I Was Wrong About the United Debacle

Not being quite content with the color of this particular bike shed, I posted this on Facebook April 10:

The forceful removal of the UAL passenger is very unfortunate and seems to smell pretty badly. But here’s the thing: UAL is within its right to do this. They ask the guy to leave after random selection. He doesn’t (or sneaks back on). Security arrives. Then what? How does this go anywhere but straight to hell? I don’t get it. Do they just plead with him for a few hours? Move onto the next person? The security guy was apparently not acting appropriately (duh) but I still don’t see how the passenger can think this goes anywhere favorable for himself. Ditto for traffic stops that go badly (modulo some very bad incidents involving obviously biased behavior). Guy with gun tells you to do something, fucking do it. Challenge it in court once it is over.

I stand by my statement regarding the victim’s resistance to armed guards. I don’t think that’s the time or place to challenge authority in most cases. However, I got the part about UAL wrong, particularly the bit about having the right to deplane passengers in an overbook situation. Airlines do have this right but in this case, the flight was actually not overbooked:

In fact, as careful readers know, United wanted to free up four seats so that crew members could fly to from O’Hare to Louisville. The excuse for United’s urgency was that if these crew members didn’t get to their flight, it would create cascading delays. Early accounts can be excused for this error, since the initial tweets with the appalling videos described the cause as overbooking. But any article published more than 24 hours after the story broke has no excuse for getting this basic and important detail wrong, particularly after United CEO Oscar Munoz said the flight was indeed not overbooked.

The whole piece is worth reading.