Airline industry (which includes United Airlines)

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NorthReport
Airline industry (which includes United Airlines)

This week Dr Davod Dao was physically assaulted while being forcefully removed from a United Airlines flight.

Ralph Nader Explains Why United Airlines Has "Total Unbridled Discretion to Throw You Off a Plane"

https://www.democracynow.org/2017/4/14/ralph_nader_explains_why_united_a...

NorthReport

Uproar Grows After United Airlines Brutally Drags Paying Customer Off Overbooked Flight

https://www.democracynow.org/2017/4/11/head_of_the_naacp_ldf_on

NorthReport

Lawyer of Dr. David Dao schools United Airlines in fantastic speech

https://boingboing.net/2017/04/14/lawyer-of-dr-david-dao-shreds.html

NorthReport

United Isn’t the Reason Air Travel Is So Miserable

 

 

That’s why it should do everything it can to make its flights humane and pleasant.

http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2017/04/united_isn_t_the...

NorthReport

Bernie Sanders weighs in on United scandal, blasts 'dysfunctional' airline practices

http://www.businessinsider.com/bernie-sanders-united-dysfunctional-airli...

oldgoat

I can't tell you how much I dislike flying.  It's not any fear of being up in the air, (I used to jump out of the things for fun) it's paying good money to be treated like crap. I was driving to work the other day and passed one of those overcrowded trucks taking pigs to slaughter, and was reminded of flying to BC last summer.  I guess this is exacerbated by being fairly claustrophobic, but I can think of no other area of commerce where the customer is treated so badly.

NorthReport

Does this really help?

I suppose you have less chance of being beaten up in the waiting lounge than in a plane seat but not sure it addresses the problem

United Airlines changes crew flight policy after forcible removal fiasco

Airline says it will ensure off-duty crew are allocated seats an hour in advance to avoid customers being turfed off flights

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/apr/16/united-airlines-changes...

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Seems a ten year old kid got bumped from an Air Canada flight, but avoided the beating part.

The article does mention one interesting thing though:  overbooking flights (which seems either illogical or greedy or both) is also partly why airlines can offer refundable tickets.

NorthReport

oldgoat's comments summed it up for many I think.

I was on a flight quite some time ago, an American airline, perhaps United, and at the time there still were electronics in the back of the headrests. Across the aisle from me there was something loose in the back of one of the headrests and the passenger who was facing that headrest brought it to the attention of a flight attendant. The flight attendant's solution to the problem was to smash the loose material several times back into the headrest oblivious to the person in the row ahead whose head was resting against the headrest.  I just remember seeing the passenger's head ricocheting back and forth as the flight attendant pounded his headrest from the rear. The passenger had absolutely no warning what was about to happen, and I thought, if that passenger has an anger management problem, we could all be in trouble here.

NorthReport
Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Probably.

I suppose one answer could be to treat airline reservations as a discharged contract.  You pay for your seat and it's guaranteed for you -- which is, I think, what people not unreasonably expect.  But if you don't make it to your flight, there would be no refund, any more than a grocery store will refund your money if you buy some milk but fail to drink it.

I can't see why airlines would feel any need to overbook, if that were the case, nor any reason why they would even be permitted to.  If their flight holds (say) 184 passengers, and all have paid for their ticket, then if a few don't show up, the airline loses $0.

Conversely, I suppose it could make sense to permit either the airline or the passenger to cancel right up until take-off, without any "fees" or extra charges for a fully-refundable ticket.  It would make airline travel a bit of a crap-shoot for travellers and airlines alike, but at least there would be some symmetry with regard to the contract.

 

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

Tom Tomorrow does the reductio ad absurdum thing on this story.

NorthReport

United Airlines' PR Disaster Was Totally Avoidable, Thanks to Private Jets

United could have saved itself a huge headache by chartering a private jet rather than bumping four customers off a flight from Chicago to Louisville.

https://www.fool.com/investing/2017/04/16/united-airlines-pr-disaster-wa...

lagatta4

More on the Air Canada bumping of a ten-year-old boy. Bumping children?!?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/18/air-canada-apologises-bump...

Timebandit

Boneheaded move. I think airlines shouldn't be allowed to oversell. It's not like you would ever get a refund from Air Canada for cancelling a flight, even weeks in advance (trust me, I've tried!). The seat is paid for, they're not losing any money without a bum in it - and they're likely to sell it again if they've got standby customers or the cancellation is far enough in advance.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

The two things I found most peculiar about this story:

1.  That the airline would see no difference between bumping an adult and bumping a ten year old -- "Home Alone" notwithstanding, I would think that most families might be reluctant to leave a child to fend for themself

2.  When the boy's mother asked if she could "switch" with him -- which makes sense, because you CAN leave an adult behind at the airport -- the airline acknowledged that she could offer up her seat, but made it clear that if she did, it could go to someone else.  In particular, someone who is a "more frequent flyer".  I have to think that there might be some bumped adult who is a more frequent flyer than a ten year old.  Common sense could have fixed this.

Timebandit

Yup. It's the employee who feels they are bound to policy and any deviation will be punished.

I have had issues with Air Canada, but I've also gotten great customer service. A few years ago, we took a trip on Aeroplan points tickets - I had enough points for me, the blond guy had enough for himself and the kids. The itineraries were supposed to be linked when we booked them several months in advance. Somewhere along the way, the flights changed and the itineraries got unlinked and I wound up on totally different flights. We found out the day before we left, and tried to switch my flights so I could fly with the rest of the family. All good up to the transfer in Toronto. Turns out the flight was overbooked - there was one seat left on the plane, in business class. I watched two AC employees nearly come to blows over whether or not they could put me in that seat. It took the blond guy coming up and firmly explaining that he wasn't flying without me, they'd have to remove everyone's luggage and cause a delay and that everyone in the terminal was going to know why and who made the call before the jerk relented and the good customer service guy won out.

Sometimes it's an employee who doesn't feel empowered to make the decision outside the usual parameters. Sometimes it's an asshole. Either way, it would help if airlines just sold the number of seats on the plane and then sold standby tickets instead of oversales where everyone shows up thinking there's a seat for them.

Proactively, whenever I book a ticket, I book seats. It puts you more to the top of the list even if it's a points ticket. My situation above was anomalous - it's rare that I don't have time to do seat selection, and I look at it as bump insurance.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

I think the problem is a systemic one, analagous to ticketing illegally parked cars for $10 if the cost of parking legally is $20.

If the government (or governments) were to insist that bumped passengers must be compensated at least $1000, and IN CASH, not travel vouchers they may have no need for, I bet airlines could figure this out pretty quickly.  But they wouldn't be overbooking and bumping if it weren't more profitable than not overbooking and bumping (notwithstanding PR disasters and their potential effect on revenues).

NorthReport

In the USA at least 80% of seats sold are for 4 airlines, which is almost, and maybe effectively, a monopoly. There is little or no real competition, which is really what capitalists prefer, so they can of course maximize their profits.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
In the USA at least 80% of seats sold are for 4 airlines, which is almost, and maybe effectively, a monopoly.

It could be a cartel, if they collude to fix prices or whatever.  But if they're in competition then they're not a monopoly, and no, not even "effectively".

I'm pretty sure that at least 80% of all cola sold in the U.S. comes from only TWO companies, who unsurprisingly compete to the point of being mortal enemies.

cco

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Quote:
In the USA at least 80% of seats sold are for 4 airlines, which is almost, and maybe effectively, a monopoly.

It could be a cartel, if they collude to fix prices or whatever.  But if they're in competition then they're not a monopoly, and no, not even "effectively".

It's a more interesting question when you take a look at smaller cities served by subcontractors. A couple of years ago I was looking at flights to the medium-small American city I grew up in. The fierce competitors were: United (operated by ExpressJet), American (operated by ExpressJet), and Delta (operated by ExpressJet). The three airlines had separate check-in kiosks, and since each had different hubs, ExpressJet wasn't "competing" with itself under a different paint job directly on any route, but they still operated 100% of the commercial flights.

Even if you live in a larger city, if it's a fortress hub like Atlanta or Houston, you're basically stuck with the dominant carrier there. Unless you live in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, your chance of competition on a nonstop domestic route is pretty slim.

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

Quote:
Unless you live in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago, your chance of competition on a nonstop domestic route is pretty slim.

Why do you suppose that is?

If another carrier could snatch back some of that market by offering even lower rates, wouldn't they do that?

And if not, wouldn't the rates you're getting -- even with only one subcontractor -- be as low as you could reasonably expect them to be?

To put it another way, what -- specifically -- is preventing any other airline from slashing seat prices and competing with ExpressJet?  If others don't feel they can beat ExpressJet's price then you're getting as good as anyone feels they can offer.  And if they're colluding to prevent another carrier from offering cheaper seats on the same route, then let's talk.

NorthReport

Impressive jesture by cruise company but Air Canada not so much. Ugh!

'Appalling': Woman bumped from Air Canada flight misses $10,000 Galapagos cruise

Vicki Russell says airline staff 'could not have cared less'

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/air-canada-bumping-overbooked-flight-gal...

NorthReport

If you care about your pets maybe just leave them in a kennel near home, eh!

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/lost-dog-westjet-put-on-wrong-fli...