After being in the news about not letting two women on a flight while wearing leggings because it violated their dress code, United Airlines is back in the news for the wrong reasons.

Video showed a passenger being dragged off a United flight at O’Hare Airport after he refused to be taken off the flight. The man was randomly selected to be removed as the flight was overbooked.

Overbooked flights isn’t uncommon. Airlines intentionally overbook a few seats in case of last-minute cancellations, the plane can be filled. This could also be solved with a standby list that goes the other way but either way, it’s common practice.

United also did what airlines would normally do if flights are overbooked, offering money. They first offered $400 and a hotel room for anyone to volunteer to seek a Monday afternoon flight. If you have some flexibility in your travel, it’s a nice way to pick up some cash.

Then when the flight was boarded (really “smart” move), four standby United crew needed on. The airline bumped their offer to $800 but nobody volunteered. United randomly selected four people and while three willingly disembarked, one refused to leave, claiming he was a doctor and needed to see patients Monday morning. After causing a scene, law enforcement was called and the man was dragged away. Videos surfaced of what happened and it looks pretty bad.

Reports say that the passenger, who was bloodied, was allowed to board the flight after being forcibly removed. By then, passengers wanted off as medical crews had to clean up the plane. The flight was delayed a couple hours.

Let’s get this out of the way, the man on the flight could have handled the situation better once he was randomly chosen he would be taken off the flight. Got it? Okay, good. Now that’s out of the way, let’s go through why United was completely wrong in how they handled this avoidable situation.

Whenever I fly, I try to keep in mind that the people working are doing their jobs which are mostly thankless as they get blamed for just about everything. From the things they can control to things they cannot (like the weather). Having said that, does anyone on United have the common sense to not board passengers and then ask people to get off the flight because it’s overbooked? Do it before anyone boards the flight and you can avoid this. Yeah, people will still probably be mad and may cause a scene but at least it’s not on a plane. Whether it was the decision of the flight staff or that’s United’s policy, it’s pretty stupid, unnecessary and leads to a situation like that.

But here’s an even bigger reason why United, and all airlines, are completely wrong. Maybe situations like these show that airlines shouldn’t overbook flights. How much more money do airlines make when they overbook flights after people cancel? Maybe $1,000 on the occasional flight, not factoring in times in which airlines have to pay people for missing their flight. Is that really worth pissed off passengers and the occasional PR disaster? Maybe in this day and age of stuffing as many people on a flight as safely as possible, a couple empty seats is worth missing out on a disaster.

I would imagine that of the people on this insanely full flight, many of them won’t be flying United anymore. If 300 people were on board and 2/3 are going to now go to a competing airline, that means thousands and thousands of lost revenue for United in a very competitive market. All this because they want to squeeze as much money out of everyone to make sure their plane is full. Too many companies see short term returns rather than long term stability and cannot see how this hurts them. No wonder why everyone is so pissed off at airlines and think they’re all terrible. This is just another example.


About Phillip Bupp

Producer/editor of the Awful Announcing Podcast and Short and to the Point. News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. Highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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