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Advertisement Fly the friendly skies of United - ladies and gents, this is going to get bumpy
by Dan Brawner Times Columnist · April 20th, 2017


Last Monday, United Airlines Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked and four passengers were asked to take a later flight. No one wanted to, so United picked four "volunteers." Three accepted the $800 in compensation, but one passenger refused. The 69-year-old Asian physician explained he could not give up his seat because he had to see patients in Louisville the next morning. United politely asked him to reconsider, then called in three Chicago cops who dragged him off the plane, banging his head on an armrest, leaving him unconscious and bleeding from the mouth. The other passengers screamed, children cried, and, yes, somebody recorded the whole thing on video and distributed it to every major news network.

It was the worst public relations nightmare United Airlines has had since, well, since about two weeks ago when they refused to let two girls fly because they were wearing leggings. Imagine the families having to explain to these two kids, ages 10 and 11, that they were not allowed on the plane because their outfits were too suggestive.

Personally, I hate to fly. If United had offered me $800 to miss my plane, I would have jumped at the chance. I would take that deal seven days a week and never be airsick again. Unfortunately, the doctor on Flight 3411 was not able to be so flexible. Although, after getting roughed up by Chicago's finest and literally dragged off the plane in front of a couple of dozen witnesses, he probably doesn't need to worry about keeping up his medical practice, now that he will soon be the owner of a major airline.

Of course, United was quick to apologize. Well, actually, it sounded more like a threat. "This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United," wrote CEO Oscar Munoz. "I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers."

The word "re-accommodate" has such a menacing, mocking tone that it is sure to be borrowed in the future by movie tough guys and gang members, offering to "re-accommodate" their victims if they fail to put up their hands.

And, technically, Flight 3411 was not even overbooked. It turned out United wanted to bump four passengers to make room for four of its own employees who were needed to work a flight in Louisville, all of which is perfectly legal. If you read the fine print on your ticket (and nobody ever does), the "agreement of carriage" clearly states that if a flight is overbooked, you might be required to surrender your seat and take a later flight.

 It's just a good thing other businesses don't do this. Imagine you're sitting down to dinner at a nice restaurant, about to propose to your sweetheart, when the waiter says, "Get up and get out. Somebody else wants this table." You hesitate and he glares. "Or do I need to re-accommodate you? Oh, and here's a free coupon if you ever want to come back sometime."
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