Everyone, I mean everyone, is talking about United Airlines incompetence today!

You know, I think what happened with United Airlines the other day in Chicago – in which they bumped a passenger and then had him dragged off the plane after he refused to give up the seat he paid for – has really struck a nerve with people. 

It seems symbolic of all the things people hate about air travel, and especially air travel in the United States! Passengers are sick and tired of being disrespected when they travel on airplanes. They already have to go through endless, invasive security; they have to pay ridiculous fees; and now they find out there is no guarantee of a seat on the flight that they paid for! In particular, this whole nonsense of “overbooking” flights just is not right. Heck, you don’t see sporting events or concerts getting “overbooked”. Everyone knows this practice is ridiculous.  

On top of this are the stories about drunk pilots and flight delays. Of course, on international flights there is the additional pain of going through customs. For people of a certain nationality, there’s even travel bans to deal with.

This is why this latest crazy incident struck a chord; air travellers are fed up! But United’s PR mis-handling of it all just made it worse. They should have apologized right away and been done with it, but they didn’t. Instead, they tried to blame this fiasco on the passenger! Finally, the CEO apologized today.

But it is too late now. United’s name is mud, and the airline is now the butt of endless jokes from late night comedians because of the way this was handled. 

  • Jimmy Kimmel: “I don’t even understand this, by the way. I’ve been to 100 games in stadiums with 50,000 seats. They never sell the seat two times to one person, but for some reason, airlines cannot figure this out.” 
  • Conan O’Brien: “A Turkish airline crew helped deliver a baby onboard a flight. And then, in keeping with the times, the baby was dragged from the plane by security. It was overbooked, that’s what you do! Get outta here, baby!”

Here in Saskatchewan, talk radio host John Gormley just ripped United to shreds on his show today. I heard his ranting on the radio about it, it was funny stuff. Of course, United has a history in Saskatchewan — an infamous history, because first they cut the direct flights they were offering to Chicago, and then they pulled their direct flights to Denver, too! So now, United doesn’t fly here at all, and we have no direct flights to Chicago or Denver at all. And as Gormley was saying today, this decision had nothing to do with demand; it was all because the Canadian dollar was too low! I even wrote a big screed about it at the time, saying United’s decision to pull the Denver flights humiliated our province.

Now, instead of going straight to Denver and getting a reasonable fare en route to LA or somewhere else half-decent, Saskatchewan people must now go through Calgary or Vancouver or somewhere to change planes, and pay more for the privilege. Thanks a lot, United.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that so many people are fed up with air travel nonsense. This ridiculous story about a passenger being hauled off this airliner is everyone’s collective tipping point, and so they are taking out all their frustrations on United. Let this be a lesson to the entire airline industry: start respecting the customers! At the very least, quit overbooking! That is all.