United Airlines is having a bad month. Actually that statement is mild— they’re in the middle of a public relations nightmare.
Viral videos circulating this week of a passenger dragged off an oversold airplane, and the photos of his bloodied face after hitting a few armrests along the way, have sent twitter a flutter with angry opinions. The video gives “fear of flying” new meaning.
There was also a leggings incident on United a few weeks back. I’ll refresh your memory: A teenaged girl was told to change her clothes before she was allowed to board the aircraft…while traveling on a free pass.
Emotions based on a lack of understanding of the airline industry run high.
I am an airline employee. I try to never say that on my blog because I need my job, and I don’t want to be censored. As a single mom of 3, who hates Donald Trump, I have plenty to write about without mentioning my job.
Today I am breaking my silence as a public service (because I am also a humanitarian), to explain—not condone, everything that has people United hating.
I do not work for United, but that fact is irrelevant because every single airline is run the same way, (the exception being how they treat their employees.) They all have mechanical delays and weather delays, they all overbook flights, and they all sell shitty food. We are all United Airlines.
I’ll start with the leggings incident. It’s ridiculous in my humble opinion, and I’ll tell you why. I have 2 girls, both have survived my mothering and are now in college. (Another reason I need my job.) My girls and I have had multiple vicious fights about leggings. Leggings are not pants. My tombstone someday will read:
Her last words were: “Leggings will never be pants…and I told you I was sick.”
Wear your leggings to the dance studio, or the gym, but out in the world they are inappropriate. I didn’t like the way adult men leered at my girls when they wore leggings, and if wearing a shirt that covers your butt will prevent that, just wear a long shirt! I have written countless posts about the clothes fights I’ve had with my girls, (if you care to read them try a google search.) I also have clothes fights with my high school aged son, but that’s for a future post.
Consider this—when I started my job in the early 90’s, if you used a free pass to fly, you had to adhere to a strict dress code, i.e. dress up: men in suits and ties, women in business attire. The agents made us change our clothes all the time. They were the original fashion police, and it was extremely subjective. There were guidelines: shirts had to have collars, if you wore a skirt or dress you had to wear stockings, no flip flops…it was hell (not really.) It was what it was, and that’s all what it was.
Back to the airline leggings caper—So, this little girl with the leggings who had to change her clothes— I don’t see it as sexist as some people are trying to make it; I see it as the company trying to project a professional image. It was a free company issued travel pass, had she purchased a ticket she would have not heard a word about her lack of pants. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the employee lost their travel-pass privileges over the drama, because that’s exactly what would have happened in the 90’s. That’s my opinion on that. If you disagree, tell someone who cares. (An example of my work attitude—that would be a joke.)
Now back to the saga of the oversold flight—There is a percentage of travelers who mis-connect everyday, different destinations more so than others, and certain days, or times of the day have more misconnects. For example, the day we “fall back” changing our clocks to daylight savings, is a big day for people missing their flights. If people are connecting to a flight from another flight that was delayed, they too would misconnect and need to be re-booked.
It is someone’s job to calculate trends and averages and use that data to decide how many seats to sell on flights to various destinations at various times of the day or week, regardless of the number of seats on the airplane. If there is bad weather in the mix, or a big travel weekend like Thanksgiving, fuh·ged·da·boud·it.
My opinion on overbooking flights really doesn’t matter, but I’ll tell you anyway. It is wrong, and it’s driven by corporate greed– like everything.
On the other hand, if you oversleep and miss your flight, the airlines will put you on another flight. They may charge you a fee, but let’s go back to the 90’s again- if you lost your paper ticket, you lost all the money you paid for the flight. The airlines sold the seat and received payment for the seat whether anyone sat in it or not. It doesn’t work like that now. Everything is much more forgiving. You lose the boarding pass, you can pull up another one. You miss your flight, you jump on another one. You forget to wear pants, you throw a long shirt on.
Relax– travel is intolerable if you overthink it, and if you try to control it, you’ll be carried off the airplane by airport security.
If you’re on a flight that’s oversold, you’ll hear the agent ask for volunteers to take the next flight in exchange for a travel voucher worth a certain amount of money. There are people who hope for this scenario. They get a paid for hotel room, if the next flight isn’t until the next day, sometimes they receive a food voucher, and they get hundreds of dollars to use the next time they’re brave enough to get sucked into the vortex of airline travel.
My opinion is that the entire industry is out of control. Travelers want flexibility, but if they buy a ticket on a flight they want to be guaranteed a seat. It is crazy, but that isn’t always the case.
This post is too long, so if anyone is still reading I’ll do you a favor and get to the point. You can’t have everything in life, or in travel: low prices, flexibility, forgiveness for oversleeping, a free ticket without pants. You can not have it all because it leads to what happened on that United flight this week.
I blame corporate greed, but, if you read my blog you know I always do. All CEO’s want, more than anything, is their annual bonus, and maybe a golden parachute. They aren’t standing at a podium at the gate with 30 people who can’t get home because some shirt in an office somewhere figured overselling the flight would maximize their profits. If they were the person getting yelled at face to face on a regular basis, my bet is things would change. The day to day frontline employees are as much a victim of these policies as the poor guy being carried off the airplane. They take all the abuse and see NONE of the benefits of this policy.
I say blame the guy at the top…and don’t mention my name.
One last thing. If someone tells you they work for the airlines, that doesn’t mean they want to hear about your worst flying experience. If I find out you work for McDonalds, I’m not going to go into a long diatribe about how once my french fries were missing.
We never had this conversation.