didn’t see this before:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/13/david-dao-will-probably-sue-united-airlines-incident-lawyer/

    “Mr Demetrio also said that Mr Dao suffered a concussion, a broken nose and two broken teeth during the incident and that he now requires reconstructive surgery.”

    Did this just get a whole lot worse, or was that old news?

    US cops eh?

  23. They didn’t offer the legal maximum at all (which is $1350), they offered $800…

    You are correct about the value of vouchers, but I don’t see that the cited regulation sets out a maximum for either. “Company must pay X” does not imply “…and no more.” Companies are always free to offer more than required, if good customer relations is a concern – admittedly, not likely, given that we are talking about an airline, and in particular, about United.

  24. I mentioned this in the other thread, but I guess it had dropped off the radar by then.

    According to a guest on Sean Hannity’s radio show, this week, one of the passengers got up and announced “I’ll do it for $1600”, but the flight crew ignored her.

    JG makes a very perceptive point. It’s not just United, we’re sick of the whole fucking lot of them.

    As I said at Mr Newman’s place: I’ll say this for United, though; they treat you like a king. Granted, that’s Rodney King, but the point stands.

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