United screwed up, and rather than raise their offering to fix their greedy mistake, they used FORCE against a peaceful man to ensure their needs. This must be written with a personal tone, because every bone in my body fights writing these articles. I hate these articles. I hate unruly behavior articles and mini airline scandals. Sometimes, however, things just “hit the fan”, as they say. The United incident which unfolded over the last day, from a small story into national headlines is a seriously big deal, because it’s a scary narrative of power and greed…

To Recap What Happened…

A United Express flight from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. United desperately needed to position four crew members to Louisville in a timely manner, which would allow for their mandated crew rest period. The airline received no volunteers for $400 bump vouchers and overnight accommodations, so it upped its price to $800, the overnight accommodations and flight the next day. No one took it, so they decided to involuntarily bump passengers, starting with a doctor and his wife. The doctor maintained he needed to be at the hospital the next day and refused, without force.

Involuntary Bumps Are Not Cool, And Complicated…

If you are involuntarily bumped off a flight or denied boarding (did not volunteer) and the airline can’t get you to your destination within two hours, you’re entitled to four times the fare you paid in the United States. You MUST comply with crew instructions, and therefore this poor gentleman’s only fault is that he did not comply first, and raise hell second. Involuntary bumps are a last ditch effort by an airline to create space, either for a very important passenger or to accommodate the needs of the airline. Though the man should’ve complied in theory, a plane full of people insisted that the vouchers offered were not enough to get them off the plane, so rather than engage in negotiation, the airline had police forcibly remove a passenger to fulfill their needs. Bumps happen for valid reasons, but treating bumped passengers with the utmost respect is essential. This is horrendous, this is military rule.

United Was Terrible, But The Police Are The Real Story…

The doctor, of Asian descent, which I only mention because some consider this a case of racial profiling, was one of the passengers selected to be involuntarily de boarded. He refused. He needed to be in a hospital for work the next day. After his refusal, the airline, much like the bad guys in an predictable action movie, called their “goons” in to physically remove the passenger. The police, in an unquestionably brutal overuse of force pulled the passenger from his seat, forcing him to hit his head, bloodied his mouth, knocked him (what appears to be) unconscious and then dragged him down the aisle of the plane, lifeless. He was not physically aggressive.

What Happened Next Was Truly Shocking, And Unfolded Only Today…

The man was clearly brutalized in the police incident. His face was visibly bloody, he was distraught, perhaps in danger of concussion, and all of this was over an airline’s need to move cabin crew from one city to another. That’s NOT a passengers problem.  Somehow United subsequently allowed the doctor to return to the flight they just booted him from, perhaps realizing that the police escalation and bully tactic would result in a PR nightmare, as well it should. When he returned on board he kept repeating “kill me now”, with blood dripping down his face. What kind of times do we live in where police brutalize a non aggressive passenger to fulfill an airline narrative? Video of the battered man here. 

Why Didn’t Passengers Speak Up? Why Did United PR Fail Again? Police Are Suspended, Thank Goodness…

I must say, I’m ashamed that no passengers seemed to step in here and state the obvious. United screwed up, and rather than raising the ante further to entice passengers to de board they used FORCE against a peaceful man. I without a doubt would’ve stood up and made a scene here. I can say that with full confidence. Why didn’t anyone take this stance? United proceeded to apologize to delayed passengers, but said nothing of the man whom they caused bodily harm. In a positive development today, the officers in question are on leave, though I’m sure it’s paid leave, as per their overly generous unions. Another United failure. It’s a wonder I haven’t set foot on the airline in 12 years. As someone who was physically harmed by an airline this year, all I can say is that I hope he doesn’t settle, and that he takes them and Chicago PD to the cleaners. Airlines only understand when their wallets are hit, these days.