United Airlines and the Internet Mob – by Amie Gibbons

*This post ran previously at Amie’s blog.  She makes some points I didn’t.  I’ll be back tomorrow.*

United Airlines and the Internet Mob – by Amie Gibbons

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We all know the United Airlines story by now. It’s a tale of woe, of a man trying to get home, an airline at the mercy of federal regulations and just trying to survive the internet mob sicced on it by those silly peons who think they have the right to something if they pay for it.

Yeah, if you can’t tell by my intro where I’m going with this, well, it’s okay, you’ll get it soon and I’ll get a chuckle 🙂

I did a post on FB about how the doctor’s past was irrelevant and it blew up, got shared over 20 times (hey, that’s a lot for little ol’ me!) and it really went into the rough in one friend’s share especially. There were a lot of arguments around the whole thing, when I was addressing one part of it, so I’m here to address more of it, especially now that we have more information.

Let’s ignore the end result since technically the cops did it (though United called them in and what they said about why they needed cops could have affected behavior) and say the man was merely hauled off kicking and screaming.

1) Flight was not oversold. United’s carrier contract defines overbooked as too many paying passengers with tickets.

“Oversold Flight means a flight where there are more Passengers holding valid confirmed Tickets that check-in for the flight within the prescribed check-in time than there are available seats.” And “Passenger means any person, except members of the crew, carried or holding a confirmed reservation to be carried in an aircraft with the consent of the carrier.”

Now, technically, this could include employees who were not actually crew on that flight, yes. HOWEVER, this was not a case of passengers with valid confirmed tickets that checked in. The employees were put on the flight last minute, past the valid check in time, and did not have a confirmed reservation, again, this was last minute.

They had employees who needed a ride last minute, without holding confirmed reservations and without checking in on time, which puts them outside the definition. That takes them out of the provisions discussing why you may be booted when they overbook (which I think is BS, but more on that further down.) And, this was employees being put on last minute because something went wrong. Someone screwed up. I don’t know if it was the airline or the airport, but something happened, and instead of dealing with it as their own problem, they made it their customers’ problem.

2) United’s contract talks about when you may be denied boarding, not kicked off. They should have dealt with this before loading people on the plane if they wanted to hide behind those provisions. (Small note, I can no long find the provision, though it was there yesterday. I suspect it is #9, which is deleted right now, probably being updated to cover situations such as this. https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriage.aspx#sec1)

3) Yes, they could have done something unusual and sent the 4 in a rental car. I’ve seen arguments saying the kicking off is SOP. Too bad. This wasn’t a standard situation. When you have something unusual happen, like 4 personnel who must be in a place tomorrow and you’re out of seats, you get creative. Also saw an argument that they had union contracts. Irrelevant. That’s their problem. You don’t get to break one contract to fulfill another. No, really, in terms of contract law, not actually a legal excuse. And if the employees threw a fit because they had to drive, then those are some piss poor employees. Which is another reason not to fly them, because they hire/train/create piss poor employees.

4) They could have offered more. They were up to $800 (I have heard one report today saying $1000 so that may be true) with no takers, so yeah, they could have offered more. People have argued there’s a cap and yes, there is. But United wasn’t at that cap! (quick google says $1350 for over 4 hour delay.) They could have offered more. You are asking people to be inconvenienced, you sweeten the pot.

5) When they didn’t get volunteers at their paltry (i.e. not the max) offer, the employees started coping an attitude. According to reports, they got mean, snapped at people who asked for them to increase the amount offered, and told people the plane wasn’t leaving till 4 people got off, so basically holding it hostage. And it wasn’t just what was said, it was the way it was said. Like these people were things to be ordered around, herded, bullied. (See where I’m going with this yet?)

6) People keep saying the bumping passengers is normal like that’s a defense. That’s not a defense, that goes to the heart of the problem! The fact that people can argue this was acceptable at all and actually have a leg to stand on is the problem.

Here’s where I’m going to segue into the greater issue this incident has brought to light and my argument for the underlying reason why people are so upset. The reason this has blown up and United is getting dragged through the mud is complicated, and not at the same time, and has a few factors leading to the blow up.

1) See above, the employees handled this badly at every step. This was not one point in time where bad things happened and a guy got bloodied. This was screw ups and bad customer service at every step. Every time an employee could have done something in this situation, he took the path of least customer service. (Bumping passengers instead of reaccommodating employees, getting people on then trying to pull them off, getting nasty with your customers when they aren’t (gasp) giving up the seat they paid for, not raising the bribe to the max allowed, and then, and then, calling the cops on the guy refusing to lose his seat when you could have just went back to offering more, asking for another passenger since this one needed to get home, ect… No, they went straight to, I’m the boss and you need to do what I say or I use force, you stupid little widget) Already off to a bad start, United.

2) People get bumped all the time because airlines overbook. (Again, this wasn’t overbooking here, but in general that’s when passengers get bumped.) So we’re all watching this and are scared because it could be us. Because this is now the norm.

3) Airlines have stopped worrying about customer service because they all have a bad rep and close to a monopoly. I’m already seeing the opinion pieces saying this will blow over in a month or three and it won’t really hurt United overall because people only have so many choices when they fly. And they’re right. Which leads into 4.

4) Airlines have stopped acting like companies providing a service and started acting like government employees.

Yep, now we’re getting to the heart of the problem. Airlines, private companies, have been told they are “essential,” and are treated as such. They get government subsidies, they get government powers (you have to do what they say or risk legal action), and low and behold, they have started to act like government employees.

They do not act like they are beholden to the public. They do not act like they are providing a service. They act like they are beholden to their bosses, and the public are these annoying sheep they have to heard, and it is perfectly alright for them to push the sheep around if they aren’t cooperating.

And why? Because they no longer consider customer service to be important to getting business, because they have the government propping them up and patting their heads.

Tell me, what other service could get away with this? You have a server toss you out of a restaurant, you go someplace else. You have a retail chain with rude workers, same thing. But airlines do not act this way, nor do they have to.

And we’ve hit the problem. We are no longer customers to them. We are sheep. We are widgets. If they lose our business, oh well, because there’s millions more, and they aren’t going to be gone forever necessarily, because there’s so little competition.

So they’ll ride this out, people will forget, and next time they’re booking a flight, they’ll go with cheapest/most direct/best times, all those other factors, and maybe pick a different airline if all other factors are the same.

And that’s why this has gotten so huge and people are enraged, and trying to ripe United apart. Because we want to make an example out of them. We’ve already gone down the path of being treated like sheep being herded on and off planes, crammed into tiny seats (no one’s making fun of how small I am now, are they? ;), ordered around like we’re prisoners, and if we argue, they have the power to toss us off or even have us arrested.

You want to talk about abuse of power? Give a service person the power to have anyone who pisses them off arrested, and make it so broad, that the absurd result of you being arrested for arguing is no longer hyperbole, but what can actually happen.

People keep arguing the doctor should’ve left when told and dealt with it later because under federal law, the airline employees are in charge and it is against the law to argue with them.

And nobody sees a problem with this? Look at what you’re arguing. You are saying a private company has essentially government power and can abuse it and therefore them doing so is perfectly acceptable.

No!

This has blown up because we have hit a point where we see what happens when this power goes to far. When abuses are not only common, but so common that the fact that it’s common is used as an excuse for the abuses.

We’re blowing up because we don’t want this far of an abuse to become the next thing that’s common. And we know the outrage won’t last, so we’re trying to capitalize on it while we can.

The court of public opinion is trying to make this so painful for United in the short time this is dominating the news that even though it will blow over in a few months, they, and other airlines, will watch themselves when they have this situation again. And hopefully correct their behavior, because we don’t want this to be another thing that is accepted because “they can legally do that,” and “it’s standard practice.”

Losing what you paid for because their airlines plan poorly/want to make sure there are no empty seats, is standard practice, and it shouldn’t be. Being treated like a prisoner with the airline employees as wardens is standard practice, and it shouldn’t be. Losing what you paid for because some airline employee is on a power trip is standard practice, and it shouldn’t be.

This isn’t just a reaction to the man being bloodied, this is a reaction to the entire rotting industry that has taken its power, the power as government pets and too little competition, and run with it to run roughshod over the customers. This is a reaction to the people in charge telling us little people to sit down, shut up, take what we’re given, and go quietly to the back of the bus when someone more important comes along.

This is another example of America saying no to the elites, to the cultured, to our “betters” who know what’s good for society. This story has captured attention because it was a man in the modern age being told to go sit at the back of the bus.

This is the public screaming that we are important, the individual does matter, just because the government says you can do this doesn’t mean it’s right, and we can change you.

And we’ll do it one meme, blog post, and FB argument at a time.

 

And since I’m just a little person trying to make it, here’s a promo of the first book in my cozy paranormal mystery series, just in case this post gets around like my one on FB yesterday, because I’m shameless, and I don’t get government subsidies 😀

Now just $2.99!

Psychic Undercover (with the Undead)

135 responses to “United Airlines and the Internet Mob – by Amie Gibbons

  1. c4c….travelling day, and the last post on this was awesome long. 🙂

  2. ” Because they no longer consider customer service to be important to getting business, because they have the government propping them up and patting their heads.”

    I have to admit that the question that occurred to me with this remark is: What would happen if they lost that government support? Can an airline actually operate as a viable business in today’s business environment without taxpayer-derived subsides, while still meeting both regulatory safety and customer satisfaction targets? Or has the economy of fuel expense, aircraft maintenance, property support, and staff skill now reached the point where no practical price point for tickets — i.e. high enough to meet all the airline’s costs and profit while still low enough that the majority of citizens can and will purchase them — exists anymore without subsidization?

    • I think Southwest can, but it would be tight. Otherwise what we ought to be seeing are things like the KLM Combi, where you have a plane that is half cargo and half passenger. Granted, KLM is subsidized (what isn’t in Europe?), but air freight seems to be a major chunk of their bottom line. Or the semi-private, semi-charter services like one I used in the summer of ’07, where you had a trans-Atlantic 737 that had 65-70 passengers, all business class, and cargo, and it cost IIRC $3500 round-trip Houston to Basel and back. I suspect it costs more now, if it is still in business, but man, I’d happily pay extra for that much leg-room and convenience.

      • I don’t think KLM is subsidized. At least not obviously. The EU has rules about that (possibly the only thing the EU is actually good for is its rules about government funding of private enterprises). Of course KLM is now in some kind of byzantine keirestsu with Air C̶h̶a̶n̶c̶e̶ ̶France and Al G̶e̶n̶Italia so quite possibly someone snuck some subsidy in there somewhere.

        In fact European air travel is a surprisingly good and relatively free market. You have the entire range of price points and customer service models from RyanAir (who are the subject of this song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPyl2tOaKxM ) to pay lots and be treated nicely on Swiss Air.

  3. It’s not a cap, it’s a regulatory minimum for involuntary bumping. For 4 hours or more it’s 400% of the one-way fare to a max of $1350. Cash. Nothing in there that says it’s a cap, for me it’s the starting bid. Airlines are free to offer more.

    • But is it cash?
      I was under the impression that what they offered were vouchers against future air travel which sounds great, but can be subject to abuse in the same way that they play tricks with mile credits.

    • amiegibbons15

      Copy of the law. There’s a cap. https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/14/250.5

      Now, why the f#^* there’s a cap still eludes me.

      • Now, why the f#^* there’s a cap still eludes me.

        If there weren’t a cap, then companies might actually compete–the ones offering better deals than their competitors would attract more customers. And that would be bad because “fairness” or something.

        Do I need a sarcasm tag?

        • What gets me is the “credit to be use with $US” Yeah, like I’d want to ever deal with $YOU again after $THIS. Maybe you’re trying to “make it right” and get a “second chance” but… tell me, after being effectively savagely kicked in the ‘nads (and it’s not your kink, etc.) WHY would you go back for more?! Would there be a reason other than idiocy? Maybe ox slow. Fine. Ox slow. Ox still not THAT slow!

      • Point of clarification.
        This is a regulation. That means it was invented by the Department of Transportation. Violation is not a crime, but a civil infraction. You can violate the regulation, and appeal it’s legality to the head of the Department for override or removal. (Good luck with either.) Failing that, you can appeal to your Senators or Representatives that the regulation in question violates the intent of the law Congress passed that the Department invented the regulation to supposedly comply with.
        So in other words, just because the DOT says that is the maximum an airline can compensate passengers with, isn’t hard and fast; and dollars to doughnuts was put in place by a star chamber cabal of DOT reps and airline industry CEOs with zero input by any real citizens.

  4. Just because it’s going to come up.

    Stolen from a lawyer’s blog.

    “…trespassing has nothing to do with it. A ticket is a license, similar to a tenancy, in that it confers a right to be on someone else’s property for a limited time and purpose. Had he not paid and been granted a license to be there, it could be trespass, but since he did and was, that isn’t an issue. There is no trespassing component to this at all. It’s just a matter of contract.”

  5. Haven’t finished reading yet, but this part:

    Yes, they could have done something unusual and sent the 4 in a rental car.

    My understanding is that union rules forbade using ground transportation for this purpose.

    • Doesn’t excuse how they treated the passengers on the airplane but it is why they had to have the crew fly.

      Mind you, at this point chartering a flight to get those crewmembers where they needed to be would be the less expensive option. And before it’s done _buying_ an airplane to do it will likely be.

      • amiegibbons15

        That’s why I addressed that, because it has come up. It’s irrelevant. Does beg the question of why there isn’t more outrage at the unions though? Hmmmm, future blog post, maybe.

      • They could have used a van to convey the bumpees to their destination.

        • Feather Blade

          If the “bumpees” wanted to drive, they wouldn’t have been on a plane in the first place.

          • Amen to that!
            In my misspent youth, I worked for a tour bus company in San Diego. When LAX got socked in with fog the planes would divert to San Diego, and the airlines would call us. (This generally wasn’t more than we could handle, as it only happened with planes already in the air.) These runs usually happened late at night, with zero warning. A quick cold shower, caffeine, stick a paperback in my uniform pocket for waiting times, and I was off.

            I’d put on my Professional Happy Face, greet the crowd, load up the luggage, then climb on the bus and grab the mic for the PA. About 80% of the time before I finished the second sentence of my “Welcome, I’m Tom, and it’ll probably take about this long” spiel a voice would come from somewhere in the back of the bus, often as a hoarse shout, saying “We paid for a plane ticket, not a BUS ticket!”

            And that was in the 70s when flying was still nice.

    • One MORE reason I to loathe unions. (Met enough unionoids at the Post Office for more lifetimes than I have. If the lot gets sucked into the drain…. I shall pity the poor drain.)

    • Another interesting question: Why did it have to be those four people? They couldn’t find four people in the destination city who work for United with the needed skills?

      • “They couldn’t find four people in the destination city who work for United with the needed skills? and flying time left under FAA regs?

        That last one is the killer.

    • And those union rules must vary by airline, since American did exactly that to get a crew from Philly to LaGuardia Thursday before last, according to co-worker’s wife who was on the flight needing one.

  6. Gee, why not take this to the logical conclusion: You want more Trump? Because this is how you get more Trump.

    N.B. – the above statement should not be construed as advocating Trump as a desirable solution.

    • I’ve seen similar comments (esp. during the election) that if Trump fails, people really won’t like his ideological successor. Because love or hate what he stands for, the root causes of frustration that resulted in his election need to be addressed before we as a country can move forward. However, given the myopia on the left (and a certain amount on the right), it seems like Trumpism will be around for quite some time.

    • I was gonna say that, RES, but you trumped me.

    • soon your turn will turn to the Dark Side will be complete,,,*cackle*

  7. Okay, United needed to get their flight crew where they needed to be in a timely fashion. I get that.

    But when I fly it’s because I need to get where I need to be in a timely fashion. When I can, I take the 7 hour drive to Chattanooga rather than fly down to LibertyCon.

    United’s poor planning (they know where they need flight crews. They know that things happen sometimes. Not being prepared to deal with that is on them) should not constitue an automatic emergency for me. But “some animals are more equal than others.”

    • It’s 1.5 (therefore 2) day drive. If we could fly in a manner than wasn’t criminal, we’d consider it. As it is… I can tell you a Mercedes sleeps one very well. Not for Libertycon, but I’ve slept through Chicago area traffic and speeds where the limit signs meant “You’ll have trouble if you slow to this.”

      • * * * WARNING * * *
        CARNIVORES AHEAD.

      • Slept in two different Mercedes, even!

        I will say that the fact that they make outstanding highway cruisers has me convinced that I’ll stick with the brand for the foreseeable future.

        Even if, when working on them, sometimes all you can do is step back, shake your head, and say “Germans. Go fig.”

    • American had the same problem last week, resulting in my being stuck in DC.

  8. I live in the Bay Area, which means there are 3 (4, if you count Sacramento) major airports within an hour’s drive. Used to live in L.A., with even more airports. And both areas are huge population centers and destinations. Saying this upfront, as it may affect how the next thing I say is understood:

    Almost everywhere I fly – used to fly a lot – I have many choices. I almost never fly United. British Air, US Air (whoever they are now) and kinda Delta are also on my Not-If-I-Can-Help-It list. Jetblue, Virgin, Southwest, are on my preferred list. Nice planes. Nice people. Indifferent to most of the others.

    It seems crazy to me for people to say this will just blow over and won’t hurt United. It’s already hurt United. Airline have comparatively thin margins (thanks to us consumers using comparison sites and almost always choosing the cheapest flight) and high fixed costs. It doesn’t take much to hurt them – which is why they so often go out of business, merge and, after 9/11, get bailed out.

    United is also an interesting business case: they’re an old airline with a lot of expensive older airplanes and expensive older (unionized) employees. The three I named as personal favs are comparatively young, with many younger cheaper planes and (non-union) employees. There’s a successful business model in airlines, where you set up an airline, buy/lease all new planes and hire younger, less expensive pilots, run it for 20 years or so, then sell/go broke as the fleet gets older and the pilots get tenured – and start over. (continuing to grow and adding new pilots & planes has roughly the same effect – easiest to do when you’re young and small). My three favs all follow this model. Hell on the older employees, though.

    Finally, United caters to business travelers, has cut deals with many major companies to be their preferred airline. I strongly suspect they know who those passengers are and don’t throw them off the planes. It us ‘personal’ travelers who take it in the shorts – we buy the cheapest seats. United is probably counting on those business travelers to get them through all this – we shall see.

    Government involvement is bad – I’m down with that, especially in cases where the dead hand is pounding sense into United (or, if they persist, pounding them into nonexistence). I fear the government will try to fix this for us – which will only make it worse.

    • They’re also the airline of contract for government contractors. JUST FYI

    • About those new pilots. I’ve read, at jqpublic.com, that many AF pilots are getting out, have gotten out, or will get out as soon as they can.

      • Yes. And the airlines are desperate enough that the last time I was in the D/FW area for a flight instructor refresher course, I had two guys from two different carriers approach me about applying for a job with them since I have an Airline Transport Rating (basic license for flying airliners and jets.) Since they were still paying cr@p for wages, among other reasons, I politely declined their invitations to apply.

    • Teeny quibble. Southwest has a union, but it is purely in-house. (N.B. This information is 10 years old. Could have changed since then.)

      • Always happy to be corrected – my understanding is very fragmented and dated, but comes from an attempt to understand the business model. Sarah’s point about United having the gov’t contract for travel is a bit I didn’t know, and reduces greatly the effect we peon can have on their bottom line. But it takes the case I was trying to make to 11 – the market (market forces = normal people behaving normally) will in fact straighten this out – IF the government stays out of it.

        But they won’t. Sigh. At least, we can fly AOA – Any Other Airline

  9. 2) United’s contract talks about when you may be denied boarding, not kicked off. They should have dealt with this before loading people on the plane

    Oh yes! We’ve all dealt with being bumped (no matter how happy we are about the matter), but do it prior to boarding and certainly raise the bribes!!!

    Agree with all of your other points as well, but this is the one that jumped out at me.

    • While technically “boarding” isn’t completed until the crew have seated everyone and shut the doors, that’s not what the common understanding of “boarding” is. So if this went to a jury trial and the argument was, “Well, we have the right to refuse to board any passenger,” the United lawyers would point to the technical definition of boarding. But if I were on the jury, I’d go with the common understanding of boarding: once I have walked onto the plane and sat down, I have boarded the plane. (And the principle of contract law is that if a term isn’t defined in the contract, you go with the common definition in ordinary use.)

    • … But then, in the Flying Blind comments thread, styrgwillidar said that United’s CEO has admitted the flight wasn’t oversold. If that’s an accurate summary of the CEO’s statements, then that makes it an open-and-shut case that United violated their Contract of Carriage, since the only legitimate reason they would have had for kicking people off was if the flight was overbooked. That makes the CEO’s statement an admission against interest; if you Google that phrase you’ll find out some very interesting things that add up to “When the doctor sues United, they’d better settle, because they would lose the suit if it goes to trial.”

  10. I heard on an NPR show that China’s up in arms about the treatment of the doctor.

    I wonder how they chose the people to remove? Do you believe it was “random?” I don’t. I think if I were looking to find a pair of people to remove, an Asian couple in their late 60s would be less likely to kick up a fuss than a businessperson.

    I don’t like the airlines’ multiple levels of specialness for customers. It seems to translate to a willingness to mistreat the customer who hasn’t chosen to pay for special treatment. It seems very inefficient to me to load passengers in by different groupings. Surely the best way to load a plane is from the back to the front, so people don’t have to squeeze by others in the narrow aisles?

    And then at another level it doesn’t matter what provisions might be in the contract. Some things shock the conscience. Violently dragging a passenger from a seat he paid for because you want a seat for your own employees is just wrong.

    • Actually, I approve of airlines ranking perks by who gives them the most repeat business.

    • I believe some airline (Southwest?) has said “Our studies show it’s more efficient to board everyone at once than to board by different groups”. Not sure who that was, though. I did find http://jalopnik.com/mythbusters-proves-most-airlines-board-planes-all-wrong-1636981904 which claims that Southwest does board that way — all at once, AND without any assigned seats, so you sit on a first-come, first-served basis. No idea how accurate that is, though.

      It does make sense to me that “WMA” boarding (Window seats first, Middle seats next, Aisle seats last) would take less time than back-to-front. But I don’t know if any airlines are doing that.

      And like overgrownhobbit, I also have no problem with “You’re one of our best customers? We’ll give you better service,” at least in principle. So the “early boarding for members of our pay-to-belong perks club” thing doesn’t bother me.

      • Southwest does indeed board that way. (Well, by groups, but that doesn’t alter the facts. The groups are first come first served.)

        I refuse to fly Southwest because of this. I need a window seat to avoid airsickness, and there’s just no way to guarantee I’ll get one on Southwest.

        • They do sell something called EarlyBird Check-In, which would increase your chances of getting a desired seat since you end up checking in earlier than other people, but: 1) that’s still not a guarantee, and 2) it costs more, thus making other airlines’ offerings relatively better for you. So in your situation, that’s not something you’ll want to go for.

          Personally, I prefer aisle seats so I don’t have to bother my seatmates if I need to go to the restroom. Since the flights I’m on are usually 12-hour flights over the Pacific, I want to go to the restroom at least 2-3 times per flight on average. So getting an aisle seat lets me do that without having to wake up the guy next to me, who’s pulled a sleep mask over his eyes and is trying his best to get some shut-eye.

  11. Lest we forget – United’s arrogance to those flying with them has been systemic, and around for a long time, in terms of making good on their screwups.

    Sure, everyone screws up, but you have to be a special kind of ass to then double down on it.

    http://nightlandsredoubt.blogspot.com/2017/04/united-also-breaks-guitars.html

  12. scott2harrison

    The dictatorial powers of the crew are necessary in the air for safety reasons similar to the case of ships. They are not needed on the ground. If I recall correctly, the “master after God” powers of a ship captain do not kick in until the ship leaves the dock. Perhaps the laws should be changed so aircrew do not get their extraordinary powers until after the plane leaves the gate?

    • Dictatorial power only exists when you have the physical or psychological means to enforce compliance. Legal power only exists where you can be reasonable sure that you can get 12 peers to agree with your position. Legally, an aircrew member could order you to stand at the rear of the aircraft next to the toilet for the entire flight just because they think it’s fun to make you do so. However, most people would agree that such an abuse of power is not what the law intended, and would support the passenger refusing to do so. Certainly if the crew member were so foolish as to try to physically coerce the passenger into compliance, and the passenger was capable of effectively resisting, and was okay with the consequences, then any dictatorial power would vanish. Frankly, there have been occasions when an entire plane would cheer if a retired marine stuffed an obnoxious flight attendant in the commode and blocked the door shut.

      • scott2harrison

        I agree with most of this, however in this case legal power exists when the FAA says that it does, no jury needed.

    • I think it more likely, and more desirable, that the general public will stop cooperating with “extraordinary powers” outside of genuine emergencies.

    • I believe they should still have the right to kick out a passenger before the plane leaves the gate, as long as it’s for certain good reasons — e.g., someone who’s being extremely disruptive, or threatening other passengers, and so on. That part of the rules I find fair enough, on the same grounds that I have no problem with bouncers at a nightclub being able to remove a drunk customer who starts harassing other people. “We no longer want you on our property, goodbye, here’s your refund since we don’t want you as a customer any more,” that sort of thing. E.g., the story last month (don’t remember the date) where a guy who’d voted for Trump got harassed and verbally abused by the woman seated next to him, to the point where the flight attendants had her removed from the plane. (Allegedly, the other passengers who’d been within earshot cheered when this was announced, and the guy then proceeded to have a very polite discussion with his other seatmate, a black guy who routinely votes Democrat, about the importance of being polite and having reasonable discussions with people you disagree with).

      The problem with that idea, of course, is that such powers could get abused, but I think the widespread use of cell phones is an effective countermeasure to that. It’s hard for anyone to believe United’s claim that the doctor was disruptive and unruly and should have been kicked out for those reasons — not when their lying eyes tell them otherwise.

      • “the widespread use of cell phones is an effective countermeasure to that.”

        Not until one party recording is made legal and admissible world wide.

        • True enough. There is a due-process right to one-party recording, but many countries (and some U.S. states) refuse to recognize that right.

      • The problem with that idea, of course, is that such powers could get abused, …

        All power is prone to being abused, but in the absence of such authority a different and greater sort of abuse is likely to occur. The trick, it would seem, is to have special processes and penalties to punish such abuses.

        It also helps to remember that our form of governance “was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”


        Those who will not first govern themselves are ill-suited to attempt governance of others.

        I think I might be inclined to debate Adams on the “religious” qualifier, but it is by and large true (for a broad interpretation of the word) in our time if less so than in his.

  13. Moo.
    You humans think you have issues with the ‘cattle’ treatment?
    But yeah, United can go [BLEEEEP] themselves.
    With a rusty chainsaw.
    Sideways.

    Meanwhile, I’ll be travelling by private vehicle. Granted, more because the Great Dempression makes anything else unlikely and the TSA can [BLEEEEEEEEEEEP] themselves with a rusty chainsaw – sideways. Twice. For starters. But still. The next plane I am likely to be in, will be one where I personally know the pilot.

  14. “4) Airlines have stopped acting like companies providing a service and started acting like government employees.”

    I agree. But that is not really the root of the problem.

    The true root of the problem is government employees wield power they do not deserve, did not earn and cannot be trusted with. Long term, that is the biggest danger of all.

    Americans all just woke up to the fact that they can be beaten and dragged by the cops for arguing. No matter who they are. Americans are shocked, angry, and frightened they might be next. Today the airport, tomorrow the supermarket.

    The employees of United Airlines deserve to be out of a job over this, as it is a pattern of behavior of long standing. If they go broke it will be justice.

    But the real work that needs to get done is the chastening of government by the people. It needs to be shrunk to one one-hundredth of what it is now, just for starters. That will probably be very difficult.

    As to politicians, if Trump is smart, and I think he is, this is a bandwagon he wants to be on. This is a visceral, bone deep thing with Americans. They are sick of being herded. Trump could do well for himself if he gets out there and starts making a splash with the chainsaw, pruning big pieces of dead wood.

    • “Subsidies? Oh, those are dependent, ABSOLUTELY dependent, on customer service. See you in a year. Or maybe five. If you’re still around.”

    • Ah, I should have replied to this. Didn’t see when I was making my original reply. Well said, Phantom! Employees of the government (And I count the heavily subsidized airlines as part of it, if not wholly part) need to learn that they are servants of the public, not overlords.

      • Years ago, I saw someone (of Chinese ancestry, as I recall) suggest that anyone calling themselves a “public servant” ought be required to address the members of the public, which they supposedly serve, as ‘Master’.

        • Oh, I like that. I like that a lot.

        • Which I do. Even wee rugrats which, in civilian life, as an adult, I outrank.

          But I’ve always been a big fan of Jack Vance’s Kirstenville.

          Practically speaking, however, it gets tricky when you have to address the concerns of one set of bosses (Nearly all of them) vs, the other Lord and Master, who wants to creep on the pre-teen girls.

        • My “representative” /spit (Joe Courtney, CT-2) proudly put up on his website his opening speechifying over Obamacare where he made reference to folks being unhappy that they didn’t get the same health insurance choices afforded “to those who rule them in Washington”. !!!

          I wrote a letter to the editor which got published suggesting that he was in serious need of a remedial civics course.

    • Having worked as a federal contractor in the past, I can see two ways that pruning the number of government employees to a level you describe can be accomplished easily.

      1) Immediately retire everyone over the age of 60 and don’t hire replacements. Sure, we taxpayers still have to pay their pensions, but we’ll have to pay that when they eventually retire anyway.

      2) If you still haven’t reached the required level, give a 2 month notice, then terminate all contractor positions– it’ll mean a serious blow to the cogs of gov’t turning, since mostly, in my experience, it was the contractors who got actual work done. But the contractors and the companies that employ them will find other means of work, and a 2 month window will be enough time for the majority to find other means.

      In the places I’ve worked for the feds, the ratio was either 1-1 or 2-1 contractor-employee, and the percentage of government employees over 60 was usually 75%. Mostly they’re hanging on trying to eke out a slightly better retirement because it’s based on the highest-paid-three-years of service, and by 60 or 65 they’re making better money than they had previously.

      • “But the contractors and the companies that employ them will find other means of work, and a 2 month window will be enough time for the majority to find other means.”

        No, actually, they won’t. Because a lot of those US Gov are US Citizen only positions, and most of the tech companies would LOVE an excuse to dump expensive citizens for more cheap H1Bs.

    • This is a visceral, bone deep thing with Americans

      Thus we see part of the brilliance exhibited in appointing Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, elevating his reluctance to continue Chevron Deference.

      There is amusing significance to the MSM’s inability to grasp what is meant by critique of the Deep State, an ignorance akin to that of fish toward water.

      • I’ve seen articles refer to “Deep State” as some sort of nutty conspiracy theory. They don’t seem to understand that “Deep State” is merely the bureaucracy that remains from administration to administration. Politicians come and go, but the same bureaucrats are still there. And they aren’t necessarily Party Politically minded — their politics is one of building and preserving their little fiefdoms, and their power is one of enforcing or ignoring dicta from above at their pleasure.

        It’s not a conspiracy so much as it’s bureaucratic “cruft” — a software term for the pointless features and dead code that build up over time, because no matter how obscure the feature, there are bound to be users who depend on it, and no matter how dead a block of code seems to be, there’s a niggling fear that, if it’s removed, it’s going to cause someone, somewhere some sort of problem down the line.

  15. “4) Airlines have stopped acting like companies providing a service and started acting like government employees.”

    Well said, Amie. It’s gotten to where dealing with any airline is as bad – or worse – than dealing with the DMV or the post office. And I know that not every employee in any of those companies/agencies is rotten. I’m not saying that. But, the culture within those companies/agencies is rotten, and customers and tax payers have had enough of it. Well, some have. Some are arguing that everything is ok because “Hey, rules is rules.”

    I remember one time I went to the post office and found a line out the door. I needed stamps from the machine, so I continued on in and found the reason for the line: it was lunch time, and the person who was supposed to be on duty was out sick, and the others were just beyond the partition eating lunch. Had this been done at a privately owned company that was held accountable by its customers, someone would have stepped up to fill in, or someone would have been fired. But, when your position is protected or your hands are tied due to inflexible rules (Such as not being able to drive a crew to a location if a flight isn’t available) then it’s easy to just fall into the mindset of “This is how it is, and this is how it’s going to be, no matter who it inconveniences or hurts.”

    Hopefully this situation will cause a reversal of this trend and wake up some of the airlines, if not all. I won’t be holding my breath, though. When you’re essentially a wing of the government, change happens very slowly.

    • Anyone else recall the bit from Laugh In?
      “We’re the Phone Company. We don’t care. We don’t have to.”
      History might not repeat, but it seems to be rhyming a little bit.

  16. I think you’re on to something – with how this has blown up so huuugely. Air travel has been increasingly less comfortable for years, and this was just the final straw.

  17. Speaking of the book: “Billy Graham beard”???

  18. Total tangent.

    I’m getting ready to head out to my first (and probably only) con of the year (when I went to register for Libertycon it had sold out).

    It looks like beyond the one panel I’m on I think I’ll be at panels on the Ink (writing not tattoos) track this year instead of Think, Kink, Sync, or Gaming tracks. I hold the Huns at a minimum 50% responsible for this fact. The punishment will be bad fiction released onto the world.

    • *points and laughs* Just wait until you get an Author Reads Own Work slot.

      ‘S OK, I probably won’t make any Cons unless I go to AmaCon this summer. LibertyCon is too close to when I get back from Germany *taps wood* and BuboniCon is right in the middle of inservice at my day job.

  19. It’ll be a while…I have to finish something first but the lot of you have convinced me I have to least finish something once or twice.

    • Well. At least someone is behind me in the queue… Finished and published two. (I’d have to look, but I think the “wages” calculate to about 5 mills an hour…)

      Keep plugging away.

      • At least my goal is to write bad erotica in a subgenre where the current standard is god awful with a few reaching merely atrocious.

        • Dorothy Grant

          Oooh, if yours is merely bad, you could make drastic improvements!Beware,though; I hear that if you put things like, oh, a plot that makes sense, actual relationship-type communication, or even worse, a love story in, you’ll find you have a small, rabid fan base who’ll hound you for more, even as the larger pool of genre readers pass you by as “too different!”

          …seriously, I have actually heard of that happening to authors. Which just goes to show that people are crazy, but when was that news?

          • Well, mine will have more plot than sex.

            The relationship will have communication but will be non-traditional. In fact, the lack of good models in erotica for this type of relationship is what got me to assuming the effective writing postion (butt in chair).

          • I hear that if you put things like, oh, a plot that makes sense, actual relationship-type communication, or even worse, a love story in, you’ll find you have a small, rabid fan base who’ll hound you for more

            So, fun con story. The woman who runs the writer track talked to me on Thursday (a planned meeting for non-writer purposes) and I told her why I was attending a lot of the Ink Track. She told me I had to meet one of the women on the indie panel (also on the social media one which conflicted with my panel).

            After the indie panel I walked up and said, “Trin said I should meet you so I’m herb”. When she asked why I told her I thought F/m erotica was god awful, sometimes rising merely atrocious so I was trying to write “merely bad” version. She was excited as she never sees herself in anything she reads and asked me a bit about what I intended. When she heard the elevator pitch she said (and it seemed sincere) she can’t wait to read it.

            So, between her and an old friend I suspect you could be right. I know I was spurred to write it for community narrative reasons as much as my own interest in the topic and now I’m starting to suspect I’m not the only one.

        • Gotcha. In other words, roll up to Liberty Con in a luxury Hummer some year.

          • Does the luxury package come with the .50 cal or the grenade launcher on the turret ring?

            And what options come with the forward observer package. That is the one in which I am interested.

            • A 20mm Oerlikon

            • I’ll have to get back to you…

              I’ve only been looking at the all-endangered-species hide interior, and checking out the optional front-mounted Prius chipper attachment. (That one I think is a bit under-engineered – some pieces are all too likely to escape and chip the Valkyrie paint job. Embarrassing if in the wrong places…)

        • You’d think that people would realize that just because it’s porn doesn’t mean you can ignore little details like plot and characterization and continuity and and and…

          • You can’t?

            • It merely means that those elements are not primary in buyers’ minds. You can include them so long as they do not subtract from the content which is the main reason for the purchase.

              Just so has McDonald’s discovered that you can remove all elements of flavor, texture and nutrition from a hamburger and still sell a great many of them.

              • Actually lack of relationships and 3d characters is a big complaint in this subgenre.

                • Unsurprising — the relationship would seem to be the purpose of the particular subgenre, nicht wahr?

                  In the broader genre I maintain you will lose more sales for lack of explicitly and graphically described schtupping than for lack of “relationships and 3d characters.”

                  Sadly, this is reportedly becoming the case for such other genres as Romance.

  20. For all the attention paid to the legal rights of passenger and carrier, it is useful to remember this saying, often attributed (incorrectly) to Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord:

    C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute. (It is worse than a crime, it is a mistake.)

  21. And now for something COMPLETELY different–a cat on the field of a Marlins baseball game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQrY1muqaXs

  22. Michael Houst

    This whole thing reminds me of that scene from Van Helsing.

    Count Vladislaus Dracula: Igor!
    Igor: Yes, Master?
    Count Vladislaus Dracula: Why do you torment that thing so?
    Igor: It’s what I do.

  23. ‘Airline deregulation’ happened decades ago, and I suspect regulatory creep has recaptured any lost ground. Just a thought.

    That said, has anyone ever tried to run a ‘no bump’ servce? Because if they did, it lasted so short a time I never heard about it. And that’s a key. Not THE key, but a key.

    For the most part, people will not pay for good service. I worked for Suncoast (video offshoot of Sam Goody) for a few years. The chain had lots of problems, first to last, but the core was it could not compete with WalMart. We had a better range of titles. Our salespeople were mostly film buffs, who could answer questions and find obscure titles. We could win at the “this couple are on a ship, and he’s James Stewart and I forget who she was, but she was blonde” game.

    WalMart could sell them the very latest top releases for $5 cheaper.

    If you won’t pay for service when you don’t need it, it won’t be there when you do.

    Doesn’t mean the United crew shouldn’t have their knees broken.

    • I don’t agree. People will pay for service. it just depends on the service and how much. Someone says it’s a pity that Frontier couldn’t last with superior service. I don’t know where they got the idea Frontier had superior service. See the post I listed yesterday. They were insane liars who could not be trusted, as far as I was concerned.
      And our local “high service” bookstore went out not because it was a little more expensive, but because their employees were all insane leftists.
      I appreciate your example, but there could be a dozen reasons the movie store failed, including time it was opened (when recessions hit, people go price only) and/or location.
      But people pay for service. Provided it’s not ridiculously overpriced.

      • I don’t know how it went at the ticket counter (having no need to fly myself), but during the below-described transition I was shipping air freight semi-regularly, and I remember when it changed (and discussed it with some of the soon-to-be-ex employees):

        Airlines used to have all in-house personnel. They were actually employees of the company, and were expected to perform accordingly as representatives to the public. And service was, in my experience, uniformly good (except for United, who’ve always sucked). Frontier was in fact one of the best to deal with, at least for freight.

        Somewhere around 1990ish a bunch of airlines fired all the in-house personnel at the smaller airports (eg. Burbank, as contrasted to LAX) and began using outside contractors, who usually handled several airlines out of one office. And service took a nose-dive, because the contractors weren’t beholden to a particular airline anymore, and basically couldn’t be fired. Crap service became the norm.

        How far up the ladder this went, I have no idea, but that’s also about the time we started hearing gripes about overbooking, shaving off stuff like in-flight meals, and various other cost-cutting mechanisms, so I expect it’s all one problem, and they’ve never really recovered.

        I probably had a point, but I’ve forgotten what it was. 🙂

      • I appreciate your example, but there could be a dozen reasons the movie store failed

        Which could simply be that the extra service offered just isn’t that important to people. How many people, really, go to the video store wanting “I don’t know the title but [followed by some incoherent description of the movie]” compared to those who simply want “Title X”? Or how many people want the less popular titles in a “larger selection”? If there aren’t enough of those to support your business when the folk who just want what’s recent and popular and they know the title of the movie, thank you very much, find what they want cheaper and easier (and while they’re shopping for other things to so it saves them a trip), well, sucks to be you.

        And if you had people in the store at all, it just goes to show that there were people who would pay for what you had, just not enough, apparently, to support the cost of a brick and mortar store.

        The service has to be valuable enough to enough people to keep you in the black at the higher cost. That some cases aren’t don’t mean that other cases won’t be.

      • clark e myers

        Frontier had superior service in all truth with the emphasis on had.

        By the time of your referenced flight it wasn’t the same Frontier.

        There is a gut it and wear the skin model in politics and in business. Say Wells Fargo Bank where the current company bought themselves a respectable new name after disgracing their original identity. A new name but not a new beginning as disgraceful business practices have continued

        New in 1994, and the second incarnation of the name, Frontier had a vision of offering superior comfort with a business model that really did offer superior service.

        Starting when Continental shut down its Denver Hub and lasting for several years of confusion about DIA (what’s the difference between DIA and the White House? they’ve landed an airplane at the White House) there was a less competitive opening for a Denver Hub service. Frontier did well for a while but there were limits to growth while avoiding price competition.

        When Southwest entered the Denver market Frontier tried to be all things. Within 2 years Frontier in its second incarnation was in bankruptcy. Republic, a regional carrier, took control of Frontier and eventually Indigo a venture capital sort of outfit took over.

        “seats will no longer recline, coming in a “pre-reclined” mode to save flight attendants from the headaches of in-air legroom fights. The new arrangement adds a total of 12 seats to each flight.
        But it’s worth keeping in mind that when people fly Frontier, they probably aren’t expecting a comfortable ride. It’s ranked as one of the five worst airlines in the United States, racking up bumped passengers, complaints, and mishandled bags. Barely more than half of its planes land on time. ….

        The example of Frontier suggests that offering a little better experience for a little more money is a really hard sell. A little better experience is pretty intangible a little more money is very tangible. There are many competitive factors. Southwest was either very lucky or very skillful in its futures contracts for fuel when that was a critical item in airline profits and generally has been an effective competitor. Frontier didn’t do as well dealing with fuel costs and although Frontier’s Airbus fleet was potentially slightly more economical Frontier was once lower density. Southwest operated its planes efficiently including tankering cheap fuel. In fact Southwest would get frost on the wings over the fuel tanks and be ready to fly before the southwest sun could melt the frost.

    • “‘Airline deregulation’ happened decades ago, and I suspect regulatory creep has recaptured any lost ground. Just a thought.”

      Exactly.

  24. Every election counts. You want to eliminate the bureaucracy, you gotta elect people willing to take out the bureaucracy. Since when have we ever done that?

    There is some indication that United was caught between multiple contracts and FAA regulations. No defense; but again, every election counts…

  25. 11B-Mailclerk

    Two little contributions:

    “You can’t beat United, but we sure as heck can beat you.”

    (And Stolen from The Liberty Zone)

    TSA = Transport Sturm Abtielung

    • I have a graphic I created which I need to dig up again (and it really needs to be a T shirt). “TSA” with an X drawn as if in blood across the “T”. Caption: “This time the shirts are blue.”

      Wonder if that would get me a random check if I wore it through security?