United Airlines has been under fire recently for some unethical practices when it comes to their customers. Along with the great leggings scandal of last month, where two female passengers were not allowed to board for their outfits’ lack of professionalism, United just forcibly removed a paying customer from his seat on a flight headed for Louisville, Kentucky.
Videos have taken over the internet from other passengers on the flight who were vigilant enough to record the scene. After United asked if four passengers would willingly leave the flight to accommodate four employees who apparently desperately needed to board, no one offered. The airline then took matters into their own hands. A young couple begrudgingly left the plane and that is when the airline looked to the man featured in these videos. He refused to exit the plane, as he is a doctor who needed to see patients the next day, so United called security to remove the man from his seat.
These videos revealed the disturbing actions taken against this man, where his face was left bloody white they dragged him down the cramped aisle of the plane. The actions of these officers is not how you treat customers, and certainly not how you should treat a human being. Pushing, shoving and dragging are violations of human rights. This man wasn’t treated like a customer who paid for and rightfully deserved that seat. Instead, he was violently attacked while dozens of passengers and his wife looked on in horror. It was a humiliating moment for this passenger and shameful for the entire United Airlines corporation. It’s frightening to witness in person or even via video someone who is treated so poorly in America. At the same time, it’s fortunate that we now live in a time when videos such as this can be proliferated through social media to bring attention to injustices.
No matter who someone is or how it happened, these people are treating another person very poorly which shouldn’t happen and shouldn’t be excused. Remove the plane, remove the context of the situation and you get down to the interaction, which is not acceptable. An airline should not be allowed to or get away with forcibly removing a man who paid for a ticket and is already seated.
This man shouldn’t have even been asked to leave the plane to begin with. United is allowed to ask the passengers if anyone would sacrifice their seat for an employee, but should not expect or force them if no one volunteers. Normally when flights are overbooked, passengers aren’t allowed onto a plane until the situation has been sorted out. Situations where a passenger is asked to leave after seating are rare and should be handled with more grace. United should’ve made other accommodations for these employees rather than removing paying customers from their seats. A 300-mile drive from Chicago to Louisville, approximately five hours, would’ve been a viable option for these employees. In fact, with the amount of time this scandal took to rectify, the employees could’ve gotten to their destination faster by car.
Along with better planning, we expected a better reaction from the airline. United is not taking the blame or openly talking about the incident. The airline’s CEO Oscar Munoz, who won PR Week’s Communicator of the Year, released a statement that did not express discomfort at this incident, pushing off an apology until his second sentence. No one is taking responsibility for acts of violence against a passenger for an incredibly insufficient reason. Is this how United will handle their PR scandal? The victim and other passengers deserve much more than a half-hearted apology.
It should be noted that this man is an Asian-American. Not to accuse United Airlines of choosing him based on his race, but race has a place in this discussion. After the man screamed that this decision was made purely because “I’m Chinese,” many Chinese students and citizens expressed that they are feeling threatened and personally targeted by the airline, even pledging to boycott United altogether. Considering United claims that they operate more nonstop flights from the United States to China than any other airline, people must be committed to avoiding the airline. The fact is that United didn’t treat their customers well and people are deciding to no longer be their customers. Combined with the drama over leggings, this is enough for consumers to let them go.
This entire situation is scary for anyone who chooses to fly, especially for those who choose United, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see a sharp decline in ticket sales after this scandal. It’s hard to imagine entering a plane and being dragged out after being knocked over. Many will lose faith and trust in United, and honestly, they probably should.