The 69-year-old doctor kicked off the United Airlines flight was not chosen at random, and Adolf Hitler did use chemical weapons…. (More)

“That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important”

United officials spewed a lot of lies after passenger videos showed the brutal removal of a 69-year-old doctor from a Chicago-Louisville flight this week. They said they had overbooked, when in fact they removed four paying passengers to make room for an off-duty crew who would operate a flight from Louisville later that night. They said he was “belligerent,” when in fact he never cursed or said anything abusive, but simply explained why he would not leave the flight. And they said he and the four others to be removed were chosen “at random,” when in fact that’s not how United or most other airlines operate:

His selection, though, wasn’t random. He was chosen based on a series of criteria.

Based on United Airlines’ contract of carriage (more on that below), passengers with disabilities and unaccompanied minors are the least likely to bumped from a flight.

For everyone else, the contract says that the airline’s decision is based on a passenger’s frequent-flyer status, the layout of his or her itinerary (whether the passenger has a connecting flight), the fare class of the ticket, and the time he or she checked in to the flight.

This means passengers who bought more expensive tickets, have higher frequent-flyer status, or checked in early are less likely to be bumped.

Delta and American both operate under similar policies as stipulated in their respective contracts of carriage.

And mere frequent-flyer status doesn’t protect you … if someone else has a higher frequent-flyer status:

It’s hard to find examples of worse decision-making and customer treatment than United Airlines having a passenger dragged from an overbooked plane. But United’s shabby treatment of Geoff Fearns, including a threat to place him in handcuffs, comes close.

Fearns, 59, is president of TriPacific Capital Advisors, an Irvine investment firm that handles more than half a billion dollars in real estate holdings on behalf of public pension funds. He had to fly to Hawaii last week for a business conference.

Fearns needed to return early so he paid about $1,000 for a full-fare, first-class ticket to Los Angeles. He boarded the aircraft at Lihue Airport on the island of Kauai, took his seat and enjoyed a complimentary glass of orange juice while awaiting takeoff.

Then, as Fearns tells it, a United employee rushed onto the aircraft and informed him that he had to get off the plane.

“I asked why,” he told me. “They said the flight was overfull.”

Fearns, like the doctor at the center of that viral video from Sunday night, held his ground. He was already on the plane, already seated. He shouldn’t have to disembark.

“That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute,” Fearns said. “They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me.”

They threatened Fearns with arrest and, when he finally agreed to give up his full-fare, first-class seat …

… they moved him to a middle seat in economy class, between a husband and wife who refused to sit together, and who spent the entire six-hour flight having an ugly marital fight across Fearns’ lap.

Julia Underwood, a business professor at Azusa Pacific University, said United’s actions in both the dragged-off-the-plane episode and with Fearns reflect a coldhearted mindset utterly devoid of compassion for customers.

“They’re so locked into their policies, there’s no room for empathy,” she said.

Or even basic business sense, it seems.

“I promise you we will do better”

So color me skeptical about United CEO Oscar Munoz’ apology:

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.

That would be more convincing if he hadn’t written a very different email to United employees:

We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation) and when we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.

He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.
[…]
While I deeply regret this situation arose. I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

They went “above and beyond,” for sure. Just not the way Munoz pretends.

“Not every customer service situation is a crime”

The deeper problem, View from the Wing’s Gary Leff writes, is a disturbing culture change in aviation and America overall:

The real solution here is to change the culture of law enforcement in aviation. As soon as there’s even a misunderstanding between passengers and crew, that can trigger law enforcement. The assumption is that the passenger is always wrong, the airline backs its crew, and there’s tremendous risk to the public. Not every customer service situation is a crime.

This is in no way limited to being a United issue, it’s endemic to American society and aviation as a whole. It’s a function of the growth of the security state in response to 9/11. We’ve come to accept it, and indeed we get it from the TSA day in and day out. Until that changes, incidents like these are likely to repeat themselves.

He says “security state,” but “police state” is more to the point. And anyone who disagrees is branded a terrorist by the God-King and ‘freedom’ loving conservatives. Besides, the doctor wasn’t even a Real American:

I wouldn’t associate myself with any organization calling itself Chineselivesmatters. This is not a case of racial discrimination. It’s Chinese people wanting to be treated better than others.

“I don’t even know how to explain it”

And the Sewer Spewer broke Out House protocol … by apologizing:

White House press secretary Sean Spicer had to do something Tuesday night his boss deeply dislikes: He apologized.

Hours after seemingly minimizing the Holocaust in an attempt to explain the atrocities of chemical attacks the U.S. believes were carried out by the Syrian regime, Spicer went on CNN to ask forgiveness for an “inappropriate” reference and to offer a mea culpa to his TV-obsessed boss for becoming a “distraction.”

Spicer told POLITICO on Tuesday night that it was his decision to issue the public apology and that he would be back at the White House podium this week.

“I made a mistake by trying to make a comparison that was completely wrong,” he said. “I don’t even know how to explain it. It was a straight up mistake.”
[…]
Spicer struck a contrite tone in the unannounced appearance on CNN, even as Blitzer ribbed him for mispronouncing Assad’s name and asked whether he had a credibility problem.

“When you make a mistake, you own it,” Spicer said. Blitzer later praised Spicer for owning up to his error.

Oh please. “Error” is singular. This guy’s been spewing sewerage ever since the inauguration, but he apologizes for this one mistake and they praise him?

I’m gonna go genuflect my proboscis again.

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Image Credit: New York Daily News

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Good day and good nuts