Social Justice Warriors: Over the Top

It seems to me lately that there’s not only a plethora of fake news circulating these days, but also a lot of regular people who decide take on the role of journalism themselves, reporting events way out of context.

We all know that United Airlines has taken two hits to their Customer Service record in recent days. The first was when a woman reported – without fully understanding what was going on – that two young girls were informed that they could not board a plane due to their clothing choice. What she failed to take into account was that  the girls were flying on company travel passes as such were subject to the same clothing rules as an employee. Neither of the girls was upset about the situation, only the ill-informed woman.

If it doesn’t involve you, it’s none of your business. There was no physical abuse going on. There was no life being threatened. Those actually involved weren’t making a scene.

Then we have the more horrific scene on an over-booked United Airlines flight from Chicago to Louisville where a passenger was dragged off the flight because he chose not to cooperate when asked to get off the plane. Airlines routinely over-book flights to compensate for people who simply don’t show up. If you’re a victim of an over-booked flight – i.e. you’re told to get off or refused boarding – there is usually compensation.

If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200 percent of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $675 maximum.

If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400 percent of your one-way fare, $1,350 maximum).

If your ticket does not show a fare (for example, a frequent-flyer award ticket or a ticket issued by a consolidator), your denied boarding compensation is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first-class) on that flight.

You always get to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can request an “involuntary refund” for the ticket for the flight you were bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your inconvenience.

If you paid for optional services on your original flight (e.g., seat selection, checked baggage) and you did not receive those services on your substitute flight or were required to pay a second time, the airline that bumped you must refund those payments to you.

So the passenger who decided to act in a belligerent manner could have probably gotten home within an hour of his original arrival time, but with all of the chaos that ensued because of the choice he made, the flight was not only delayed, it took him far longer to get home. And those patients he had to get home to see were probably rescheduled.

He wasn’t the only one chosen to get off the plane, yet he was the only one who decided to be belligerent about it, refusing to budge. I’d be interested in learning how much those people were compensated and how long they had to wait to reach their final destination. I’m not saying United Airlines is without blame, but neither are we as passengers of any flight. If you can’t make your flight, cancel it. That’s why flights get overbooked. Follow the rules, for pete’s sake. If they ask you to get off the flight, they will do their best to help you get to where you need to go. They aren’t complete monsters. The closest I’ve come to being in a situation like this was in 2004 when I was on a multi-leg flight from New Orleans to Sacramento, CA. Before I even left New Orleans, Delta saw the flight of one leg of travel was completely canceled so I ended up on a totally different airline.

I hope that if I am ever in a situation where my problem becomes public to those around me that no one decides to become a fly-by-night journalist and document things on my behalf. I would be mortified and probably pursue legal action against them.