How Deregulation Caused the United Debacle

United Airlines stock continued to plummet yesterday after a passenger was violently removed from his seat after refusing to give it up.

The whole incident was caught on camera - complete with screaming passengers and bloody noses - and it's rapidly turned into a public relations disaster for an already struggling airline.

But the startling images out of Chicago's O'Hare airport are an example of more than just of how not to handle bad press.

They're also a very instructive - if very violent - example of what happens when you double down on de-regulation.

I see a bright line from Carter and Reagan deregulating the airlines to what happened United Airlines Flight 3411 and the PR disaster that's followed.


stecoop01's picture
stecoop01 7 years 10 weeks ago

It's not just deregulation that is to blame, Thom. There is a general breakdown of civility in our society; we are rapidly becoming an "every man for himself" society. I see everyday in the news and on our roads.

simmsrider's picture
simmsrider 7 years 10 weeks ago

I believe a great deal of this problem stems from President Bush's Department of Homeland Security and the absolute power it confers on the TSA and it's officers. When you grant absolute, unquestioned authority to small minded, low information, poorly trained individuals there are bound to develop situations where the individual rights and personal safety of civilians will be abused.

mitche51's picture
mitche51 7 years 10 weeks ago

Airlines used to be a classy mode of travel....pricey, but very sophisticated with the crew being extremely courteous and interested in your comfort and desire to remain a good customer. Now it's a cattle might get might not...they might have double booked your seat....maybe not...if the flight is full, you may or may not get where you're going....UNLESS you book a first class flight...or through a travel agent. I only fly when I absolutely have to. It's more pleasant to ride the train. Service is a dying art...and it shouldn't be...since we don't manufacture anything here anymore. Service had BETTER start getting better or companies will start to tank.

Hephaestus's picture
Hephaestus 7 years 10 weeks ago

stecoop01 - You are right on!

Thug behaviour is not confined to the US believe me

Put a person in a uniform or grant them a little power and they will enforce their will... right wrong / good bad

You can excuse an animal for its behaviour since it has no self awareness

These humans have no excuse for treating humans as animals

Animals have at least their integrity

Legend 7 years 10 weeks ago

United does not fly it own shuttle airplanes because they do not want to deal with their union pilots on shuttles. So they work with United Express which out of Chicago is Great Lakes Airlines. They have very poorly paid crews that are non union. United acts like they are United Airlines until they lose your luggage, then you are dealing with Great Lakes. Also the personel dragging the passenger off the plane are not United Employees but are Chicago Airport Police. I have close to 2 million miles with United. I would recommend always following any instructions from flight attendants or other crew while on the airplane. If they say get off, get off. If a policeman says get off, get off. Argue later. He obviously resisted and is part of this fiasco. Was someone other than him supposed to get off? United was boarding 4 crew members to get a flight out of Louisville full of people. So this one guy was distrubting a whole flight full of people. It obviously could have been handled better by all involved. But he was being arrested and resisted arrest. Lawsuits to follow. With weather,maintenance and other issues nobody can run a perfect airline. I have been treated very well by United. When flying I always figure that my life is in their control and getting upset about delays (and I have had my share) are not worth an ulcer.

kentw's picture
kentw 7 years 10 weeks ago

Another manifestation of creeping fascism in our country so sad

Outback 7 years 10 weeks ago

I have to agree entirely with Mitch51 above. I've flown a trillion miles (more or less) on United and others and watched the quality of service decline steadily since Reagan's bust of the ATC. Just the experience of getting through an airport has become demeaning. If I never see the inside of a passenger terminal again, it'll be too soon. Having said that, and assuming none of this will change soon, perhaps these airlines could be a little smarter about how they exercise their "right" to overbook flights: one way might be to fully book a flight, but not overbook it. Then, instead of trying to bribe people to get off, they could offer last minute discounts to passengers on standby with other airlines throughout the terminal. In an age where everybody is connected in real time via the internet, this would be entirely feasible, even if your original itinerary has you going through SLC rather than SFO. Or hey, even wilder, tell the passengers that the plane will not depart until they deal with the overbooking between themselves, record the video in HD and sell it to the highest bidder as "reality TV".

garth2710's picture
garth2710 7 years 10 weeks ago

I clearly see the bright line that Thom is talking about. Regulations are nothing more than rules that in a perfect world fairly balance the interests of the public in general against the private interests of the business or industry being regulated. Deregulation, on the other hand, equals self-regulation. Self regulation means that corporations like United Airlines get to make their own rules and set their own policies. When they are allowed to self regulate, large corporations have no public accountability. Look at what happened after the 2008 financial meltdown. Not one bankster went to jail, even though their dishonest actions almost destroyed the world economy and cost many Americans their homes and life savings. They are governed by one motive and goal-- maximizing their profits. And when they are left to their own devices, whatever they do to achieve this goal is deemed acceptable.

By deregulating industry after industry, Congress has essentially given the regulatory power that should be belong to the people of the United States to corporate America. This week, we caught another glimpse of how self-regulation works and who it clearly favors. Can we really trust large faceless corporations to act in our best interest? Just ask David Dao.

Outback 7 years 10 weeks ago

And to Legend, BTW: The Louisville flight, waiting for a flight crew, is an example of EXTREME overbooking. Here, you have a whole planeload of paying customers, waiting for a crew that hadn't been properly scheduled. Whose fault is this? And by what logic can you reach the conclusion that the guy that got kicked off the Chicago flight was at fault for United's screwup? I'm sorry, I don't buy it!

Backwoods MT's picture
Backwoods MT 7 years 10 weeks ago

I certainly cannot be called a frequent flyer, but when was the last time you heard someone say “Wow, I just had an wonderful, relaxing flight”?

Recycled air, cramped legroom, excessive baggage costs and wildly varying baggage rules, long lines, rude staff, cardboard passed off as food, and incidents such as the United Airlines treatment of passengers are all the new normal.

Is this the “great again” that Trump was referring to?

Backwoods MT's picture
Backwoods MT 7 years 10 weeks ago

I forgot to say - I really, really prefer Amtrak!

deepspace's picture
deepspace 7 years 10 weeks ago

Back in my Army days, you could fly around on "military hops" for free when off duty. As long as you were in dress uniform and the pilots didn't mind, you could board any available flights, mostly transports, and hop from one base to another.

One time, going from the naval base in Rota, Spain to Naples, Italy in a lumbering cargo plane, I had to climb up a long mesh net draped over gigantic tarps covering a load that filled the fuselage and then strap into a flimsy cloth harness at the very top.

The takeoff and ascent was an unbelievable, teeth-rattling experience so rough that I was sure my seat straps would break away from the ribbed framework. The entire body of the plane shuttered and groaned wildly, while the mountainous cargo shifted around and clanked together loudly, seriously straining against way-too-tiny cables that twanged and looked like they were about to snap at any moment. Even with earmuffs, the interior cacophony blended with the turboprop engines created an ear-splitting roar that pierced the brain.

After an eternity, when we finally reached a relatively "smooth" cruising altitude, the pilot came back with a big grin to ask how the ride was. Naturally, I asked him what the hell they were hauling. A question surely expected, his sh*t-eating grin widened as he gleefully peeled back a corner of a tarp to reveal the glistening skin of the unmistakable ordnance.

So, whenever I have a bad experience on a civilian airliner, I think back to the time I rode a load of bombs over the Mediterranean.

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 7 years 10 weeks ago

# deepspace:

Ha, ha! MAC hops and short-field take-offs and landings; military specialites!

You left out the parts about your ears feeling like they are going to burst, your teeth aching in your head like nothing else you've ever experienced, and the FREEZING temperatures in unpressurized, uninsulted, and unheated military cargo planes!

Man! Does your post ever bring back memories!!!

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 7 years 10 weeks ago

The passenger that was dragged off the plane was one Dr. David Dao, who was trying to get back to his clinic as he had patients to see in the morning. In the process of being dragged out of his seat, his head was smashed against an armrest rendering him bleeding from the mouth, and unconscious. His seat was commondeered by United because they needed to get four flight attendants to an un-attended plane waiting for take-off elsewhere.

What I think:

I think this is a stunning example of the corporate arrogance we have going in this country under an oligarchy (as opposed to a democracy where people matter.)

What we also have is a breach of contract. There was an offer-and-acceptance; a bargained for promise, that if Dr. Dao paid for a seat, he would be transported to his destination at an agreed upon time. United is CLEARLY in breach of contract,

We also have Dr. Dao being assaulted to the point of bloody unconsciousness (a Tort), and I hope Dr. Dao sues the living daylights out of the airlines (tortfeasor) for not only breach of K, but also for wrongful assault, and I hope he gets punitive damages!

The airline absolutely thinks passengers are stockyard animals to which they have NO responsibilities and can jerk around and abuse at will with no consequences. It is appalling that a passenger, and a medical doctor at that, was rendered bleeding from the mouth and unconscious so that United could rush crew to a waiting flight for the sole purpose of making money; they should have delayed or cancelled the flight altogether.

But, hey, as long as the American public keeps voting to put Rethuglicons (and Left aisle low life) into office and just keep adjusting for the changes Congress is putting in to accommodate only the interests of Big Business, and ever increasing abuse of power, it is only going to get worse.

It won't be until this country develops a pair will there be any hope of putting an end to the insanity and corruption in which America is currently awash. I blame Americans for indulging all of this. It makes me thoroughly ashamed to be an American; I thought we were better than this ongoing show of spinelessness. The DNC and the Democratic Party are merely the symptoms of the rotted state the public is in.

ErinRose's picture
ErinRose 7 years 10 weeks ago

# Legend:

You sound like an apologist for the airlines, and I don't agree with you at all.

It is your type of sympathy for the devil that is making America the unholy mess that it is.

We need to stand up to these unlawful laws and regulation (or deregulations) as the case may be. More people in the streets demanding change and reform, not more (blank) kissing.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 7 years 10 weeks ago

The key to reform government and to rein in oligarchs is to get all special interest money completely out of politics, totally ban the government/industry revolving-door kabuki theater, and have publicly financed elections at every level. Then, politicians will be responsible to all of the people rather than to just the few fat bastards who donate the most money to their campaigns under the present system.

If Congress had the will, they could introduce legislation right now today to override the Supreme Court rulings that have handed our government over to millionaires and billionaires.

This is the most important issue that voters on both sides of the political divide must demand of their respective politicians to regain what we lost: a people's democratic republic that truly represents our interests.

Until that happens, we're just mopping the deck on a sinking ship.

deepspace's picture
deepspace 7 years 10 weeks ago

Thanks for adding more texture to the experience.

Legend 7 years 10 weeks ago

Erinrose disagrees with me and feels that you should fight on an airplane. Makes a lot of sense.

"Dao was arrested in 2003 as part of an undercover operation. Two years later, Dao was convicted on six felony counts of obtaining drugs by fraud and deceit and in 2005, he was sentenced to five years probation. Dao was also convicted for writing prescriptions and checks to a male patient in exchange for sexual favors.

In February 2005, Dao surrendered his license to practice medicine in Kentucky.

In response, the state medical licensing board issued a suspension that was lifted in 2015. But the board has since placed severe restrictions on Dao’s ability to practice internal medicine, which will be lifted on Feb. 28, 2018, according to documents obtained by PEOPLE.

State records indicate the board believes Dao’s practices are outdated.

Last year, the medical board imposed restrictions on his right to practice. He can only practice internal medicine in an outpatient facility one day a week."

Outback 7 years 10 weeks ago

Legend, even assuming your account of Dr. Dao is accurate, it ammounts to an ad hominem argument that is absolutely irrevelant to the treatment he received at the hands of airport security at the request of UAL. He "could" have been the head of the Mayo Clinic; it doesn't matter. The point here is that unless and until ordinary citizens of this country develop a spine, we are on the same one way path taken by the German people in the 1930's. Fascism can not and must not be tolerated, and here we have one great example of where it leads and at least one example of the kind of argument that will allow it to continue to gain traction in this country.

Legend 7 years 10 weeks ago

It will be interesting what his Parole officer does about this. He is convicted of 6 felonies. That is not small. He is still on Parole. Resisting arrest.

You need to reread my post #5. I said " I would recommend always following any instructions from flight attendants or other crew while on the airplane. If they say get off, get off. If a policeman says get off, get off. Argue later. He obviously resisted and is part of this fiasco." I also said " It obviously could have been handled better by all involved. But he was being arrested and resisted arrest." It also was not United but United Express which is a different company. I am sure that the crew did not know that it would escalate into what happened with the Chicago Police.

Outback 7 years 10 weeks ago

Yes, comply now, complain later. Ask any black person how thy're treated by the Chigaco Police (though it's been my impression that this mugging was conducted by airport security). So don't question authority, eh? just accept that bar of soap and step quietly into the showers? So sorry, I maintain that the time has come to make a physical stand when our liberties are being trampled. I'm not black, but I still admire the courage of MLK, Rosa Parks and the others that stood up to the kind of physical treatment they were subjected to by the "authorities". It's the only thing that got the unions established in this country, and it ramains the method of last resort when "the man" starts trying to beat us into submission. You roll over for that, you get what you deserve.

Legend 7 years 10 weeks ago

You are not very experienced on the airlines. Easy to talk big on the internet. Wimp in person.

santamariaman's picture
santamariaman 7 years 10 weeks ago

Whole debacle could have been avoided if the 4 employees just rented a car. Trip of 299 miles would have taken just over 4 hours and with some pre-planning/early start, they probably would have arrived sooner than the plane.

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