United Airlines is staring at a big compensation package for Dr David Dao (69), a Vietnamese-American physician, who suffered a severe concussion when he was violently dragged out of an overbooked Chicago-Kentucky plane he had boarded a few days ago. Experts agree he has a strong legal case against the airline.
It is not an isolated instance as negative factors aplenty are weighing down United, giving reasons for travellers to say “no” to the airline.
Earlier this week, another United passenger on a Houston to Calgary flight had to endure a sting by a scorpion that had fallen on his head from the overhead bin and then on to his dinner table.
These incidents came on the heels of another incident involving United when two teenagers were barred from boarding a Denver-Minneapolis flight because they were wearing leggings.
My Continental Experience
I have had to fly United a few times in the past and I have never been a fan of any of the American carriers though they can hardly be avoided within the U.S.
Once, Continental cancelled a flight I was to board from Savannah (Georgia) to New York though I had a connecting flight to catch at the JFK airport. I, however, managed to board another flight through some persuasive talk though even that had its own share of inconvenience.
UA Fares Cheaper, but its Reaction Does Not Inspire Confidence
Fares on United Airlines from Singapore to the U.S. are significantly cheaper than Singapore Airlines. Business travellers, therefore, often consider United for their flights as companies encourage them to use airlines that offer good fares.
The attack on Dr David Dao will now be a valid reason for such travellers to avoid United. It is not a question of a single instance serving as a deterrent, the reaction of United to the incident simply does not inspire confidence.
The CEO even blamed the passenger for being belligerent and commended its staff for following what he called established procedures in dealing with the situation. It was only after an international backlash that he chose to offer an apology.
PR/Marketing Machinery Caught Napping
Its PR and marketing machinery allowing the negativity to fester for long in the era of social engagement is a mystery. As one of the world’s largest airlines, it must have had the muscle to act quick and rescue itself from a bad situation. The fact it failed points to an institutional problem.
Moreover, per a report in The Daily Mail, Dr David Dao’s bags were not taken off his plane and were later sent to the wrong address, demonstrating its never-ending inefficiencies.
Also, overbooking and passengers being yanked out of flights are not uncommon. This CNN report points out that in 2015 alone around 46,000 passengers were bumped out of their flights. I cannot imagine being stopped from boarding a flight with a valid ticket at the last minute as it could completely throw plans and schedules off gear.
Singapore Airlines will remain my favourite even if there is no certainty it will be smooth going with it. Planning to arrive your destination a day or two earlier will be a safe bet.
G Joslin Vethakumar