As the video of a man being forcibly ejected from a United Airlines flight on Monday due to overbooking continues to go viral, I keep asking myself what I’m not seeing that could have possibly made the airline think this was a good idea or proper protocol. Was the man actually being “belligerent,” as United claims, and his unacceptable behavior justified his removal?
I just don’t see it.
And if he was belligerent, well, I might have been too if I bought a ticket expecting to travel somewhere and the airline was trying to kick me off the plane due to their own error.
I’m a frequent traveler. Many times on booked flights I have wondered about the basic morality of overbooking—private citizens signing a contract to be taken from point A to point B, and airlines gambling by selling more tickets than the plane can possibly hold because they believe there will be no-shows — which, to be fair, there usually are. Sure, if everyone shows up for the flight they offer vouchers and other incentives to convince passengers to take later flights, but ultimately, if I purchase a ticket to fly from Washington, DC to my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, I expect to be delivered to that destination at that time, barring late incoming flights, mechanical malfunctions or bad weather, and particularly considering the significant dollar amount I just paid for the service to be rendered.
Here’s the Chicago police statement on the incident:
We know that the passenger is a 69-year old man who claims to be a doctor who refused to leave the plane because he needed to see his patients.
That seems pretty important. But honestly, if he just wanted to fly to Las Vegas because he was a gambling addict or just missed his dog and couldn’t wait to see her — the reason he wants to travel is beside the point.
He bought a ticket. Period.
Judge Andrews Napolitano laid out how the ejected passenger was within his basic rights on Fox & Friends Tuesday.
“So by dislodging this passenger against his will, United violated it’s contractual obligation,” Napolitano said. “He paid for the ticket. He bought the ticket. He passed the TSA. He was in his seat. He has every right to stay there.”
I understand United has to have X number of staff to comply with their own corporate and FAA rules and regulations. But if they didn’t have enough seats for their staff on that flight due to their own practice of overbooking flights—even if it is an industry standard—how is this the ejected passenger’s fault? How was the brutal ejection not a violation of his basic contract despite what any fine print might say?
What am I missing here?
What did this man really do wrong other than buy a plane ticket?
Jimmy Kimmel gets it right: