Friday, April 14, 2017

Fly The Unfriendly Skies With United

I'm old enough to remember when people actually dressed up to get on an airplane like it was a social event. I mean, high heels, dresses, suits, ties; the whole nine yards. Now we have people showing up at airports looking, at best, like they're going to a slumber party. At worst, many patrons resemble homeless people. I'm also old enough to remember United Airlines advertising campaign slogan, "Fly the friendly skies of United." Every time I'm waiting, this is my hopeful image of who I will see when boarding:


Or this- an entire crew waiting happily to greet The Queen of The Universe!


But, that's fantasy. We all know that this is how it feels to fly these days, sadly...


Or, perhaps this image best conveys how your last flight felt?


I most certainly recall feeling like this. In fact, recently on a flight from Chicago, My Lion had to ask for a seat change because the man next to him was so large that Mike was actually turned out into the aisle which has to be against regulations, if not a crime against his aching back! Thankfully, the Flight Attendant was happy to get him another.


Sadly, that sort of help did not come for this United passenger who was dragged from a plane by airport security. Yep, dragged. A 60 something year old physician who was buckled into his seat next to his wife on their way home.


Normally I'm a rules girl. If you have the authority to tell me what to do, I'll generally do it without issue. So I could argue that the man brought on the altercation because he refused to get off the plane when told. However, as a PR professional and Human Being, I can't let this go by without commenting.

In this case, the flight was double overbooked, (Yes, that's actually a real thing, a real business practice!)  The airlines have taken to overbooking every single flight that they send down a runway. It started when the price of gas etc, was taking big bites out of their bottom lines. The airlines started coming up with all sorts of creative ways to help staunch the flow of red ink. That's when baggage handling fees went crazy and getting bumped more frequently from flights making a bad situation, worse. It changed the stressful occasion of flying into something akin to having one's head shaved with a cheese grater. It didn't simply go from bad to worse-- it went from bad to Third Circle of Hellish.

So, back to the elderly man on the plane. The airline needed four passengers to give up their seats because, ready for it, they needed seats to get some of their employees to their connecting flight. Yep, you heard me, they needed paying customers to give up their seats so their crew wouldn't be held up from getting where they needed to be, thereby causing the cascading effect of other missed flights. They offered $800 to any passenger who would give up their seat.  Perhaps that seems reasonable.

But, not to me. As far as I'm concerned, no business worth its salt passes on the pain of operating to a paying customer! And, the fact that United overbooks flights to the point that they can't get their crews around the country is certainly a problem for them. However, it should not have been that man's problem. But it became a big one!

Three passengers took the proffered $800, but the flight was still short one seat. Next they randomly selected the seat, which was occupied by the doctor. When they asked him to get off, he refused saying he had patients whom he needed to see in the morning. It would also mean that, either his wife get off with him, or she'd have to travel on alone.

The flight crew got airport security involved when Dr. Passenger refused to get up out of his PAID FOR seat. Before you could say, Buckle up, boys it's going to be a bumpy ride," the man is bloodied, dragged down the aisle by his arms, while every other passenger has out their cell phones videoing the entire nasty business. The poor man ends up in the hospital with some serious injuries. Can anyone say, "Lawsuit,"?

Post event, the horrified passengers began releasing their videos and the entire situation rightfully went viral. I could just imagine their PR Person screaming in his head, "Are you freaking kidding me?! How the hell can I even begin to spin this one?!" He gave it a really good try. In fact, the CEO of United took to the airwaves and did what you might expect, defend his crew for doing what they are supposed to do, etc. But when the backlash washed over him and United sending their stock prices into a tail spin, (see what I did there?), he was busy trying to publicly walk it all back and apologize. To no avail. Now they've refunded the tickets to all the passengers in an effort to say "Sorry you had to see that!"

As if that could even help.

Here's my point, aside from the one I stated about how stupid it is for any company to think it's right to pass off their operational problems onto a paying customer. While so many other businesses seem to have got the wake up call about how customers will not tolerate poor customer service, the air lines still act as if we are brainless cattle to be transported to slaughter.

Those who work in the industry complain about how we all act on flights these days; how we dress or don't dress to be seen in public; how fat we are; how demanding we are; how totally rude we can be. All the while making more money off of customers than they've ever made as an industry. In case you think they'd do away with those fees that may have been necessary to keep them afloat during the lean times, you'd be very wrong. Instead, the fees are still there and getting higher, and they've made the seats smaller, stripping away any form of comfort. No food is served, no in-flight entertainment, nothing at all. The Airline industry, through their choices, has turned it into an us against them scenario with you feeling like a sucker for paying to be abused. Tempers are short, memories are long, and no one is happy or satisfied. Sounds like a brewing recipe for disaster.

Now we can add physical abuse to the list of those things the unfriendly skies will provide at your full cost. How very nice of them.


From now on when I fly, instead of taking out flight insurance, I think I'm going to see if I can get a policy that offers Combat Pay. It seems like it will come in way more handy.

Namaste' Till Next Time,
Holly aka She Who Still Flies But...

2 comments:

Alison said...

I'm totally with you on this one, Holly. I can't think of any words to describe what happened, to be honest.

hitaakademi said...
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