Can’t We All Just Overbook?

Phone video captured a United Airlines passenger being dragged off an airplane for refusing to be bumped after he had boarded. The airline said the flight was overbooked (lie) but it highlighted the practice of selling the same seat twice. Why can’t the rest of us do the same thing?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on RedditDigg thisShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

45 thoughts on “Can’t We All Just Overbook?

  1. With respect to airlines and overbooking, thread participants may find this NYT OpEd of interest….

    Once again, we see that a market of this type requires regulation in order to function for the benefit of more than just a few….

    Henri

  2. I hate to side with the corporate gestapo … but …

    When you’re on an airplane, even one that is sitting on the ground, you do what the crew tells you to. And that includes even that insipid flight attendant who looks like he or she couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if you wrote the instructions on the heel. Why? Read the fine print on the contract.
    The more important reason? The one outside of contract law? The real one? There can, in theory, be occasions where you OBEYING the instructions/orders/commands of the flight crew might be instrumental in saving lives because each instruction was obeyed without question. If it turns into a “well, she said to assume crash position and be ready to evacuate. She says we should leave everything behind. I don’t know. I think I should be able to stop and get down my suitcase. …”

    • Now explain to me how what you’ve written directly applies to a medical doctor trying to get home to care for his patients. Gestapo, indeed.

      • You won’t like it …
        1. What patients? I have no evidence that proves these “patients” exist. I do, however, have first-hand evidence of people who claim their pets are “service animals” because they don’t see why they can’t bring them everywhere.
        2. This doctor. When he’s in a surgical bay, does he let everyone do their own thing? Or is there one person or set of persons who are in charge?
        3. These alleged patients. Either they are hovering at death’s door, in which case another doctor will assist them, or, the doctor on the plane calls his office. “I got bumped. Call tomorrow’s patients. Apologize. Reschedule them as soon as possible.”

        I hate airlines. I hate the officiousness. I hate the farce. I hate it all. But I do not “make a fuss” during customs, going through the metal detector, or once I put my ass in the too-small seat. That’s simply how it goes. I also don’t try to snatch a cop’s gun out of his holster because I think he might use it to commit a brutality.

      • Honestly, I am not trolling. I’m just pointing out that the airline didn’t just send in a goon squad to start randomly assaulting people. He was given–as the phrasing goes–a lawful order to vacate his seat, and he refused. Security is not there to assess carefully — hang on, my chamomile tea is ready, let me feng shui my keyboard, no, the crystals are out of alignment. Hang on. Ommmmmmm. Ommmmm. There. — anyway, security is not there to try to get in touch with the passenger’s feel-feels. It’s a crowded plane cabin, this guy won’t leave. Why? Why won’t this guy leave? Is he just being difficult? What if he has a bomb or a knife? If he has a bomb on him and blows it up because no one wanted to use anything stronger than an indoor voice? Then we’d be listening to the families of the victims: “Why didn’t they force this nut job off the flight? My God! They told him to give up the seat and he refused. What else does he have to do? Hold up the bomb and a match?”

        Effective security does not think, “Hmm. What if?” Effective security simply reacts to anything suspicious. “He won’t leave? We don’t care why. We will force him to leave.” That’s why it’s called security.

        Go to a casino and see what happens if you refuse to leave when they tell you to. “I have a right to be here!” “No. You don’t. Look it up.”

        This passenger made a mistake. Doubled-down on stupid and hit a patch of luck because he’s now going to get a payday for arguing with airport security. If you or I did it? We’d be in a cell right now waiting for a bail hearing.

      • Hey Alex – I find myself agreeing with you in the general case. Even though you paid your money, you did agree to their [monopolistic and inhumane] terms.

        But it starts breaking down in the specific case. What if it was you & you were on your way to your wedding or your mother’s funeral? Would you go quietly? I sure as hell wouldn’t.

        But I probably wouldn’t start punching until somebody assaulted me. I’m pretty sure that my agreement with the airline doesn’t include manhandling.

      • Fair points CrazyH. If someone were on a flight to go to his mother’s funeral, I would give up my seat for that person. If someone were going to donate bone marrow, I would give up my seat. If someone simply just wanted to go home because, gosh, they’re tired? Somehow, that doesn’t quite really sell the argument to me.

        I wonder what it would say about society when we reach that point where someone going to his mother’s funeral would get bumped from a flight. I suspect we’re already at the point where someone would LIE about going to a parent’s funeral so that “someone-else-not-me” would be the one to get the shaft. (I have first-hand knowledge of someone who has a handicap-parking permit for the school she works at. She doesn’t need it anymore, but she uses it when she “doesn’t want to walk too far.” She also has a letter from her psychologist explaining that her pet dog is a “therapy” animal because, as she explains it, “he doesn’t like to stay at home.” I’m sure that, were she confronted with such a situation on a flight, she would immediately have a very credible lie at the ready.)

      • @ alex_the_tired –

        I have grown to respect most of your analyses over the time I’ve read your comments, but in this case they’re very weak and not supported by any common sense reasoning.

        For example, you initially questioned the doctor’s statement that he had to be at work in the morning to see patients. There is no reason to doubt that, and the airline should have respected his profession and his dedication thereto. Instead, they broke his nose and knocked out a couple of teeth while damaging his sinus cavities. Do you seriously contend that this 69-year-old medical professional deserved this treatment for wanting the airline to honor their commitment to him? They were, after all, bumping him for their own employees (not really an “overbooking”), who could have found other accommodations — or they could have “upped the ante” to find a real “volunteer.”

        Most disturbing is that you refer to this “goon squad” as “security”! This passenger had already gone through security — he was seated on the plane! Bomb? Knife? You can’t be serious.

        I hope that he does indeed “… get a payday….” and hopefully a huge one.

        (BTW, why would you say that if he was wrong?)

      • derlehrer,

        We’re going to disagree then. I am sorry about that. It’d be a little scary if we always agreed on everything.
        My upbringing was, very much, one of “don’t let your mouth write a check your ass can’t cover.” If you take on the school bully, expect to get one hell of a beating. You start an argument with a cop on the side of the road? Expect to end up in a cell.
        Was this guy fighting for a principle? What exactly is that principle? The “right” to sit in a plane seat? Three other people were removed from the flight. Were they “wrong” to not defy the rule of law? His “patients”? No one’s life was in peril. There was no vial of perishable serum that had to get to some settlement in the foothills of Idaho to stop a plague. This was some guy who got pushed too far for one of the many trivial reasons we all face, and now, he’s going to make millions off of it thanks to some footage taken after the incident began.
        When you have the security/goon squad pull you off a plane, you are most definitely not going to make your morning appointments because you will be in a holding cell waiting to be taken before a judge. End result of the beating he took? Surprise. His patients’ appointments–his big motivation for “needing” to be on the flight–had to be rescheduled anyway.
        There was no principle involved here beyond the right of the Americuhn induhvidual to receive everything they demand every single time. What? People on other flights will be delayed because THEIR flights can’t take off due to lack of personnel? Well, that’s too bad, brother. I got mine. I’m a doctor an to hell with the other guy.
        This was some guy who played the “go ahead, I dare you” card. And, surprise, he got handed a big tall glass of “there you go.” What does anyone expect from the police now? A gentle pat on the shoulder?

        (As to the security issue–if you think people can’t smuggle weapons onto planes …)

      • @ alex_the_tired –

        I notice that mhenriday and I are in agreement on this subject, so I feel as if I’m in good company, and that takes away some of the sting. 🙂

        One needs to note that this “argument with a cop on the side of the road” was not initiated by the good doctor. He was arbitrarily chosen by computer to give up his seat and he refused to comply. There exists a point where a person should and must refuse to cooperate with wrong-doing and evil. Otherwise, evil will always succeed and prevail.

        You ask if he were “fighting for a principle,” but he wasn’t fighting at all. He was passively resisting, and there is video evidence of that. Those three other people whom you mention were CHOSEN by computer (randomly, so they say) to volunteer — but that is not within the definition of volunteerism. How does that suddenly become “the rule of law”? The doctor chose NOT to “volunteer” and was brutalized for his decision. He didn’t take on the school bully, but he resisted the bully’s efforts to intimidate, humiliate, and subjugate him. It’s too bad that your upbringing didn’t include that sort of training. (Keep in mind that United was throwing off paying customers so that their employees could take their seats.)

        How in the world can you assert that no one’s life was in peril (red herring)? Do you have evidence that this is factual? Your “vial of perishable serum” statement is also a ridiculous assertion, designed to distract from the real subject matter. What difference does it make?

        You state that he will “make millions” from this — I hope he does. Perhaps the airline will learn a lesson and proceed with caution in future incidents. However, if he is the instigator as you seem to believe, that won’t be the case at all; are you hedging your bets?

        The doctor was taken to a hospital, as I understand it — not to a “holding cell.” Of course, the patients were re-scheduled. What other choice was there at that point? None of this should have played out the way it did, as there were numerous options available to United Airlines.

        The principle that is involved — which you convenently overlook — is that the airline was imposing THEIR will upon their passengers, like it or not. The options they had available included sending their personnel on another flight (even another airline) and increasing the incentive for another passenger to volunteer to deplane and take a later flight. That you fail to understand that this was heavy-handed bullying of a paying customer simply astounds me.

        Finally, I will state with regard to your “smuggling” remark that you really are being disingenuous with your argumentation. You cannot assume that the doctor has “smuggled” weapons on board, simply because it is convenient for you to reduce the discussion to the ridiculous. Had that indeed been the case, you would have a valid point. It wasn’t, and you don’t.

      • United Airlines’ PR Disaster Was Totally Avoidable, Thanks to Private Jets

        https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/04/16/united-airlines-pr-disaster-was-totally-avoidable.aspx

        “It may have seemed to the United staff on the ground that they had no choice but to bump four passengers from the flight. But a private jet could have solved the problem at a relatively modest cost.

        “The Department of Transportation’s rules on overbooking required United to pay cash compensation of $1,350 each to the four passengers that the carrier bumped, or $5,400 total. By contrast, the typical cost to charter a small private jet for the roughly one-hour flight from Chicago to Louisville would be about $6,000.

        “In fact, the founders of private aviation start-up FlyOtto recently invited United to try their service for free to reposition crews. FlyOtto would have been able to fly four people from Chicago to Louisville for just $2,930, albeit on a turboprop rather than a jet.”

      • @ Glenn –

        Thanks for the details. That was one of the options included in my previous comments, but I was unaware of the simplicity of such a solution. 🙂

      • «[Note: I’ve gotten to the point of typing my response with WordPad and reviewing it. Then I copy & paste after corrections that might be needed.]» Thanks for your excellent suggestion,, mein verehrter Lehrer ! As a matter of fact, I, too, sometimes remember to type in a text editor and read my opus magnus through before copying and pasting into the text field on a thread here. But generally – as in the present case – I’m too lazy to do so, and trust instead to luck to carry me through without any gross errors. Alas, as we saw above, that trust is not always well placed…. 😉

        Henri

      • @ mhenriday –

        I’ve also learned to pay special attention to the markers on the left of the comments thread and scroll up to the the “Reply” button that places my comment in sequence with the comment to which I am responding.

        😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

      • «I’ve also learned to pay special attention to the markers on the left of the comments thread and scroll up to the the “Reply” button that places my comment in sequence with the comment to which I am responding.» That, mein verehrter Lehrer, is precisely the method I attempt to employ, but alas, something (galloping senility ?) sometimes leads me to the wrong «Reply» button. So it goes…. 😉

        Henri

      • @ mhenriday –

        I didn’t notice my “the the” error until I read your response.

        It happens to the best of us!

        😀

    • The same should go for all authorities, both governmental and corporate.

      Life on a military base provides a good model for relations with authorities. All officers should be recognized, when approaching them on a public way, with a salute in recognition of their rank, and the previous service their rank implies. I have been shoved off of a sidewalk, had my feet stepped on, and been carried away by police to the center of the street for leaning on the street-side wall of a food and drink establishment during Mardi Gras, but not beaten, because I accepted their correctives good naturedly, knowing they were probably about to be hurriedly making their way in the next moment to save innocent people from abuse by ne’er-do-wells.

      If only all would stand at attention when spoken to or gazed upon by authorities until the authorities feel comfortable enough with a detainee to give him permission to stand at ease, much of the inadvertent but provocative incitement to action that leads to police administered justice, and makes them look bad and misunderstood, could be avoided.

      This becomes more important in this era of militarized police, where the police serving you today may have become accustomed to spreading democracy in free fire zones in foreign lands, among those who don’t respect the typical American’s concept of freedom, and may instinctively respond to a perceived slight with crippling violence.

      • «If only all would stand at attention when spoken to or gazed upon by authorities until the authorities feel comfortable enough with a detainee to give him permission to stand at ease, much of the inadvertent but provocative incitement to action that leads to police administered justice, and makes them look bad and misunderstood, could be avoided.» Thanks for those useful instructions, Glenn ; I shall try to keep them in mind whenever life’s vagaries forces me into contact with authorities, like the police, airline employees, et al. I shall start practicing «Parade rest !» at once…. 😉

        Henri

      • «Nice comment, Henri.» Many thanks, Glenn ; praise from you is praise indeed….

        Allow me to here correct an obvious typo : «are their to serve them» → «are there to serve them». I do wish Ted would allow us a preview function !…

        Henri

      • @ mhenriday –

        «are there to serve them»

        It didn’t escape this retired English teacher’s observation, but what the heck. Everybody knew what you meant.

        [Note: I’ve gotten to the point of typing my response with WordPad and reviewing it. Then I copy & paste after corrections that might be needed.]

    • «Why won’t this guy leave? Is he just being difficult? What if he has a bomb or a knife? If he has a bomb on him and blows it up because no one wanted to use anything stronger than an indoor voice? Then we’d be listening to the families of the victims: “Why didn’t they force this nut job off the flight? My God! They told him to give up the seat and he refused. What else does he have to do? Hold up the bomb and a match?”» When reading the above. Alex, I couldn’t but think of perhaps the best known of the Maximes of François VI, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac – no 19 :
      «Nous avons tous assez de force pour supporter les maux d’autrui.»….

      Removing Dr Dao forcibly from the aircraft if he refused to go willingly is one thing ; breaking his nose and removing two of his front teeth in the process is quite another. I am surprised you don’t recognise these actions on the part of the goons (yes, I deem that a fair description) who ejected Dr Dao from the aircraft (and who now have been said to be «suspended» -whatever that means ? With pay ? Back on the job when things have cooled down ? – from their jobs at the Chicago aviation department) are the hallmark of a police state – something, alas, which seems far closer to the reality in the US today than your insinuations about «bomb[s]»….

      Henri

    • As to “How in the world can you assert that no one’s life was in peril (red herring)?”

      If one of the four asserted patients had died, or even been admitted to an ER due to Dao’s inability to make the scheduled appointment, it would already be in the news cycle (complete with catchy theme signature).

      As to passive resistance. Well, I think we’re stuck at the juncture of motivation. I don’t think Dao was doing this for some high-minded philosophical reason. I think he didn’t want to give up the seat. He wasn’t passively resisting to de-enslave all airline traveler/victims. He just didn’t want to give up the seat.

      Like I said, we’re going to disagree on this one. It is pleasant to have a disagreement that doesn’t devolve into some version of a Fox newscast means the Inquisition by way of a game of the dozens.

      • @ alex_the_tired –

        “If one of the four asserted patients had died, or even been admitted to an ER due to Dao’s inability to make the scheduled appointment, it would already be in the news cycle (complete with catchy theme signature).”

        This is circuitous reasoning. You are applying after-the-fact discoveries to justify on-scene decisions of United Airlines, which could not possibly have been known at the time. Life doesn’t work that way. You can’t make decisions based upon future revelations.

        “I don’t think Dao was doing this for some high-minded philosophical reason.”

        I didn’t say that, and I don’t think that was his motivation. He wanted to fulfill his obligations as an MD to his patients and his profession. It was a decision based upon what’s right and what’s wrong. My point is simply that he was not “fighting” but resisting the folks who were trying to force him against his will to do what they wanted, arbitrarily. That is wrong, and it is evil. We need more people willing to stand up and to resist such anarchy. (Remember “sit-ins” and bus boycotts and other happenings during the 1960’s? Or are you old enough to remember? If not, check the history books. Changing a corrupt system requires resistance.)

        [Your reference to “game of the dozens” means nothing to me, because I reside in Mexico and I don’t watch Fox.]

      • Looks like airline management and employees are just as capable of acting like schizophrenic egocentric paranoiac prima donnas, just as much as are some passengers—and also just to get special treatment to emphasize their specialness and demonstrate their insider privilege before a cowed assembly.

        Imagine if the lazy but holes working at United could have bothered themselves enough to spend the same money while respecting their paying passengers as being more than cattle in transport to market.

        I personally would feel bad about taking someone’s seat away from them when a less demeaning, embarrassing, and insulting option was available.

        It’s not like this was a surprise, a one off situation, but a regular and totally predictable occurrence repeated frequently, and dealt with by other airlines very differently.

      • «He wasn’t passively resisting to de-enslave all airline traveler/victims. He just didn’t want to give up the seat. » But that’s how resistance against a police state begins – and is carried out – Alex. People get pissed off – mostly not due to any considered philosophical opposition, but because they find themselves, to their surprise, involved in situations in which the means used against them to ensure their compliance is experienced as intolerable. Do you really believe that this 69 year-old physician and former refugee from Vietnam is a street fighter seeking every possible opportunity to protest against authority ? Some how I doubt it….

        It is when people like Dr Dao, who have always believed themselves to be good, peaceable citizens and supporters of the legitimate regime, begin to protest that conditions become amenable to change. When so-called «ordinary» people begin to feel that the authorities who ostensibly are their to serve them actually are the servants of their oppressors that things begin to happen. I don’t live in your country and would not presume to judge whether you are approaching such a situation, but from what I read, it does not seem impossible….

        Henri

  3. Ted’s thinking too small, I’m gonna sell me some gold bullion I ain’t got.

    I’ve always been astounded that the airlines can get away with that B$. I’d like to see a traveler’s bill of rights. If I buy a seat, I get a seat. If I cancel a hotel reservation, I get 100% of my deposit back unless the hotel is booked solid and they can’t rent out the one room I had reserved.

    • @CH

      “I’m gonna sell me some gold bullion I ain’t got.”

      You have, intentionally or not, succinctly described the operation of fractional reserve banking as it existed under the gold standard.

      Just think of paper currency as claim checks for deposited gold, in the ratio of ten units of paper to one unit of gold.

      Kind of like the shares sold for the production of “Springtime for Hitler” in the movie “The Producers”.

      • As I recall the matter, a few years back the German authorities had quite some difficulty recovering some gold bullion that state had deposited for safekeeping with the US. Another variant on that ancient adage to the effect that if one owes the bank a million, that one’s problem, but if one owes the bank a thousand million, that’s the bank’s problem….

        Henri

      • @Henri

        “[I]f one owes the bank a million, that one’s problem, but if one owes the bank a thousand million, that’s the bank’s problem….”

        Therein lays the power of Trump over his creditors, the bailed out criminal bankers over the US economy, and the US debt over the world’s economy.

        Massive debt rules. If only the indebted little people understood the how corrupt the fraudulent moralizers who condemn debtors really are, nothing could stop a debt jubilee—nothing but the guns and gulags the great debtors would still control and use to preserve the viability of their corrupt practices.

      • «If only the indebted little people understood the how corrupt the fraudulent moralizers who condemn debtors really are, nothing could stop a debt jubilee—nothing but the guns and gulags the great debtors would still control and use to preserve the viability of their corrupt practices.» Indeed. On the other hand, «guns and gulags» are rather potent means of persuasion…. 😉

        Henri

    • @Glenn on April 15, 2017 at 8:52 AM

      “Therein lies” damn auto-correct.

      And to clarify, “fraudulent moralizers who condemn [small insolvent ]debtors…”

      • “[I]f one owes the bank a million, that one’s problem, but if one owes the bank a thousand million, that’s the bank’s problem….”

        Actually, if one owes the bank a thousand million, that’s the working class’ problem. …

  4. I submit that overbooking aircraft seats is the right thing to do (ecology) – though of course done for the wrong reasons (profit maximization).

    To me, what is telling about this episode is the complete callousness of what has become a well-oiled machine of bureaucracy and “security” regimenting most aspects of public life in North America, now even for relatively well to do people. And how normalized violence has become as solution to problems. (Of course, African Americans would not exactly be surprised at either).

    In other parts of the world, on the few occasions when too many of the overbooked passengers do show up (a statistical certainty), the airline crew would start bribing passengers as they prepare final boarding: “rebook to our next flight in the morning, we cover your hotel stay and we give you $100 back. $200… anyone?”. They keep looking until they find someone willing to do that (they will.). I have witnessed this myself. Needless to say, doctors who have medical appointments will not step forward, and there will be no need to treat them like a piece of broken furniture that is uneconomical or simply too bothersome to fix.

    Carrots work so much better than sticks and one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar. Capitalists had learned this lesson once.

    • The old wives aren’t always right, you actually catch more flies with vinegar. Apple cider vinegar smells like rotting fruit to them. 🙂

      Your point is well taken, regardless. Most times I’ve seen the bribe has been ‘a ticket to anywhere we fly’ but every time it’s been offered I’ve been more interested in getting to my destination on time.

Leave a Reply