Thursday, April 20, 2017
Finally, thanks to Megan McArdle, there is an even-handed
take on the United Airlines incident I heard about every time I happened upon the news while I was away last week. Three things stand out to
me. First, the flight wasn't oversold. (This piece
explains how we benefit from overbooking, anyway.) Some blogs have mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Second, McArdle notes a misdirection of
attention, which is quite curious in these days of media-fanned,
anti-cop hysteria: "[I]t was the cops, not United, who made [the
passenger] bleed." Third, McArdle outlines how United could have
easily handled this situation better:
...United made two really dumb mistakes. First, it let passengers board before the bumping began. [See P.S. --ed.] That was stupid. It's easy to keep someone off a plane, and hard to remove them once they're there.This bad publicity, cynically magnified by our anti-capitalist media, is bad in the short-term, but I appreciate McArdle seeing and taking the opportunity it presents to help the public understand some of the more annoying aspects of air travel in light of (a) how they beat alternatives and (b) how airlines can easily improve some of them.
Then the airline compounded its error by trying to remove people by force. Now, United may have the legal right to do so. But that's irrelevant. It would have been cheaper for staff members to just keep offering more cash until four people agreed to get off. At some price, they'd have found takers. They should have found that price instead of slowing down the boarding process and turning themselves into a viral disaster.
P.S. The Cranky Flier (linked above) notes that the other air crew showed up at the gate. If this is the case, then United couldn't have avoided having to get a passenger off its plane after boarding, but her solution of offering more money to volunteers remains an option.