Should United Airlines be ashamed?  Know your passenger rights.

Customer experience should be at the top of mind for any industry.  It should be especially important for an industry that claims to be struggling.  We have all heard stories of passengers behaving badly on airplanes, and airlines portray the flight crews as being professional and courteous. Companies and people are measured on how they perform when things go wrong.

Airlines have become notorious for bad behavior, especially in recent months/years. In my experience, when there are delays, over bookings, cancellations, etc., the teams on the ground can be quite disappointing.  Very little information is offered and a lack of patience and empathy can make the most mild mannered customer turn into a ranting lunatic.  When an issue arises, the employees need to show patience, but they often do not.  They can be rude and unprofessional. This is a culture of hiding behind policy that has been trained, and ingrained, without flexibility.

By now you have been introduced to a new term: “re-accommodate”. With respect to the United Airlines situation that you can read about here,  this incident is so egregious, that I was stunned to see a CEO double-down on backing up his employees’ bad behavior.  He only gave an apology when the backlash on social media was so fierce, that he had no choice.  Say what you will about passenger Dr. Dao’s history, in this situation, all he did was board a plane and sit in his seat. Put yourself in his shoes.  This ended with a concussion and a broken nose, and he was dragged off a plane screaming.

American Airlines employs a flight attendant who allegedly threatened to fight a passenger. The CEO of AA was savvy enough to understand the impact of this to the AA brand, and issued an immediate apology. This seems to have limited the damage done to the company. The company also took steps to assist the customer.  I am not advocating the customer is always right. I am advocating that the customer understand the policies, and that employees/the company do the right thing.

Most citizens would probably put up some resistance, when asked to leave a plane, but when airport security or police officers showed up, they would likely leave quietly. The rules in place up until this incident, were that airlines could pull a passenger from a flight, even after boarding. However, as an example, any passenger involuntarily bumped to another U.S. flight (scheduled to arrive more than 4 hours later than their booked flight), would be entitled up to $1350.

When faced with a situation like this, understand that airlines can and will drag you off a plane, despite you being a paying customer who has done nothing but sit in your seat.  While the policies in place heavily favour the airlines, you are still in a position to bargain your compensation and terms.  Know your rights by reading the following and if you have any serious issues, there is also a complaints process that you can follow.

Air passenger rights and complaints process in the U.S. can be found here.

Air passenger rights and complaints process for Canada can be found here

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