I tried to resist writing anything about what I believe to be a massively overblown story, but we're on day 2 now and still people won't stop talking about it. I feel as though I have been beaten into submission, much like the passenger himself, so here's my take on this ridiculous issue. I know it will run afoul of the Outrage Mob because it isn't quite outragey enough, but I can only call it as I see it: United was wrong, but not that wrong, and the passenger who behaved like a hysterical toddler was at least as wrong as them. And I say this, by the way, as someone who considers United to be the third worst company in America (behind Planned Parenthood and Comcast).
Let's try to look at this situation rationally. Everyone is saying that United overbooked the flight. They didn't. Not exactly, anyway. They just needed to make room for another crew that had to get down to Louisville in order to work another flight. Should that crew have taken a different plane? Well, if they'd done that then the flight they were supposed to work might have been delayed, and hundreds of people would be delayed along with it, and many of them would then miss connections, and they would all be complaining on Twitter, too. Should hundreds of people including the crew be inconvenienced or should four passengers on that flight be inconvenienced? The choice seems obvious to me. United, in my estimation, was not wrong for trying to, as they call it, "re-accommodate" some passengers, given the situation. They were just wrong in how they handled it, but not quite as wrong as everyone is saying.
So, how should it have been handled? Well, if I'm backseat driving this situation, after it's all said and done, I'd say they should have offered free tickets or vouchers or whatever, which they did, but they should have offered them before the flight boarded, which they didn't do. That was the mistake they made. Putting that aside though, what are they supposed to do when nobody wants the vouchers? I've heard it suggested that they ought to have continued upping their offer. Well, do they have that authority? Can the crew on the ground just continue increasing the cash offer like it's casino night on Flight 3411? I don't know the answer to that question, but my assumption is that they have only a limited authority to negotiate terms. The Outrage Mob has suggested that they could have dangled 5 or 10 thousand dollars as an incentive, which makes me wonder if anyone in the Outrage Mob has ever worked for a company before. Most employees don't have the power to throw around that kind of money.
What next? Well, we've already established that they screwed up by not doing this before the flight boarded. But now that it is boarded, and they have too many passengers and not enough seats, and nobody on the plane wants to take the voucher and the hotel they put up for grabs, what then? As I've already stated, if they don't get the other crew on the plane, it could well set off a chain reaction that would inconvenience far more people — and besides, do the people on the ground have the authority to tell the other crew that they have to wait for the next plane? Probably not. In fact, I'm going to say definitely not. It seems they really had to kick people off the plane. That's pretty lame and I would be super ticked if it were me, but I get it. I understand why they did it. Everyone is acting like they can't even begin to understand the position the airline employees were in, but I do. I might be the only person in the world who does, but I do. As I said, they did obviously make some mistakes here, but for God's sake, people, this isn't quite as straightforward as everyone suggests. Let's be reasonable. Nobody else in this situation was, after all.
And what about the sainted doctor? Was he completely innocent here? Does he carry no burden of responsibility for his own reaction? I get why the guy refused to leave, but it is their plane. He doesn't actually have the legal authority to not leave the pane when he's told to leave. I understand registering some kind of protest, but you can't declare absolute ownership over the seat you're sitting in. You rent the seat on an airplane, for a limited time, and there is a ton of fine print that makes it pretty clear that the seat can be taken for pretty much any reason. Maybe it shouldn't say that, but it does. Maybe that shouldn't be the policy, but it is.
And if I'm a United employee in this position, I'm not going to risk my job and cause a domino effect of missed flights just for the sake of this one guy who doesn't really have the authority or the right to do what he's doing. I think you have a moral obligation to disobey orders if the orders constitute some sort of grave violation of someone's human rights, but does rebooking someone on another flight fall under that umbrella? Is it the kind of moral quandary that would cause you to sacrifice your job so that you may stand hand in hand with the courageous hero in seat 12D who won't get off the plane? I wouldn't see it that way. I would probably do exactly what the United employees did. I would have told him: "Listen, I'm sorry, but you need to get off the plane or I'll have to get security."
In any case, what if the crew does decide to flout company policy and say, "OK, this guy refuses, let's kick somebody else off"? Why should the next person leave willingly? And why should the first three people have left willingly? After the other passengers see the dude say no, now they'll all say no, since that apparently is an option. What then? Does the Outrage Mob have an answer? And saying, "Well, they shouldn't have overbooked," isn't an answer. That part is done. The situation is what it is now, so what do you do? I can't really think of a better answer than following protocol and alerting security.
But even when security came the guy still refused, and then started screaming like he was being murdered. He was only dragged off the plane because he refused to walk off of it like a sane person. And he wasn't done there. He came running back on board and started clinging to the seats as if they were trying to drag him off the aircraft and feed him to a pack of wolves waiting outside. Honestly, is this rational behavior on the part of an adult? Is there no valid criticism that can be levied against the kicking, screaming grown up in this case? Would any of you ever act that way in public? I hope not. I wouldn't. Unless they were trying to kick me off the plane while it was 30 thousand feet in the air. But not if it's on the ground and the worst thing that happens is that I'm a few hours late getting home.
So, United handled this badly. The guy handled it badly. And now the whole country has handled it badly. Great job all around. Let's all give ourselves a round of applause.
To see more from Matt Walsh, visit his channel on TheBlaze.