My fellow Charioteers will already know that I am hardly the world’s largest fan of the USA. That I am hardly enamoured with the idea of going on holiday in the USA will, thus, surprise no one. That’s not to say that the USA is without its merits and charms. It has both, at times in abundance. In my experience Planet ‘Murca’s native aggro simply outweighs the good.
One of the world’s worst airlines, United, has managed to land itself in hot water. After over-booking a flight it asked for “volunteers” to be rebooked on a flight the following afternoon. Initially it offered US$400 and a free night at a hotel. No one accepted the offer. It then offered US$800. I would have taken that. No one did and the airline chose to toss four passengers off the aeroplane in order to make room for four airline employees. One of the passengers expelled was an elderly doctor who had to work the next morning. After protesting vocally, he was brutally beaten by so-called “law enforcement officers”. Stalin would have approved of their tactics.
This event has accomplished two things. United which already had a horrendous reputation now appears to be positively thuggish. US airport police, infamous for making the Russians look like Claridge’s staff in comparison, are now widely seen as wannabe Gestapo. Was it really quite necessary to bash a man’s face in, especially when he’s old enough to be a pensioner? One rule that I learnt from the Chinese is to do everything possible to avoid kerfuffles. If there is a situation, always try to defuse it. As a result, even if the Chinese avoid involving the police, they rarely have the absolute terror of them that many in the US do.
13 thoughts on “Flying the Friendly Skies”
With modern technology it’s only greed that allows an airline to overbook. So do avoid flying in Murica – oh and wearing tights and a sweater too! 😱
One (why only one?) of the “security officers” involved has been placed on leave, whether paid or unpaid not specified in the report I read. The Chicago Department of Aviation, who employ (if not properly train and supervise) said officer, have said only that his actions were “obviously not condoned.”
Apparently, when none of the passengers voluntarily accepted United’s (clearly inadequate) initial offer, four were “randomly” selected by computer. I’ll save my wife the trouble of saying that it just goes to show that you should never trust computers.
Some of the illustrious media are trying to make much of the fact that David Dao, the passenger who was forcibly removed, has a criminal record. So what? Drug-related charges from some years back, no connection with being treated as he was, proving once again that practically anything can be adopted/adapted to fill up column-inches.
Oscar Muñoz, United’s CEO, has made a real mess of things, first claiming that Mr. Dao was “disruptive and belligerent” (not shown on video or reported by other passengers) and then being stupid enough to say, “Our employees followed established procedures.” *WHAATT??!!!* If that’s one of United’s “established procedures,” then it’s time for everyone to put them on a personal “no fly” list. That’s alright, he’ll have his reward, if not in Heaven then possibly sooner at the hands of United stockholders. As of approx. five minutes ago, United’s share price had fallen 3.1%, with $700 milliion being wiped off their market capitalization, and the apparent trend continues downwards.
Oh, but wait, Mr. Muñoz said that United is “reaching out” or some such hogwash, trying to speak with Mr. Dao directly. Well, then, that makes everything all hunky-dory, doesn’t it? Not if Mr. Dao has enough sense to let his lawyers do the talking for him.
Now that we’re all thinking of what compensation might conceivably be meet and right, what about all the other passengers? Surely they’re due something for being forced to witness this attack upon a fellow passenger. In my own not-always-so-humble opinion, United ought to hand out large amounts of cash, free flights, free meals, free drinks (a proven aid to forgetfulness), etc., to all those whose delicate sensibilities may have been upset. They probably won’t, though. Management of large corporations typically seem not to understand what it means to be “penny wise and pound foolish.”
“Friendly skies,” indeed! (Snort!)
Janus: When I had to fly frequently in the USA I, as a rule, always flew with Southwest Airlines. They weren’t always the cheapest or even the best organised. There were, after all, no assigned seats — although one could pay a higher fare class for the best boarding selection or pay a fee to secure an earlier boarding position. One could generally, at very least, count on a pleasant enough flight and they didn’t charge for hold baggage. Sometimes they even had an unusually pleasant/entertaining crew.
Cog: My Chinese contacts are enraged by this. United survive partially because they have a well-developed flight network connecting China and the USA. Most Chinese I know have done just that — put United on personal “do not fly” lists. The Chinese might not like each other, but if a non-Chinese starts abusing one of their own they will band together.
I would have thought that law suit would be worth several millions.
It ought to be.
CO: If United are smart, which I doubt, they’ll pay him a large settlement to avoid making things worse for them. They have been notorious for years. This is just another nail in the coffin of their reputation.
Is ‘bumping’ seated passengers a common occurrence in Murica? I was never bumped in my 35 years of business travel. Do paying passengers take the experience lying down (not literally)? It will now complicate the issue that the victim is Oriental by name and appearance and obviously not a shrinking violet. He is also said to have a ‘record’ which is a disgraceful leak of private information, if true.
The D Mail though gets stuck in:
Janus: I have seen it happen several times. Usually a flight later in the day was found or a flight on another carrier was purchased by the airline with additional compensation given. United are known for being abusive. In the US, if something goes amiss, it’s best to simply shut up and take it. Despite all their rhetoric about freedom, justice, blah, blah, blah, etc. one has no rights in the USA — certainly not to humane treatment. If one attempts to stand up for oneself one can expect nothing but violent abuse and personal destruction.
Interesting that I have had the directly opposite treatment here from Christopher. I have always found authorities to be helpful, polite and positively go out of their way to be pleasant. But then being both a foreigner and a woman and sounding so utterly rather upmarket British, perhaps they don’t like to let the side down!
One only has to look at the TV news here to realise that the police etc can be very different, but then generally their victims are breaking the law or being abusive too. perhaps Christopher you exude an air of hostility before anyone has opened their mouth?
I always kick off with a lovely smile, a cheery good morning and enquire politely what can I do for them! Somewhat disarming. Note, the same technique doesn’t work in the UK! I do find most authorities in the UK so very sullen and unhelpful. They come round but it takes five minutes or so.
I think I may have run too many bars and restaurants not to be able to sweet talk the recalcitrant! You should try it Christopher as an exercise to see what happens. Try to get the buggers to crack a smile and you’re half way home!
One of the ways never to get bumped is to check in very early as soon as the gate has opened.
CO: Don’t condescend me. The bloody Yank police tried on a number of occasions to provoke me and bring me up on trumped-up charges. Once, they even tried to plant evidence on me. As soon as I requested the presence of a consular official they shut up and left me in peace. After I reached a certain age they were no longer as interested me. Coming off as a posh boy, they rarely cause me much difficulty now — but I will never forget that their pitiful legal system and worthless scrap of velum, the Constitution, did not secure my right to due process and equitable legal treatment. Rather, my liberties were secured only by the threat of a visit from the Generalkonsulat. The Huns are infamously protective of their fellow citizens and they’ve long developed a distaste for Septic attitudes and methods.
I always found the British police perfectly lovely and never had a minute’s trouble with them. The Rheinland-Pfalz police have always been helpful and professional, if somewhat formal.German officials, while pedantic, have generally been polite and co-operative in most situations. They fully understand the absurdity of German bureaucracy.
(Condescendingly, if anyone insists upon taking it that way): Police being human beings, there are good ones and bad ones. I have been fortunate enough to know a number of the good ones and found them all reasonable individuals, thoroughly dedicated to their job (with the sole exception of a neighbor who found less pleasure in it than in his “moonlight” job). I know from our conversations that, although they always tried to maintain a professional attitude in their dealings with the public, even the best intentions can wear thin when confronted with an unreasonable individual.
I recall one officer saying that he once stopped a motorist with the intention of letting him off with only a warning. When said motorist proved far too full of himself and became abusive, said officer enjoyed (yes, he admitted to enjoying this part) writing the bigmouth citations for every deviation from the law he could spot, culminating in the fellow becoming angry and throwing his cigarette on the ground – resulting in one last citation, this one for littering. In my limited contacts with police officers with whom I was not acquainted, I invariably found them professional, often friendly and helpful.
Another officer resisted transfer out of the undesirable ghetto neighborhood where he’d worked for years because he knew the people there, liked most of them and could easily pick out and deal with, without violence or abridgment of rights, any who needed special attention. Any such as the guy he spotted for the third time in a single month with a suitcase full of stolen goods. Or the unruly kids he quickly brought in line by saying, “I’m gonna tell your Granny,” knowing well how morally upright and fearsome those ethnic Grannies could be.
As for the bad ones, what can I say? I suspect that, in many cases, their worst behavior is brought out by personal dislike of a group to which a particular civilian belongs (blacks, wogs, drivers of luxury cars, abrasively self-entitled individuals who typically claim to have “important” friends, overly cocky and mouthy youngsters, et al), by their wanting/needing to bolster their arrest record, by personal issues (e.g., a recent argument with the spouse), etc.. Another factor, presumably less prevalent now than was once the case, may be their departmental culture, most notably in certain parts of the country (“Y’all in a heap of trouble, boy.”). At least such bad behavior is not institutionalized by special uniforms (complete with jackboots) or wholesale disregard of our Constitution, such as it is.
Although the worst cases of abusing police authority – those one may see on TV – no doubt exist, I cannot help wondering whether the odd incidents are of sufficient statistical relevance to justify condemning the entire system. When it comes to planting evidence, a very few of those officers I knew admitted only to carrying a “throwaway” weapon intended solely as a potential plant piece to help justify a shooting that they knew darned well was not beyond reason (such as targeting an individual running at them with every obvious intention of doing them harm). To the best of my knowledge, none ever felt compelled to use the “throwaway” piece in this manner.
My limited contacts with British police were nothing but favorable despite the current weaknesses in their systemic organization, from which they suffer even as civilians do. Never having set foot in Germany, I cannot comment upon officials there except to express the hope that they will not all soon be replaced by justice-dispensing machines (is the Gerechtomat 5000 ready yet?).
Cog: There is a German saying: “The burnt child is terrified of fire”. I’ve seen too many innocent people be ruined by a corrupt prosecutor aided by greedy lawyers and boy cops who pretended that they were Wild West law-men. The police invent an incident or blow a minor event out of all proportion. Someone is brought in for charges which, frankly, would fall in court or upon appeal. Lawyers sensing that there is little money to be made take their minimum fee and pressure the accused to accept a “plea bargain”. A life is effectively ruined, Boy Cop looks like a hero, the prosecutor builds his reputation for “toughness against crime” and already wealthy lawyers are a few quid richer. Those young men who survived with their legal reputations intact flee PDQ. The armed forces badger them half to death in order to fill their quotas — it’s difficult to find lads who have a clean criminal record. I was terrified of taking a walk in park because the badged swine would constantly snoop around and follow me like a hawk. I once missed a turn and a Berkshire hunt in blue trailed me for miles in order to ask why I missed that turn. Exchanging stories with my grandparents was sometimes frightening. Their experiences with the Gestapo were very similar. So long as one was absolutely silent and didn’t catch their attention for any reason they’d be left in peace, but if the Gestapo didn’t like someone they’d find any reason to destroy them and cart them away. I’ve exchanged stories with people who grew up in the USSR, Communist Poland, Hungary and Romania. There is little difference. I accept that most police are trying to do their jobs in very unideal circumstances. I also know that they have to sort out the most sordid aspects of life and be surrounded — constantly — by social detritus. One cannot, however, undo what has been done and what has been witnessed. I also cannot forgive that the only reason why I was not ruined was my little burgundy booklet from the German Foreign Ministry. Due to a paper work-related issue I have to go to California again this October. I am not looking forward to it. Hopefully it is the last time I have to do that for some time. As much as I miss a few people and a particular taco truck, I have less and less reason to be there and more and more reason to stay away.