I’m currently on “vacation” until next Wednesday at a Pesach program at the Four Seasons in Whistler, Canada. Though my vacation consists of giving 4 lectures/presentations here at the program, the out-of-this-world food, service, and entertainment make it an awesome experience.
DELTA: *cancels thousands of flights and blames week-old storm* haha we're literally the worst airline
UNITED: hold my beer
— dan mentos (@DanMentos) April 10, 2017
1. I’ve been enjoying some time offline this week.
2. Obviously the videos were horrific.
I am definitely sympathetic towards Dr. Dao. Nobody should be treated as he was. There is no excuse for that. But while some blogs have had dozens of breathless posts on the topic with flip-flopping opinions, I don’t find it all that interesting from an aviation perspective.
At the end of the day the Delta meltdown was a systemwide failure and was exacerbated by their own arrogance and greed while the United incident was a single isolated incident. Obviously the United videos were painful to watch and generated much more coverage, but the Delta meltdown impacted hundreds of thousands of people…does that make me callous?
3. United could have avoided this entire situation by empowering their employees to hand out higher value travel vouchers. It makes zero sense to limit voluntary denied boarding compensation to $800 in travel vouchers when they will have to pay out $1,350 in cash in an involuntary denied boarding situation.
There is no excuse for this. This incident doesn’t happen with employees that are properly empowered to fix situations like this by raising the compensation to a level that would entice volunteers to leave the plane.
4. I do think that one good thing from this incident is that all airlines will increase their gate agent’s ability to offer higher denied boarding compensation when the situation calls for it.
When I was single I’d spend days in airports getting bumped from flight to flight and wind up with thousands of dollars in vouchers and an upgrade to first class. But when traveling with small children it would take an awful lot to get me to give up my seat.
5. The memes making fun of United are hysterical, but for the 2nd time in a month, United winds up on the short-end of the reporting. Last month social media went nuts that girls in leggings were denied boarding by United. But as they were flying on employee buddy passes they would have known that they needed to follow the dress code if they wanted to fly for free and that means you can’t wear spandex as pants. Is that a fair rule? I don’t know, but if you’re trying to travel on an employee pass then you don’t have much choice in the matter. Violating those rules will cause headaches for the employee.
Every airline involuntarily denies boarding, and yes, sometimes that happens on the plane. Most people know that if you don’t follow crew instructions on a plane that you’re going to be arrested. Obviously you don’t expect to be knocked unconscious and lose 2 teeth in the process, but I’m not sure that United is worthy of all the hate sent their way. Pretty much every airline would do and have done the exact same thing by getting the authorities involved.
6. Many people seem to think that it was United agents that directly caused bodily harm to Dr. Dao, but it was the Chicago Aviation police force agents that did the real dirty work here. Why isn’t there more outrage directed at the Chicago Aviation police force for how they dealt with the situation?
7. Pro tip if you don’t want to wind up being kicked off a flight: Check-in to your flight online 24 hours in advance and make sure you have an assigned seat. If you aren’t an elite member, traveling on a full fare ticket, or traveling with small children, then United will likely prioritize who they deny boarding to based on their time of checkin. Last to checkin, especially if they don’t have a seat assignment, will be the first to lose their place on the plane.
8. We will see fewer cases of involuntary denied boardings because of this incident, and that’s a very good outcome. So we all owe some thanks to Dr. Dao, who will likely get a nice retirement nest egg settlement from United very soon so that they can bury this story without a drawn out court case.