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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Monday, April 10, 2017


I start this by noting I am not in possession of all of the facts surrounding this situation, and therefore am only expressing an initial commentary of what, on the surface, appears to be very, very bad judgment and customer service on the part of United Airlines.

Yesterday, Sunday, a man was forcibly - and I mean forcibly - removed from United Airlines Flight 3411 from Chicago to Lousiville, Kentucky, refusing to give up his preassigned seat after he was already seated. The airline had overbooked the flight and been unable to entice enough passengers to take later flights so that everyone could be accommodated. The passengers who desperately needed to board were apparently United employees, themselves heading for work in Louisville.

I do not know why it is the airline declared their own employees to be more important than the seated passenger, but the gate crew decided, at random, that four seated passengers would be removed from the flight in order to seat the employees. One bumped passenger, a doctor, refused, stating he had urgent medical business to attend and could not be rebooked.

On the face of it, this is a stunning lesson in bad customer service.

To be fair, here is the statement from the United CEO, and I will comment additionally following his post.

That said, the video from the incident on Flight 3411 is appalling. In the video, seen here, a paying passenger is physically dragged from their seat by authorities summoned by the airline's gate personnel. The flight was oversold, and the customary attempts to find additional passengers willing to volunteer to take a later flight were unsuccessful.

Four passengers were selected -- at random -- to leave the flight. Keep in mind, this entire event is United's fault. They overbooked the flight. They boarded this passenger and allowed him to sit before forcibly removing him. They did not offer what appears to be sufficient incentive to encourage volunteers to deplane and take a later flight. United bears full responsibility for the actions of the gate crew, and for creating the situation in the first place.

That much cannot be logically disputed.

United also bears responsibility for their passengers' complete safety in all circumstances.

The video shows the passenger being physically removed from the flight and dragged down the aisle. Again, keep in mind this passenger did nothing wrong. Nothing. Yet they are treated like a criminal in every sense save being placed under arrest.

This is, in every way, unacceptable behavior from an airline. Or virtually any place of business.

Yes. I acknowledge that airlines customarily overbook their flights. Yes, I acknowledge that they can require passengers to leave the light under those circumstances. But to forcibly remove them in this fashion is certainly behind the pale and an unacceptable assertion of authority.

I do not blame the officers, though they behaved more like jackbooted thugs than would seem ton have been required by the circumstance. Had the passenger initiated the conflict the situation would be different. But this was entirely United's fault through their own direct actions.

Unless they can show differently, and the onus is on United not the passenger. They are responsible for the actions of their crews and gate personnel. And in that, United failed this - and every passenger on the aircraft - utterly and completely. (And frankly, for the CEO to refer to the actions as "re-accommodating" the passengers is both absurd and a lesson in doublespeak. The passengers were not "reaccommodated", they were forcibly inconvenienced because of the airline's business mistake.)

A public apology to this passenger is only the first step. I strongly urge all other airlines to learn from United's fiasco and ensure that nothing like this happens at American, or Delta, or Jetblue, or Alaska, ...or, or, or...

And certainly United ought to make damned sure they never do anything this offensive ever again.

Until that time, I am officially removing United from my list of useful airlines and recommending my followers avoid them as well.

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