United Flight 3411, The Other Side
“Why can’t I remember that not once have I ever seen a coin, whether grimy copper or bright gold, that had but one side.” ― Andrew Levkoff, A Mixture of Madness
On April 9th, a very unfortunate incident played out on United Flight 3411 that was captured in a video gone viral, causing a mass social media uprising and influx of hate speech across the board.
There are a lot of myths about the situation, and it’s leading people to some bad conclusions. Here are some things to consider in response to ignorant social media complaints and rampages.
“This didn’t happen because United sold too many tickets”. United Express (Republic Airlines) had to send four crew members to work a flight the next morning. The weekend was operationally challenging, this was a replacement crew, and if the employees didn’t get to Louisville a whole planeload of passengers were going to be ‘bumped’ when that flight was cancelled, and likely other passengers on other flights using that aircraft would have their own important travel plans screwed up as well.
“You can’t just kick a paying customer off the plane!” It’s in the fine print. They can, indeed, do just that. And it’s not an airline specific rule, it’s a commercial aviation rule. Every ticket you purchase comes with a plethora of fine print, the stuff we just click ‘next’ on without actually reading what we are agreeing to. It’s in there, and you checked the ‘I agree’ box when you purchased your ticket. United did not break any law, and he agreed to the policy and possibility of involuntary bump when he bought his ticket. And so do you.
“It’s the airline’s fault for not planning better!” There are about a million and one things that can cause a crew shortage, including but not limited to weather, maintenance, weather, connecting flight delays, weather, FAA timeout regs, and did I mention weather? So an airline may have to inconvenience one, or four, to keep hundreds on track. And of course, if we were on the other end of this thing, we’d be on a tirade and blowing up the internet because United didn’t bump a passenger to make sure our flight didn’t get cancelled and left hundreds stranded. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. We’re a fickle crowd, we social media folks.
“United should go under for assaulting that passenger! Fire the entire crew!” United never touched the passenger. In fact, by all witness accounts, the United flight crew remained calm and pleasant throughout the entire event, never laying hands on the passenger. They followed protocol as required by law. Once law enforcement became involved (also as required by federal protocol), United stepped out of the decision-making process. They had nothing to do with the rest. The passenger was forcibly removed by federal aviation security (the disturbing clip that everyone is talking about) after running back into the secured area after being escorted out once. Once he did that, like it or not, they (law enforcement) were under full discretion of the law to apply necessary force to remove the threat. The one who actually broke the law was the passenger. If he had simply complied to the law, he would of received $500 voucher and avoided getting hurt. If a federal law enforcement officer asked me to exit a plane, no matter how pissed off I am, I’m going to do it and then seek other means of legal reimbursement. True story. Knowing what I know about airport security, I’m certainly not going to run back into a secured, federally restricted area at an airport flailing my arms and screaming like a banshee… because, you know, that just happens to be breaking a major federal Homeland Security law. The moment I made that particular ill-advised choice, I would become an immediate and imminent threat to the aircraft’s security. That’s kind of a big deal.
“You piece of **it!” Okay seriously – the poor must ride crew that had to take those seats after the unfortunate mess that unraveled were verbally abused and threatened. Can you imagine the very uncomfortable position they were in? Then they were demeaned, belittled, and threatened, along with many others all over the internet and airports today. They were, and are, men and women doing their jobs to feed their families. Just. Like. You. They didn’t have a choice. They didn’t ask for this. They didn’t assault anyone. They are not a corporation; they are individuals who need a job. There’s a very fine line between what you despise and becoming what you despise. Many of the comments and actions I have seen perpetrated against United employees cross it. Don’t become what you hate.