While the world rages against United Airlines, I am outraged by the selfishness of the passenger removed from a plane in the much-discussed incident — and by the lack of critical thinking among everyone else. Empty-headed commentators have given no thought to why the problem occurred or why the solution was justified.
As an initial matter, don’t complain about airlines being allowed to overbook, because that is not what happened in this case. If overbooking had occurred, the computer system would not have printed out boarding passes or assigned seats, and passengers would not have been allowed to board.
The issue was that a flight crew arrived at the last minute and announced that it needed to get to the destination city to staff another flight. I do not know whether the flight crew had been delayed by weather or mechanical problems, or whether they were replacing a crew that had encountered a problem. But it’s obvious that the crew’s needs were an unexpected development.
Contrary to what the reports would have you believe, this wasn’t a case where airline employees simply got to bump paying passengers for the convenience of the employees.
United had two plane loads of people being affected. The departing flight could not leave until a passenger got off — and another flight in the destination city could not take off until its crew arrived. Having unsuccessfully offered generous compensation to volunteers, United did what it is allowed to do under federal regulations and decided to remove passengers.
In making that decision, United used criteria somewhat akin to last in/first out. Somebody had to give up a seat, and it is more than reasonable to give preference to people who had paid higher prices, booked earlier, etc. In the end, someone had to go.
The defiant United passenger was oblivious to the famous admonition that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Instead, this passenger decided that his needs outweighed those of all the other people on the plane with him and all of the people in the destination city who would also be delayed. If he felt he was being wronged by being removed, he could have pursued legal remedies (although he would have lost). Instead, he reacted like many six-year-olds who don’t want to go to bed or eat their vegetables.
United personnel did not escort him off the plane. Instead, they enlisted law enforcement. After their attempts at reasoning failed, the officers removed him. His histrionics were the cause of any injury he might have suffered.
Anyone who chooses to disobey the police is entitled to no sympathy from me. The fact that anyone is on his side is troubling.
Bob Gust, of Bloomington, is a lawyer.