For many years now the slogan for United Airlines has been “Fly the Friendly Skies of United“. Two incidences recently have belied the United Airlines message. The first on March 26th dealt with the refusal of a ticket agent to allow two girls wearing leggings from boarding a flight because they were “dressed inappropriately“ by United Airlines standards. Had these teens been nude there might have been a point to their being barred, however, leggings today are deemed appropriate dress by an overwhelming majority of the country. That being the case I wonder where in hell United Airlines arrogates to itself the right to impose a “dress code“?
More disturbing and far more immediate was the bloody spectacle of a passenger being forcibly removed from a plane due to “overbooking“. The phone video of this incident has been shown worldwide and United’s stock value has fallen to the tune of a billion dollars. So widespread is people’s curiosity about this that at least 480 million Chinese have viewed the video on the Chines version of Twitter. Much of the discussion about this incident has been so highly critical of the airline’s that its’ “CEO has had to backtrack abjectly“ from his original strong defense of the appropriateness of the removal. From my perspective there are two interrelated points about this incident that I think has been underplayed in all the commentary and these points are directly interrelated.
The firs point is that this was not a case of “overbooking“.
The problem was caused by the fact that United had four employees that they needed to get to Louisville the next day on company business and so the decision was made to remove four passengers to get them aboard this flight. That was not “Overbooking“, it was the arrogance of a powerful company that put its’ corporate interest above those of the passengers they serve. I’m certain that the airline could have found alternate transportation for these employees that would not have led to this forcible ejection.
Which leads me to my second point and that is we see yet again another failure of the Conservative philosophy of “deregulation“ of businesses to make service more efficient.