United Continental Holdings Inc., the Chicago-based airline has become the airline that has the most controversial issues for some time now. Perhaps you have heard about the David Dao incident. The passenger was physically coerced into leaving the flight because of a mistake made by the airline. They overbooked the flight, leaving no available seat for a customer who had already paid for his seat. That was not the worst part. Dr. David Dao had suffered from a severe concussion in addition to losing a couple of his teeth as well as a broken nose from the violence asserted by the airline employees. Put aside the fact that he was a paying customer like everyone else and deserves to be treated like one. No human being should ever be treated like this, especially a senior citizen.
Truth be told, United Airlines’ awful customer service actually began ten years ago.
There is a song with over 17 million views titled, United Breaks Guitars, by Dave Carroll, a Canadian musician. As the name suggests, Carroll’s guitar was broken by the United Airlines’ baggage handlers. That was not the main problem. It is the fact that they adamantly refused to take responsibility for breaking the singer-songwriter’s $3,500 guitar. Even in the Dr. Dao’s incident, Oscar Munoz, CEO of the United Airlines had criticized the passenger instead of taking responsibility. He did not actually apologize to Dr. Dao until the third statement of apology was issued in response to the controversy.
As a result of this incident, another passenger, Shirley Yamauchi was afraid to stand her ground and became yet another victim of United Airlines. This incident occurred three months after Dr. Dao’s incident. Yamauchi was on a United flight along with her two-year-old toddler. She lawfully purchased two tickets, one for herself and one for her son. However, another passenger showed up with a ticket for her son’s seat, which means that United has once again overbooked the flight. The other passenger proceeded to take his seat, so Yamauchi sought for help from a flight attendant. Like every incident United has had, the employee did not stand by her. In fact, she was told that the flight was full and that there was nothing they could do. In the end, Yamauchi had to place her son on her lap throughout the course of the flight. This was reported by Hawaii News Now.
Within the same month of Dr. Dao’s incident, there were three other unpleasant episodes. First, Lucie Bahetoukilae, a French passenger who had a ticket to fly home, was placed on the wrong plane and sent to San Francisco instead, as reported by WABC. It is understandable for slight miscommunications to occur for the reason that the passenger only spoke French. However, the employee that scanned her boarding pass and the employee who seated her both had the chance to look at her ticket. That was part of their job. What were they doing?
Michael Hohl and Amber Maxwell were two people in love who were flying to Costa Rica to get married. Nonetheless, their day was ruined by the United Airlines, as usual. KHOU reported that when they approached their seats on the plane, they found another passenger who was laid across the seats, fast asleep. Hence, they took a seat in the empty seats nearby. When the flight attendant approached them, the couple openly admitted that they were not in their assigned seats – for a reason – and were willing to pay the additional fee as they were seated at the economy plus spots. Following the instructions of the flight attendant, they returned to their original seats with no problem. Here’s the strange part: a U.S. Marshall came on board and kicked them off the plane. Still, the couple did as they were told with no commotion. On the following Saturday, the airline issued a statement that criticized the couple saying that they “wouldn’t follow crew instructions”. If they did not, would they have gotten off the plane? Wouldn’t they have ended up like Dr. Dao?
The third incident involves Simon, the son of the world’s largest rabbit. Simon was three-foot-long and was anticipated to grow even bigger. According to PEOPLE magazine, a group in Iowa had purchased the enormous continental rabbit for fundraising purposes. Needless to say, the darling creature was found dead when the United flight landed. Guy R. Cook is the attorney who represented the group in Iowa in this proceeding. Based on Cook’s letter to PEOPLE magazine, the airline proceeded to cremate the rabbit’s carcass without permission or instructions from Simon’s owner.
Earlier in that year, Kathleen Considine, the owner of Jacob the golden retriever voiced her complaint about United Airlines through Facebook. After being in United PetSafe program, Jacob was returned to Considine in a distressed condition and subsequently passed away soon after. In a report by WDIV, the airline reiterated the safety and comfort of pets in their PetSafe program – so was Simon the rabbit.
On Monday night, Kokito, a ten-month-old French Pitbull that was placed in a pet carrier passed away after being in the overhead compartment for a three and a half hours long flight. Initially placed under the seats, a flight attendant persistently told the passenger to stow it in the overhead bins. Then, the spokeswoman of the airline came out to justify their mistake by saying that the flight attendant was not aware of the presence of Kokito. Several passengers on board have contradicted this statement as they mentioned that the sound of the dog barking was a clear indication.
Earlier this week, United Airlines has, once again, made a mistake.
Irgo the German Shepherd was scheduled to fly back to Kansas City on a United flight while a Great Dane in the United’s care was bound for Tokyo. However, there was a mix-up within the airline and the two dogs were sent to the wrong locations. Irgo arrived at Tokyo while the Great Dane was sent to Missouri.
Learning from previous mistakes, the United Airlines immediately transported Irgo back to Kansas City, Missouri with a private jet.
UPDATE: Irgo should be arriving about 7:30pm CT at the Wichita airport. He is being flown by private charter, and being treated like the king he is!!! I will update you all when I get my baby back!!
Posted by Kara Swindle on Thursday, March 15, 2018
While we are glad that Irgo is receiving the proper care and treatment, the conscientious approach taken by the airline is ostensible. “It is pennies to try to stop that news,” says Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group. He insinuated that though the cost of chartering a private jet may be high, it was a trifling price to pay in order to avoid further controversy, especially because the most recent case of Kokito was less than a week ago.
United Airlines time and time again raised commotions because of their own mistakes and more often than not, they have refused to take responsibility for it. Now, they are taking extreme measures just for the sake of maintaining their reputation. They see these problems and treat them from the standpoint of public relations. The truth is that these are matters concerning life and death.
A statement from the letter written by Cook, the attorney in Simon the rabbit incident, to PEOPLE magazine rightfully concluded the problem with United Continental Holdings Inc.:
“The importance of Simon’s death goes beyond the life of a single rabbit, it reflects an attitude of United Airlines that lacks basic decency and respect for the people and the property it is hired to serve.”
A detailed examination of all of the cases mentioned above reveals the one thing they all have in common. All of these incidents have resulted from a gross negligence and the lack of effort on the airline’s part. All of the incidents could have been prevented if the employees involved had just shown a little more respect and care towards the customers, their pets and their belongings. In fact, it could have been turned around if they had taken the proper responsibility and owned up to their mistakes as soon as these things happen.
More than five incidents have happened within this airline, to customer’s possessions and the people and their pets. Two of them happened under the PetSafe program that they insisted was safe (notice the name of the program) for the pets. They repeatedly overbook their flights and cause inconvenience to the passengers. The chief executive officer himself has shown disrespect by refusing to apologize to Dr. Dao while saying that their employee had taken the correct approach – which is ridiculous.
Why are people still opting for United Airlines’ services? Have they not done enough harm to their customers and to animals? Why aren’t the board members of United Continental Holdings Inc. taking disciplinary actions towards said employees? Is it because the shares were only 0.6 percent lower after everything? Will they not be concerned unless it affects them drastically in terms of money?
On a larger narrative, this is just another side effect of our money-oriented society. There isn’t another reason for overbooking flight besides profit motives. Refusing to take responsibility is just the refusal to pay compensation costs.
When all’s said and done, there is nothing we can do unless the society is willing to act collectively. Unfortunately, the United Airlines essentially acts as a metonymy for the callousness and money-oriented society that we live in. It is the “if it does not concern me, I don’t care” mentality that is perishing the world.
Featured image via flickr/ Ikarasawa