6 Shockingly Simple Changes to Avoid Another United Fiasco
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.
I haven’t written about the recent incident where a passenger with a paid seat assignment was dragged out of a United plane, because I was waiting for all the facts to emerge.
Here are some changes to ensure that such a horrific incident never happens again.
What United Airlines Must Examine
Southwest has the very best customer service in the US among airlines. That’s because their agents are empowered to do what it takes to make the customer happy. Empowering front line staff to make things right goes a long way to having good customer service.
I can’t imagine such an incident happening on Southwest, JetBlue, or Alaska Airlines mainly because staff on those airlines are empowered to make decisions.
2. Higher Incentives
I used to take “bumps” or compensation for $300 and a later flight when I was younger. I value my time more now, so even $800 would not entice me to give up my seat.
But I probably would give up my seat for $2,000! Paying the extra $1,200 is much better than all the negative publicity surrounding this incident.
I see a lack of empathy in how this situation was handled by United Airlines. Understandably, the passenger did not want to leave after being boarded on the plane and was irate.Instead of demanding that the passenger leave and threatening him, United Airlines and Law Enforcement could have empathized (ex. “I hear you’re angry that you have to leave the plane.”) with the passenger.
Sure, this would have taken 20 to 30 minutes, but empathy and negotiation would have yielded a kinder, compassionate, and more humane, alternative.
4. Outsourcing Customer Service to Law Enforcement
This was a customer service issue, which United Airlines turned over to Law Enforcement. United could have resolved this issue instead of turning it over to law enforcement.
The passenger stood his ground and refused to leave, as many folks would, because he had a ticket, paid the amount, and was seated in the plane.
5. Business Decisions
United Airlines makes a business decision to overbook flights. The consequence of this decision which United makes after lots of analysis and discussion, is that sometimes you may not be able to fly crew if all seats are taken and that you may have to pay compensation for folks to vacate seats.
United wanted the benefits of overbooking (increased revenue) and when a situation arose – which likely could have been peacefully resolved by paying additional compensation – they refused to pay and called law enforcement to remove the passenger.
I’d like to think that in the US, we don’t call armed policemen to resolve business issues, unless it is absolutely necessary.
6. Special Training for Law Enforcement at Airports
Airports are stressful places and passengers are sleep deprived, jet lagged, tired.
And sometimes it is their first visit to the US where local customs are different. Law Enforcement at airports should be specially trained to deal with passengers in a peaceful manner and using techniques much different from what is traditionally used.
I felt sad and disappointed by how United Airlines and Law Enforcement handled the situation on Flight 3411.
However, the gift from that incident is that airlines have already started changing policies so it is very unlikely that a similar situation will occur again.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® CardAPPLY NOW
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service. Activate by 03/31/22.
Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)