Monday, April 10, 2017

Asian passenger forcibly dragged out of U.S. flight

The passenger was dragged off United's Flight 3411.
UNITED AIRLINES blew it. Why don't they just say that?

By now, you've heard about the passenger who was forcibly dragged off a United flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, because it needed to accommodate some United employees.

Instead of apologizing to the Asian passenger, United apologized to the other passengers, who based on smart phone videos, were clearly horrified by the incident, for overbooking the flight.

As usual, the airline offered vouchers to any volunteers. They bumped up the voucher amount from $400 to $800, and when no one took it, United said they would draw people at random. 

What made matters worst, the airline let passengers board the plane, but then once everyone was seated, they said that four people had to give up their seats to make way for United crew members who needed to be on the flight. Their own employees!

Therefore, it appears it was not even a case of overbooking as most media have reported. Their employees had to be on Flight 3411 so other flights would not be delayed. United couldn't foresee the need for making reservations for their own employees; or is bumping paying passengers to accommodate their poor scheduling efforts a matter of practice?

Three other passengers left their seats without incident.

The fourth passenger, whose name was drawn claimed to be a doctor and said that he wouldn't get off a flight that he had paid for, saying that he had patients to see the next morning. When he wouldn't get off the plane voluntarily, security personnel came on and violently dragged him off. Videos of the incident make it pretty clear that the scene wasn't pretty, and you can hear people around the doctor shouting in alarm.

The still unidentified man was later allowed to reboard the flight but by then the traumatic event apparently had affected him. Passenger videos showed him acting in a dazed matter, muttering, "I have to get home. I have to get home."  His face was bloodied from the confrontation with the burley security guards who removed him.

Overbooking flights and bumping passengers is pretty standard practice for all airlines. It is not uncommon or illegal. The Department of Transportation (DOT) says most airlines overbook their scheduled flights “to a certain extent” in order to compensate for no-shows. When that occurs, airlines are required to first offer volunteers compensation in exchange for their seats before bumping someone involuntarily.

Anyone bumped against their will may be entitled to compensation, the agency says, and must be given a written statement detailing their rights and explaining how the airline decides who gets on an overbooked flight and who doesn't.

United will likely suffer hundreds of thousands of dollars - if not millions - of bad publicity from this latest incident. Recently, the airline was lambasted for kicking off two young girls for wearing leggings.

As might be expected, social media was immediately all abuzz about United's treatment of its passenger. Passengers posted videos on their social media accounts. The disturbing incident drew the attention of at least one member of Congress, Sen. Bob Melendez.
After the Asian man returned to the plane, he was clearly distraught. He kept repeating, "Just kill me. Just kill me, Just kill me." The public humiliation - a matter of face - and mental health repercussions for the man might be worst than the incident itself.

Eventually the man moved to the front of the plane and collapsed before being taken off the plane on a stretcher, according to the NYTimes. The guard who dragged the passenger off the plane was suspended during the investigation.

The aggrieved passenger will likely have no problem finding a lawyer. Unfortunately, the unhappy passenger has little legal recourse. This is because of the “broad discretion” airlines have under their carriage contracts, Dan Lear, an attorney in Seattle told CNN. The carrier also could argue that a passenger who refuses instructions to exit has become belligerent and thus “a security risk” for the crew, he said.

UPDATED: This story was updated at 8:20 p.m. to clarify that the passenger was eventually removed from the Flight 3411.