Operations Should Never Impinge On Delivery

I’ve been a transportation watcher most of my life, which is a long time now.  So the recent United Airlines incident was especially appalling to me. Frankly at this point, I wonder if United will even survive the bad optics they created.  Having screaming old men bleeding as they are dragged off an aircraft to not make for good optics.

All the problems seem to stem from the fact that the transportation industry has forgotten some very important things.  Rush had a caller who was from United here.

The airline industry may be the only — I’m not sure about this — but it may be the only industry that oversells, like do theaters oversell seats? Do sports stadiums oversell seats? Do they sell one seat to two different people or three for the Super Bowl? It doesn’t happen. Now, we know that the airlines do it because there are cancellations, people don’t show up, and when the overbooked, oversold situation happens — and this is the case at United — they first offer bribes. They offered $400 and overnight accommodations to any volunteers that would get off the plane. No takers.

They upped the offer to $800 and maybe a suite at Motel 6, and no takers. There were no takers. Nobody wanted to get off the plane, so they randomly chose four passengers. We’re only hearing about one of them. And, man, oh, man, have we learned a lot about this guy. More on that in just a moment.

Now, the CEO of United, who just won an award for corporate spokesmanship, for corporate PR. This is unbelievable. The guy is Oscar Munoz, and he just won award as one of the best corporate communicators in the world of corporate communication. And he said, “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” Re-accommodate these customers? There you have totally politically correct corporate-speak.

Well, one of the four passengers refused to get off. They had to drag the guy off. He was a doctor, he is a doctor, and he said he had to make the flight because he had patients waiting on him in Louisville the next day. So he had to get to Louisville. But he was randomly chosen. So they dragged him off the plane and they bring their four employee flight attendants and others who have to make that flight to work the next flight out of Louisville, and somehow this guy ends up back on the plane.

That really ticked ’em off. Apparently this guy having been removed, found his way, he snuck back in there with the United employees, and that’s when things got rough. So they sent the uniformed security people in to drag the guy, he refuses to go. Some passengers videotaped it. Others just watched and did nothing, which is causing some angst and concern in some quarters. The guy gets dragged off.

At the end of all of this, he’s bloodied and his glasses are down around his mouth and nose, and he’s shouting, “No, no, please, no more,” and he looks like he’s been tortured at Abu Ghraib or Club Gitmo. The guy looks like he’s been beat up. The video of this has gone viral, and now everybody in the country, instead of hating Comcast now hates United. I saw a survey, the most hated company in America among Millennials, I’ve tried to tell you, is Comcast. Millennials hate cable companies ’cause they charge money. Millennials want things like their entertainment to be free.

So, anyway, people can’t believe that United did this. What United is saying — it’s United Flight 3411 — what United is saying is that established procedures were followed here. But the problem is nobody has seen these established procedures before. But what they are further saying is, the passenger was belligerent. And when passengers get belligerent, for whatever reason, we don’t wait, we remove them, whatever it takes, because that becomes a security problem. Other passengers could be injured. We’re not gonna tolerate unruly behavior from any passenger, not even one who has refused to get off the plane and then did get off and has snuck back in there.

No patience, no tolerance for unruly passengers. That’s their story. They’re gonna stick with it. They will hope to ride this out. This is why I was trying to help here with my ad campaign idea that they might next try to employ. Now, who is this guy? Oh, there’s another element. The guy happens to be ChiCom. Well, I’m sorry, he happens to be Chinese. So now naturally, in our overly litigious, politically correct, cowardice little culture, there’s racism. Yes indeed, United was racist.

We’ve even got some clown, John Cho, who I never heard of until today. He’s an actor. He played in some of the sequels to Star Trek, played the character Sulu. This guy said that this only happened because of Trump. John Cho says that the forced removal of the United Airlines passenger could be traced to Donald Trump. He said, “It’s hard not to see a connection between the environment Trump has created and what happened on that United flight.” That’s how ridiculous this got.

But who is this guy? Well, the New York Post has dug deep, as has the U.K. Daily Mail. This is gonna further anger people because now it looks like the victim is being targeted and blamed. I’ll give you the details when we get back.


RUSH: Okay. The unruly United Airlines passenger that was physically removed from the plane twice is a doctor. According to the U.K. Daily Mail, he is a “felon who traded prescription drugs for secret gay sex with patient half his age and took them himself — and he needed anger management, was ‘not forthright’ and had control issues, psychiatrist found,” said a psychiatrist. His name is Dr. David Dao. His “troubled medical past is revealed in court documents.

“His wife … — also a doctor — reported him to medical authorities and his secret inappropriate gay relationship with a patient was revealed.” Well, the guy was really desperate to get back to Louisville. “Father of five … was convicted of a felony — but avoided prison time — because he was giving the man prescription drugs in return for gay sex. He denied the gay sex even though he was caught on camera shirtless and in his pants.” It was the Putin look.


RUSH: So what do you make, folks. We’ve got the U.K. Daily Mail and the New York Post and I’m sure other publications, too, have now written stories on who this unruly passenger is, and it’s not a pretty picture. And they portray a guy here who’s had to see psychiatrists for drug addiction and anger management issues and that he nearly lost his medical license.

One doctor wrote that the guy here, Dr. David Dao, “would ‘unilaterally chose to do his own thing.’ He only got his license back after agreeing to be drug tested and polygraphed.” What’s gonna happen here now is that numerous people are gonna get angry that the victimized is being blamed and smeared in the process in order to defend United…

CALLER: My initial thoughts on this, Mr. Limbaugh, is that people have forgotten that flying is a privilege and that with that privilege there come rules. And these are rules that are set forth by FAA, by the Transportation Security Administration, by the airlines themselves, and we have multiple venues where you can see where these rules are posted. But people choose not to do that, and then when it comes down to the point that we as crew members have to enforce these rules, we look like the bad guy.

You notice in this YouTube video, this posting, whatever it is, that they don’t show this guy being noncompliant. ‘Cause I can guarantee you half a dozen times before he was removed from the aircraft, there were crew members, there were gate agents, there were people trying to tell him respectfully, “Sir, you need to remove yourself from the aircraft.”

RUSH: Well, the impression is that when they first approached him they beat him up.

CALLER: (laughing)

RUSH: I mean, that is the impression people are left with, is he was asked to leave, he refused to, so they beat him up and then he snuck back on and then they really got mad and dragged him — (crosstalk)

CALLER: — airplane post-9/11, Mr. Limbaugh, you’re gonna get hurt. I’m sorry, there’s gonna be a plane full of people that are not gonna put up with that anymore.

RUSH: It’s interesting to look at the video you cite, the one on YouTube. You have the people that videotaped it on their phones, which, questionable legality there, but nobody’s gonna get in trouble for it. You have a lot of people that just sat there and didn’t do anything and probably, as you say, just wish whatever was going on would end so they could leave. They want —


RUSH: — to get where they were going. But you’re right, there isn’t any video of the guy being roughed up. People are speculating that he got bloody in the terminal somewhere after they removed him the first time, and then ended up dragging him out of there, his face bangs up against the seats. Speculating on how the guy’s mouth ended up bloody and so forth.

CALLER: Well, you know, and to be honest with you, Mr. Limbaugh, it comes down to the fact that there are rules. And as a crew member, as an airline captain, I don’t have a choice on whether or not I’m going to enforce these rules. There were four crew members — look at the Delta incident last week and the fact that we had three, four, five, six days of rolling chaos at Delta because we couldn’t get crews to where they needed to be. So we need to have those seats open for crew members —

RUSH: That was because weather in one hub, right, Atlanta caused all that —

CALLER: It was weather for a couple days in Atlanta and then I was flying in and out of LaGuardia on the Delta side last Thursday and Friday, and it was pretty brutal there too. So rolling chaos is what that is, but at the end of the day, we have to look at the bigger picture and we have to move crew members from point A to point B so that, like you said earlier, we can start tomorrow fresh with a fresh airplane, a fresh crew that’s well rested so that we can provide a service for eight, 10, 12 flights that are gonna be happening that the next day, which is going to impact hundreds, if not thousands, of passengers.

RUSH: Now, it looks like the United CEO or the United corporate is really focusing on the fact the passenger was belligerent and that, therefore, justifies or explains — once a passenger goes belligerent, gets unruly, that’s the end of tolerance, you get ’em out of there.

CALLER: You know, there’s kind of a little saying that noncompliance on the ground becomes a huge deal at altitude, right? When we sit there and we bring people on board and we’re gonna bring ’em up to seven miles above the earth and fly at four-fifths the speed of sound, there’s not a whole lot of — there’s virtually no tolerance at that point. If you’re going to make a big deal of something minor on the ground, who knows what’s gonna happen when you get in the air.

Who knows if you’re gonna order a beer from one of my flight attendants and now that’s just enough liquid courage that you’re now beating on the cockpit door. We have to take this stuff very, very seriously, because it has to do with the lives and the safety of the people on that aircraft and the lives and the safety of people who are on the ground. And it’s a zero-sum game. There is no tolerance.

RUSH: William, thank you. I’m out of time, but I appreciate that. That’s William from Bozeman, Montana. He’s a pilot for United, flies the same airplane involved in this episode.



Now at this point we don’t know exactly what happened.  Apparently the passenger was bleeding and probably disoriented from the first time he was kicked off the plane.  And his wife was on the plane.

The CEO of United Airlines apologized again Tuesday amid a global uproar sparked when a passenger was dragged screaming from his seat on a flight that, it turns out, wasn’t even overbooked.

“I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight, and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard,” CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement. “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

United has been under siege since videos of Sunday night’s violent confrontation on the plane at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport went viral, drawing hundreds of millions of views around the world. Social media outrage rained down on the Chicago-based airline.

United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said Tuesday that all 70 seats on United Express Flight 3411 were filled, but the plane was not overbooked as the airline previously reported. Instead, United and regional affiliate Republic Airlines, which operated the flight, selected four passengers to be removed to accommodate crew members needed in Louisville the next day. The passengers were selected based on a combination of criteria spelled out in United’s contract of carriage, including frequent-flier status, fare type, check-in time and connecting flight implications, among others, according to United.

Three passengers went quietly. The fourth, who was literally pulled out of his seat and off the plane, was David Dao, a physician in Elizabethtown, Ky.

Late Tuesday, CNBC reported that a pair of Chicago attorneys, Stephen L. Golan and Thomas A. Demetrio, are representing Dao. A statement from Golan said Dao is undergoing treatment in a Chicago hospital for unspecified injuries.

“The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern, and support they have received,” Golan said in a statement. “Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao’s medical care and treatment” and will not be making any comments to the media.

Munoz issued his first public apology Monday but hours later sent a letter to the airline’s employees lauding the behavior of the flight crew in dealing with a “disruptive and belligerent” passenger. Munoz credited employees with following established procedures on the Louisville-bound flight.

“This situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused, and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help,” the letter says. “While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”

Munoz conceded, however, that “there are lessons we can learn from this experience,” and he promised an investigation. Chicago aviation officials placed a security officer on leave, saying the incident “was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure.”


Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, termed United’s handling of the incident “brand suicide.”

“When you go onto a United flight, you shouldn’t have to be concerned there will be blood or you will get slammed in the face,” Schiffer said. “I think you will see an effect on sales from those who are disgusted by the gruesome action. And it’s catastrophic for a brand’s trust.”


United Airlines can’t stop stepping in it

United Airlines can’t seem to right its wrongs, which are piling up after a man was dragged off a plane Sunday night. CEO Oscar Munoz apologized again Tuesday, saying, “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”  That’s an abrupt change from the letter he sent Monday to United employees that said the passenger was “disruptive and belligerent” and “I emphatically stand behind all of you.” A United spokesman conceded Tuesday that the flight was sold out but not “overbooked,” as the airline originally claimed, meaning four ticketed passengers, including the man, were kicked off the plane to make way for crew members that United said needed to make the flight. Can an airline do that? All carriers have a “contract of carriage” — United’s is 37,000 words long — that spells out when it can pull passengers from a flight. But Sunday’s incident went too far, and people are calling for Munoz to step down. Since “fly the friendly skies” apparently no longer applies, the Internet has some new suggested slogans for the embattled airline.


United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a new statement on Tuesday afternoon, offering a renewed apology for the incident in which a passenger was dragged off a United Express flight after refusing to give up his seat.

In the statement (full text below), Munoz acknowledged the “outrage anger (and) disappointment” over the incident. “I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened,” he adds in the statement.

Scroll down for the full text of the statement, issued by United around 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday (April 11, 2017):

Statement from United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz on United Express Flight 3411

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment.  I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard.   No one should ever be mistreated this way.

I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.

I promise you we will do better.





Now what are those things that the airline industry has forgotten? Simply these.  Operations should never impinge on delivery of service and even the lowliest customer has value.  The fact is that the passenger was booted out of the seat that he had paid for to make the operation of the airline more convenient by dead heading crew members. This whole incident was a result of United’s operational failures.  Yet it was the “voluntary” removed passenger who had to pay the price for United’s inability to keep it’s operations running in the face of slight adversity.  I’m sorry but the word deadhead exists for a reason and Rule one should be that no operational personnel take a seat from a paying customer, ever.

Even worse is how United and the media has dragged the passenger through the mud since the incident.  From the start a smear campaign seems to have been started and being run through the media and on Facebook and other social media.  If United is behind the campaign the entire United PR management needs to be fired.  If United’s PR team doesn’t get on top of squelching the campaign real fast, the entire PR staff needs to be fired.

The manager that acted that way should be fired.  The plane had been boarded, the smart thing to do would have been to close the doors and deal with the dead heads another way. Instead the management decided to treat their customers like cattle. The problem didn’t start with the security dragging the doctor off the plane, it started with the manager pointing at some of the airlines paid customers and saying you, you, you and you, I’m going to make your lives miserable and inconvenienced tonight.  This wasn’t an individual’s action either, this was systemic.  The manager didn’t care about the customers that the airline was providing services to.


Now I realize that, as videos below show that the travelling public tries to go for the lowest cost options over luxuries and conveniences.

There has been some talk about the airline had very right to do what they did. That may be the truth. There are other truths involved though. That is that when the airline sold the tickets they were making a promise to the buyers of those tickets.  By throwing people off the plane for operational reasons the airline was breaking their promise.  In a high trust economy that is not something that can go unpunished.  United deserves to be punished because if corporations start to believe that they can get away with not delivering on their promises, more than likely the whole system will break  down.


By acting the way they did on Sunday night, the staff at United’s Chicago desk not only hurt United’s reputation, but in a small way broke the web of trust that we all depend on.  Like so many in business United seems to have wrapped themselves in procedures and rule, with long contracts to protect themselves and forgotten why they are in business at all. All those people can come on radio and all over social media and endlessly repeat how United was forced to do what they did for this or that, but in the end one thing is inescapable.  United broke their promise to that passenger.  The fact that far too people seem to recognize that is a big problem for us all.

For some contrast, here’s elegant travel in a different time.



  1. penneyvanderbilt · April 12, 2017

    Reblogged this on PenneyVanderbilt.


  2. Pingback: More On United And Operations | The Arts Mechanical

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