Not too long ago, March 26th to be exact, United Airlines made headlines after a female gate agent turned away two young women from boarding a flight from Denver to Minneapolis. These two young women were wearing leggings and did not have anything to change into. A third woman was asked to do the same and was only able to board after changing into the dress that she had in her carry-on. It was reported that there were extenuating circumstances behind the United Airlines agent’s response, but nevertheless, the event brought forth bad publicity for the airline and enticed poor reactions from the general public and celebrities, like Chrissy Teigen. While this controversy came and went, United Airlines was brought back into the hot seat after video of a male, United Airlines passenger being dragged from his seat went viral.
On April 9th, United Airlines reportedly overbooked a flight departing from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. The airline asked passengers at the gate on the full flight to Louisville, Kentucky if anyone would willingly accept $400 and a hotel to delay their flight. The offer doubled when all passengers declined the offer and boarded the plane, United was still short the initial four seats for employees that needed to be in Louisville the next day. United Airlines then employed an algorithm to randomly select four passengers that were to deboard the plane to make room for the four United employees. Three passengers disembarked the plane; however, a male passenger refused to give up his seat, saying that he was a doctor and could not delay his flight as he had patients to see in the morning. The male passenger continued to refuse to give up his seat, having the common mentality that any flyer has, if you make it on the plane, that seat is yours. The incident escalated when the cabin crew involved the Chicago Department of Aviation security officers. The security officers initially talked with him, after which, one of the officers forcibly removed him from his seat, dragging him down the aisle. Reportedly, the officer successfully dragged the male passenger off the plane, but the passenger came running back onto it, wherein he was once again removed, this time strapped to a stretcher. Consequently, the flight was delayed several hours. The officer in question has since been put on leave pending further investigation into incident, as his actions were not condoned by the Chicago Department of Aviation and he violated protocol. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation also issued a statement saying the incident is also being reviewed to determine whether United was compliant with the overbook rules for airlines.
While the situation could have certainly been handled better - many proposing that United should have continued to increase the monetary incentive until volunteers could not have passed up the offer and naturally, that it should not have escalated to violence - it speaks greater volumes of flaws within the transportation systems and human interaction. Airlines commonly overbook flights and anticipated that they will have volunteers to delay their flights for monetary compensation. Not to mention that this also happens with Greyhound buses and Amtrak trains, where it is rare that you ever get a reimbursement or monetary incentive if the bus/train is overbooked, do not get a seat, and opted out of the ticket insurance. This is more common with Amtrak trains than Greyhound.
As for human interaction, this situation speaks volumes of current civil issues in America, not to mention, the growing recognition of flaws within our society. It all comes down to the fact that we are connected and sharing (even oversharing from time to time) our experiences unlike ever before. These incidents may have happened in the past and have gone undocumented or noticed because there was not a platform or standard etiquette to share it besides word of mouth. As more and more people let go of their beloved nokia’s and become comfortable with smartphones, experiences like these will continue to be posted online. In the end, who is to say that these occurrences are new or seem like they are reoccuring more than ever - for all we know, events that we see online could have been happening for years and we just do not have any record of such - but it does not stop the waves of shock, disgust, and outrage that can seen on various social media platforms.