We’re now 4 months into April 2017 and twice so far United Airlines has made the news on the negative side of the publicity spectrum.
First, we had the legging catastrophe of March, when two girls traveling under employee passes wore leggings that did not meet the dress codes linked to those passes. Social media erupted in backlash at the airline even after they explained their policies which re stated on their website. Tweeters criticized the dress code for being sexist, inconsistent and poorly enforced. The hashtag #leggingsgate was quick to trend through the Twitter platform and to be honest, United Air had no idea what the heck to do.
Then, two days ago, Twitter lost it’s you-know-what again when a rather disturbing video popped up all over the social media world of officers forcibly dragging a passenger off an overbooked United flight to the point where the man was bleeding. The video is posted below but I must warn you, it isn’t the best thing to watch and it will probably visibly anger you. Or at least made you ask WTH?
The obvious issue here is that a passenger was dragged off the plane in an unnecessarily violent way. But there is a debate surrounding this: whose fault was it?
United is responsible for overbooking the flight and its not uncommon for airlines to do this. The issue here isn’t exactly that the flight was overbooked, because the airline in fact had to make room for crew members.
Here’s the other need-to-know: If you are bumped from your flight, you are legally responsible to oblige. You also have the legal right to negotiate compensation deals for the travel inconvenience. So in this debate, both of those are facts to consider.
In my opinion here the issue is not that the passenger was bumped, the issue is not that he did not want to get off, the issue is that under these circumstances, those sent to remove the passenger did so in such a violent physical manner. Yeah, the guy was mad he had to leave, we all would be, but he didn’t have to literally be dragged by his arms down the aisle of the plane. To me that’s something the can be agreed on.
United has since apologized for the incident, but going forward I think there may be a bit more soul-searching to be done on their part.
Should they make employee pass dress codes more accessible and public to users rather than on a back page of their site? Should they set out better overbooking/ seat bumping policies? Maybe guidelines on how to interact with resisting customers?
Then maybe we as travelers need to take some time to make sure we don’t put ourselves in these situations, or if they can’t be avoided, have the knowledge to handle those situations. Maybe we always keep a change of clothes (which I recommend anyways in case your luggage gets lost, but that’s a different story), or maybe we read our negotiating rights and options ahead of time to prepare for a worst case scenario?
Perhaps that’s what should be up for debate?