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The United Airlines story

by Greg Krehbiel on 12 April 2017

I tend to avoid stories like this. If it’s the trendy story everybody’s talking about, my curmudgeonly side asserts itself and I look the other way. I didn’t follow the O.J. trial, for example. (I am so oblivious to these popular stories that I originally posted this as “The American Airlines story.”)

Consequently, I don’t know the details on this airline thing. My uninformed opinion is that you have to be a first-rate idiot to make a scene on an airplane, where everybody’s already hair-triggered to be upset about security. You’re not going to win that argument. And you have to be a really stupid company to beat up one of your customers.

Beyond that, I don’t care.

But some of you might want to express an opinion. Here’s your chance.

2017-04-12  »  Greg Krehbiel

Talkback x 13

  1. William
    12 April 2017 @ 12:39 pm

    Overall, I think there was mud on both sides of the fence and could have been avoided. As I understand, the customer had already boarded and was asked to deplane to make space for airline staff on a supposedly overbooked flight. When he refused, the airline called the police and he was forcibly dragged off (being injured in the process).

    I hold the airline primarily responsible. Seems the flight wasn’t really overbooked and they wanted to move the passenger so their crew could get to another location to avoid cancelling different flight. The airline should have done better planning and not allowed the passenger to board until they were sure the seat was clear. As well, they could have offered a greater incentive for someone to volunteer to give up their seat. Either of these measures would have likely avoided the escalation.

    Yet, the customer is somewhat accountable. Despite being mistreated by the airline, after being asked, he should have given up his seat and dealt with this administratively post deplaning . This would have avoided an escalation and his injuries.

    Some faulted the police…I don’t. They were called to do a job by the airline and relied upon their assessment in doing so. Had the customer not resisted their enforcement he wouldn’t been injured.

    In the end, the airline will likely loose the public relations battle and be dragged into court. It would have been more cost effective for them to allow the passenger to stay on board and cancel the other flight. Now, there will be multiple investigations, payouts and I suspect the low people on the totem pole (airline assistants who were only following airline policy) will likely be fired over this kerfuffle.

  2. Ken Crawford
    12 April 2017 @ 1:15 pm

    Well, I have a few thoughts:

    1. It seems to me this shows how well the liberal protest tactics developed in the 60’s work, even though I don’t think this guy realizes that’s what he was using. If he had just deplaned calmly and then tried to get publicity after the fact about the injustice done to him, it wouldn’t have worked. The only reason it has this publicity is because he forced them to rough him up. The liberal protestors well understand this. It is their goal to get beat up by the cops. It’s the only way to get the level of publicity they want. And they *hate* it when the cops are too smart to give them what they want.

    2. I think what bothers me most about the underlying policies is how there is a “heads we win, tails you lose” thing going on. The airlines overbook their planes because they know they can just throw around a few travel vouchers and they’ll get some suckers to delay their travel plans. The airlines have figured out those travel vouchers cost a lot less than the potential revenue loss of having empty seats. And the airline was attempting to do the same thing on this flight, the only problem was nobody was biting. They went up to $800 and still not enough people were willing to go voluntarily. As it turns out, whenever the airline decides that they don’t want to go any higher, they can just kick you off. That’s just wrong. They should be forced to continue to play the game they started. If it takes $2k in travel vouchers to do it, then that’s what it costs. If that makes it so it is no so economical to overbook their flights so much, then eventually they’ll cut back and restore the proper balance that makes them the most money. But to be able to side step that fundamentally fair capitalistic system whenever the economics don’t work out well for them, that’s pretty bogus.

    3. And yes, United is going to pay for this one big-time. HUGE PR MISTAKE!

  3. Robin R.
    12 April 2017 @ 1:24 pm

    I seem to recall people blocking abortion clinics and being dragged away by the cops (in the 80s or 90s). Were they being liberals by using that kind of protest?

  4. smitemouth
    12 April 2017 @ 3:12 pm

    Not surprising, I only blame United. They are the ones that overbooked the flight. Didn’t Jim Bakker get in trouble for selling the same condominium to two different people? Isn’t it fraud to sell something to two different buyers at the same time?

    The time to do something about it is before people board the airplane, and not after they have taken their seat and are buckled in. If United couldn’t get enough people to give up their seats, they should have either upped the offer or told the people (or their crew) who weren’t buckled in their seats to lump it.

  5. smitemouth
    12 April 2017 @ 3:25 pm

    BTW, it was United, not American.

  6. Greg Krehbiel Greg Krehbiel
    12 April 2017 @ 3:30 pm

    Ha ha. I told you I don’t pay attention. 🙂

  7. Robin R.
    12 April 2017 @ 3:43 pm

    I agree that it was completely the fault of United. You simply can’t treat a paying customer that way PERIOD. And it is a good thing the guy stood his ground as well as he could and thereby brought attention to the issue.

    United could have also arranged for a chauffeur to drive those employees from Chicago to Louisville. It is only a four hour drive.. Of course it would have been costly by our standards, but in the long run what the airline actually did will be much more costly.

  8. Scott Wicker
    12 April 2017 @ 4:47 pm

    In retrospect, United should have offered the guy a million dollars to give up his seat, since the negative publicity of forcing him off cost them more like a billion. At the very least, they should have moved him to first class.

  9. Ken Crawford
    13 April 2017 @ 4:46 pm

    Robin, people other than liberals have at times adopted their tactics. That doesn’t mean that it is inappropriate to reference the source and most frequent user of those tactics when referring to them.

  10. Robin R.
    13 April 2017 @ 6:44 pm

    Rosa Parks? Martin Luther King? Some real liberals there!

  11. Robin R.
    13 April 2017 @ 7:55 pm


    Nonviolent resistance has a long history. It wasn’t invented by liberals.

  12. Ken Crawford
    14 April 2017 @ 9:35 am

    Robin, yes, nonviolent resistance is broader and had a longer history than modern liberals. However, what I’m referring to is not that broad strategy, but a specific implementation of it, one that focuses not on overwhelming the system by the number of people present but instead by small minority creating a confrontation that generates sympathy, the sort of sympathy that says “I wasn’t really on their side, but there’s no reason for this to escalate to violence, so now I am with them.”

    To be sure, the civil rights movement used that concept with success, but their heart was in the “fill up the jails” mindset. It was later people, who saw just how powerful the videos of black people being accosted were towards affecting public opinion. They realized they didn’t need the masses on the street with them to have the same effect (just one person with one confrontation). This allowed them to push a far more radical agendas that didn’t have the sort of mass support that previous non-violent movements needed to have.

    Further points:
    1. Uhhhh Yeah! Rosa Parks and MLK Jr. were liberals. Not everything liberal is bad. I’m perfectly happy identifying myself as conservative (of a unique sort) and them as liberal and still being thankful for the good work they did. I sure hope you wouldn’t argue they were on the conservative end of the spectrum, yes?

    2. It bears repeating: I don’t think this doctor was intending to use liberal protest tactics, but in practice that’s how it worked out. Nor do I think the fact that those tactics being used undermines his position or those who are upset by what happened. My point was more one of admiration and a reminder of how powerful it is.

  13. Robin R.
    14 April 2017 @ 11:07 am

    @ Ken, as I understand you, you are saying that so-called liberals invented a particular kind of non-violent protest, i.e. by means of video-taping and presenting the abuse of the protester(s) and thereby gaining the sympathy of a mass audience. That may well be. I haven’t been making note of that every time it happens. Nor does the term “liberal” play any significance role in my vocabulary. I actually think that the whole opposition of “liberal vs. conservative” has by and large been a creation of the media and will morph into something else, as indeed it is morphing already.

    And no, I don’t regard Rosa Parks and MLK as liberals, but at the time they were probably labeled in that way by some people – perhaps even a lot of people. I recall a time about 40 years ago when a “conservative” friend of mine put the label “liberal” on me because I rejected racism. And no, we were not discussing reparations for slavery or anything like that. It was just plain racism that was being discussed. His argument was that his mother was also anti-racist until she worked with blacks, and then she changed her tune. It was funny that about 10 years later he conceded that it was very stupid to argue in that way. But then he started defending apartheid and calling me a “liberal” because I expressed opposition to it. His main argument at that time was that South Africa was fine because they had the first doctor who performed a heart transplant. Stupid argument. Having high-achievers does not in any way justify the racist policies of a nation. This so-called “conservative” conceded that it was indeed a stupid argument shortly before he passed away in 2012.
    So better to avoid this whole business about liberals vs. conservatives unless you are in very special company where terms can be defined rather carefully and applied consistently. Intellectual discussions are EXTREMELY HARD to come by though. I cannot recall one single instance where I have profited from people getting labeled by the term “liberal”. (After all, this term is usually meant to be abusive. I used to think that in my experience such irrational abuse had to do with the fact that I grew up among rednecks in Kentucky, but online exchanges have shown me that it is much more widespread than that.)
    But I do agree with you on one point. David Dao most likely didn’t mean for his protest to have the effect that it had. My impression was that he simply didn’t think that the airline had no right to remove him from the plane. Now I am hearing that when you buy a ticket you in fact sign an agreement that indicates that airline can “bump” you (not sure what the technical language in the contract is). But if that it is so, it still does not follow that the airline can have you forcefully removed from the plane. So I think Mr. Dao was entirely right to protest and should take United to the cleaners if he can.