PASSENGER OFF-BORADED INVUOLUNTARILY

Fly the Friendly Skies of United – Really

by Sharon Kyle

ike a live frog that won’t leap out of a soon to be boiling pot of water to save its own life, the vast majority of Americans remain silent as the country continues to demonstrate that it is moving ever closer to being a police state.

The story goes that if a frog is put suddenly into a pot of boiling water, it’ll immediately leap out. But if that same frog is put into a pot of lukewarm water, which is then slowly brought to boil, the frog will stay in the pot—tolerating more and more heat until it is finally cooked to death.

This is what appears to be happening in the United States with its over-dependence on the use of force—used to solve problems that clearly could be solved in other ways. Excuse the mixed metaphors but, like they say, “if all you have in your toolbox is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.”

Case in point: Last night when United Airlines discovered that an overbooked flight could not accommodate a few flight crew members, it asked paying customers to voluntarily give up their seats and take a later flight. This happens all of the time. The airline usually offers monetary compensation in addition to a seat on a later flight and sometimes a free hotel room.

But on this particular flight, there weren’t enough passengers who were willing to give up their seats voluntarily. So United Airlines decided to call the police and have a passenger forcibly removed!  Several passengers took out their cell phones and captured on video what appears to be an Asian American man being violently extracted from the plane.

When asked why United Airlines chose to handle the overbooking this way, a spokesperson for the airline replied,  “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.”

Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines, also issued a statement that read,

“This is an upsetting event to all of us hear at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to his passenger to talk directly to hi and further address and resolve this situation.”

According to several reports, the man who was violently dragged from the plane was first asked if he would voluntarily give up the seat. He told the airline that he was unwilling to give up his seat because he was a doctor and had patients waiting for him in Louisville—the flight’s final destination.

Clearly, United Airlines chose this course of action because they felt it was the best way to solve a problem. It’s unclear, at this point, which problem they were trying to solve. Was it that they could not take off because they didn’t have the requisite number of flight crew on board? Could it have been that they didn’t want to cancel the flight?

Not enough is known at this point to be able to answer those questions.  The video clearly shows that the plane had lots of passengers on board — why this particular passenger was targeted is unknown. But here is what is known:

  • the passenger was a United Airlines customer
  • he was not a stowaway
  • his presence on the flight didn’t seem to create a safety issue
  • he’d already indicated his unwillingness to voluntarily relinquish his seat as had other passengers
  • he was a member of a minority group

Could his race have been a factor? Why was he chosen? What reason was given to the police when they were asked to remove the gentleman from the plane?

If the airline removed the gentleman because it was trying to avoid the costs associated with delaying the flight, odds are they’ll end up paying more than they saved (if they saved anything at all).  The fallout from the viral video of this travesty will result in way more damage to the airline’s reputation than a delayed or cancelled flight could have ever done.

The mantra “the customer is always right” seems to have fallen by the wayside in this age of corporatism.  We, as a nation, had better pay attention to the signals that seem to show themselves more often everyday. The skies haven’t been looking friendly for a long time, but now they’re a lot less than friendly—they’re downright hostile.

But this story isn’t really about United Airlines who will more than likely admit they were wrong and suffer the financial consequences. It is about a country that has bought into the idea that profit is more important than people – that using police or brute force to solve simple problems is an acceptable solution – like the elementary school principal who called the police on an unruly 6 yr old kindergarten student.  These ridiculous police encounters are an indication of a nation lacking negotiation skills or seriously in need of conflict resolution training.

Examples of our preference for the “might makes right” philosophy abound.  This business of using brute force when diplomatic solutions may be available is what got us into the quagmire in the middle east. It’s why U.S. presidents regularly ignore Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution granting Congress the power to declare war. It’s why politicians on both sides of the aisle support the actions taken by Trump in Syria. And if we don’t watch it, it’ll be the reason we stumble into the next war.

Sharon Kyle View more

Sharon Kyle
Sharon Kyle is the Publisher of the LA Progressive. With her husband Dick, she publishes several other print and online newsletters on political and social justice issues. In addition to her work at JPL, Sharon is enrolled in law school at the People's College of Law in Los Angeles. She is also the mother of two adult children, Wade and Deva and the step-mother to two children, Raheem and Linnea.

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