Quick informal survey: before two days ago, how many of you loved United Airlines?
Yeah, I thought so.
The video of the poor man getting ripped out of a plane due to the reality of over-booking looks bad. The screaming added a level of barbarism. The blood on his face when he came back only made it look worse. By all accounts, that was a bad move by the airline.
And it resonated with everyone because we have all been in unpleasant flying conditions, sitting with our knees jammed into a seat that was designed by medieval torturists while the pilot doesn’t give us information and just says that he’s waiting for news from control. When you’re traveling for pleasure, it’s annoying, because it’s cutting in to your trip. When you’re flying for business it’s annoying because you probably don’t want to be there anyway. There is no good argument for being delayed. No one wants to be bumped to the next day, even with a nice travel wager for another trip.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or a cab driver. If you need to work the next day and you bought a ticket for a flight and the airline agreed to give you a seat and then not only says that there is no place for you but forcibly rips you out of the plane like a rotten wisdom tooth, well that’s pretty fucking shitty.
But let’s be honest. United Airlines is the largest airline in the world. They overbook each and every flight because a large percentage of people don’t show up on average for each flight. That’s a large percentage of seats that they can sell TWICE. The only inconvenience is occasionally having to pay for a hotel and a travel wager for a volunteer, or a non-volunteer if no one is willing to accept.
No matter what we say or do, nothing will make those people magically show up for each flight – we can’t eliminate bad weather, we can’t make sure every meeting ends on time, we can’t clear all highways of accidents to stop traffic jams. And thus, nothing will stop airlines from pursuing this profitable business strategy.
Plus it wasn’t even for other passengers, it was to give United employees a place on the plane so they could be where they needed to be the next morning. Bad organization? Or just part of the game? Air travel is complicated, and to prevent hundreds of people from being delayed or bumped to other flights the next morning that would cause a chain reaction across the country, leading to literally thousands of people being delayed, United tried to get those employees on the plane. So from one perspective, they tried to remove one person from the plane that night to prevent thousands of people from being delayed and missing flights the next day. All of a sudden it doesn’t seem so malicious.
So when I see the arguments to boycott United, I can only shake my head. Are you serious? You are so outraged that you will never fly United again? You might feel like that right now, but I guarantee you that as soon as you need to fly from DC to Dallas that you will not stop in Minneapolis for 5 hours just so you can fly Delta instead. You will have totally forgotten about this and even if you remembered it, is adding an entire day to what would normally be a few hour flight really helping to make anything better?
Fuck no. You’re flying United as soon as its convenient. Because we can support a cause, or a boycott, just as long as we are never the ones who have to make a decision. Sure, if you are booking a flight and there are two comparatively priced flights and you choose the non-United flight, go ahead, feel good inside. You really showed them!
But like I said, United is the biggest airline in the world. That means that they fly everywhere and they are often the only airline flying between certain places, so you often don’t have a choice. Don’t try to pretend that some sort of boycott will hurt United.
And for all of the experts who think that this even will hurt United’s brand, you are completely wrong. Like I said before, no one loves United, it’s not Apple or In-N-Out, it’s a functional brand that is a necessary evil. People will forget about this in a matter of hours, let alone days. No one who has a United flight today will not show up out of protest. That dude will probably get paid a nice sum to shut his mouth and he too will forget about it. He might even look back on it positively. Getting a million dollars for getting punched in the face and dragged off a plane? Only to come back and get on the plane? Where do I sign up?
Social media shows us everything, and as a result, we are completely desensitized to everything. Uber has a culture of sexually harassing women. People don’t care, they just want a car to show up within 2 minutes to take them where they want to go with a bottle of water and a candy. Trump fucking unilaterally bombed a sovereign nation (one that’s backed militarily by Russia) and no one cared, he’s already played golf like 5 times since then. Innocent black people are still getthing shot by police and yet where are the #BlackLivesMatter posts? Did you know there was a school shooting at an elementary school yesterday in San Bernadino? Surely the brutal death of an innocent, handicapped school child should provoke more outrage?
Nope, it didn’t even make the front page.
Some dude had a bad experience on a flight? Yeah, like that’s going to stick.