This is an insane situation from start to finish. And, while the passenger is definitely in the wrong for not complying with crew instructions, a mere cursory look at the facts reveals the real truth: United is hiding behind the FAA rules in their short-sighted attempt to save a few dollars.
Apparently, United offered a $800 + hotel night stay (upped from their initial offer of $400) and when no one came forward, they called in the airport police to escort the man off the plane. I feel bad for the policemen as well for having been placed in a difficult situation where they couldn’t have looked good no matter how they handled the situation. United put the passenger and the police in a difficult position and it could’ve avoided this situation so easily.
To begin with, United shouldn’t have boarded the last passenger if the flight was overbooked. It is far easier to restrict someone from boarding than forcibly dragging them off a flight.
Furthermore, even if somehow the gate agents needed to make a last minute accommodation for airline crew, this is not the way to go about it. United should have sweetened the rather pathetic $800 incentive until they received a volunteer. For a physician, $800 + a hotel night in a low-tier airport hotel isn’t nearly enough to make up for a missed day: some physicians make that much in an hour! It doesn’t even look like they went up to the $1350 maximum as required by DOT for involuntary bumping.
And, to top it all off, United will probably spend a lot more money now in their escalated PR efforts to make up for this incident as well as any financial impact the lost goodwill will have. So, they didn’t even end up saving any money in the end.
I really hope United owns up to this mistake and makes up for it to this poor person who has been victimised by their short-sighted greed.
UPDATE: United issues a full apology after a first failed attempt. Full credit to them.
Dear Team, The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way. I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right. It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th. I promise you we will do better. Sincerely, Oscar