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Reich writes: "Yesterday, United issued a statement via Twitter apologizing 'for having to reaccommodate' its customers. Reaccommodate? This doesn't look like any reaccommodation I've ever seen."

Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)
Former Clinton labor secretary Robert Reich. (photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

I Urge You to Boycott United Airlines

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Facebook Page

11 April 17


he night before last, United overbooked its plane traveling from Chicago to Louisville. It offered $400 and a hotel for passengers to voluntarily give up their seats. When it had no takers it upped the offer to $800, but still no one volunteered. So United randomly selected four passengers to be removed. Three obliged, but the fourth said he was a doctor and had to be at a hospital in morning and refused to deplane. As a result, the company forcibly dragged the man off the flight (see video, below).

Yesterday, United issued a statement via Twitter apologizing “for having to reaccommodate” its customers. Reaccommodate? This doesn't look like any reaccommodation I've ever seen.

There are now only 4 major carriers left, including United. Nonetheless, if you have any choice at all, I urge you to boycott this disreputable and irresponsible airline.

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+59 # dougfreeman 2017-04-11 13:53
Stop fly united and put people at the airports with signs pertaining to incident with Doctor being forcibly being removed from flight.
+87 # LionMousePudding 2017-04-11 13:53
A doctor. So when the person you choose turns out to be a doctor with patient appointments, you CHOOSE SOMEONE ELSE.


Also they are supposed to offer better and better deals till it's worth it for someone.

AND WHY ARE FLIGHTS OVERBOOKED ANYWAY? Isn't it enough that people bought and paid for every ticket? This stuff is done on the computer. It's not rocket science.

Yes. Boycott United. And I hope this guy sues the living daylights out of it.
+6 # ericlipps 2017-04-11 17:50
Flights are overbooked because airlines want to fill every possible seat and know from experience tat some people buy tickets and then, for one reason or other, don't get on the plane. It makes good business sense and doesn't hurt anyone--until the day comes when not enough people fail to show up.

But this incident was appalling. United has bloodied its own ose, badly.
+77 # ddd-rrr 2017-04-11 13:55
This is FAR WORSE than I thought it was from first reports!!!
THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE! Bad enough if it involved someone
on a "pleasure" trip, but with a doctor needing to be at a particular
destination (a hospital) at a particular time???! Was it necessary
that he be among the "necessary four" to be removed (and, why,
only AFTER loading the plane??)? Better would have been to
have offered more money to an alternative fourth after the
first three of the four who were (arbitrarily?) chosen
to be removed had accepted the $800 offer!
Cheaper than the law suit likely
to follow THIS!
+81 # robnyc 2017-04-11 13:56

One of the most effective ways for us (regular people) to actually fight the OVER AGGRESSIVE, MILITARIZED CORPORATE environment that has engulfed us is: BOYCOTT!!!

THANK YOU for suggesting this here.
+10 # tomtom 2017-04-11 18:32
Quoting robnyc:

One of the most effective ways for us (regular people) to actually fight the OVER AGGRESSIVE, MILITARIZED CORPORATE environment that has engulfed us is: BOYCOTT!!!

THANK YOU for suggesting this here.

My lover and I were asked to walk the line, picket, that is, in San Francisco, in the 60's, at Tower Records, when a friend was fired for being gay. Move over, Philadelphia, the people of San Francisco expressed Brotherly Love, by not creative ssing that line. It only took a week of no profits before he was back on the job. It wasn't love; cold cash was the only reason. A few months ago, I flew from Denver to San Diego, with only a carry-on bag; they, Pioneer, I believe, charged me $40, for the carry-on. 2007, grounded on the tarmac, in the rain, in Newark for 4 hours. I couldn't leave the plane, nor would they sell us alcoholic beverages. 1st class was drinking, swimmingly, but, not the peasants. Is it time?
+77 # Reductio Ad Absurdum 2017-04-11 14:02
The most illustrative moment of this revulsive shit show was the fact that, once they knocked him out by throwing him face-first into an arm rest (HE DID NOT FALL!) the thug dragged him down the aisle like a dead dog when, with all the thugs there, they could have just as easily picked him up to respect what little human dignity they'd not already taken from him.

NEW RULE: When the corporate fascists at United send in their government-mini ons to beat you senseless, they have to carry your unconscious body out instead of dragging you like a bag of garbage.

Welcome to Trump's corporate America where you ain't seen nuthin' yet, and Gorsuch will make sure of that.
+70 # wileydyl 2017-04-11 14:06
Overbooking is institutionaliz ed fraud. If airlines choose to overbook to protect themselves from cancellations, they should not be allowed to balance the consequences on the backs of customers.

Assaulting a passenger and then calling him "belligerent" and "immature," because he objected loudly to being bullied out of his purchased seat, just doubles down on the bullying.

If the entities charged with protecting passenger safety look the other way, and if we, as bystanders to bullying, do nothing, then the UAL bullies have our tacit approval.

Money talks. If an immediate boycott isn't possible, how about a planned boycott? Pick a month ... December 2017(?) and avoid the "friendly" skies when booking your travel.
+20 # mmalinco 2017-04-11 14:48
The matter is not as simple as being, "reaccommodated ," on another flight. Many travelers have schedules to keep. A, "reaccommodatio n,' may mean missed connections and attendant delays.

Furthermore, if anyone has ever been, "reaccommodated ," he or she probably has experienced being moved from a comfortable, aisle seat to an unbearable, middle seat.
+10 # janla 2017-04-11 17:00
Imagine overbooking a football game or a movie.
-80 # paulkinzelman 2017-04-11 14:08
From what I've read from a couple of different sources, the problem with the man's injuries was not due to United, but with the police/security who removed him from the plane. Was he chosen randomly? Or was he chosen because he was Asian? We don't know. And if airlines did not overbook, you'd pay more for your ticket because the planes would be less full. And deadheading crew are often needed at the destination to prevent a cascade of flights that would not otherwise get flown. I generally like what Robert has to say, but in this case, and like with most things, quick answers to complex problems, especially when you don't know all the facts, are usually wrong and can make things worse.
+24 # mmalinco 2017-04-11 14:40
Airlines have--or should have--standby crews.

Airplanes less full does not imply higher fares--it could also imply lower profits for airlines that already wring every penny or dollar from the victimized travelling-publ ic.
+16 # The Ice Maiden 2017-04-11 18:13
Paul - You have missed the boat on this issue.
Watch that video again. You can't actually think that reaction, on the part of United or airport security forces, made sense. UNITED had all sorts of options, including offering MORE MONEY. No doubt the head honcho at UNITED is paid MILLIONS every year for a salary; don't tell me a bigger financial incentive, to induce a passenger to leave, would have been an issue for the airline. I was shocked to my core by the treatment of this man. It was unconscionable. If an airline intentionally overbooks, the burden should be on the airline to figure out a CIVILIZED way out of the problem the airline created. UNITED will not get my business any time soon, that's for sure.
+13 # lfeuille 2017-04-11 20:25
United should not have called the police. They should have picked someone else. It is ultimately their fault.

Does anyone know how the doctor is doing?
+1 # opinionaire 2017-04-14 09:21
still hospitalized, with broken bones and a probable need for reconstructive surgery.
+47 # Citizen Mike 2017-04-11 14:12
Boycott? We can and should do better, let's DESTROY this EVIL company. Boycott, yes. More: If you have any United stock, sell it off now. This is the right time to dump United, because it is about to plunge. And yet more: if you are one of United's suppliers, cut them off, or double your prices to them. Let's put United completely out of business!
-97 # paulkinzelman 2017-04-11 14:15
[feel free to append this to my previous answer] Was the man really a doctor? His behavior doesn't sound like it to me. Or more importantly, what *should* they have done? It's easy to oppose stuff and provide simplistic answers (trump won on this technique), but much more difficult to figure out what really should have been done. And what would the man have done if the plane had been held on the ground due to ATC delays? When somebody is that difficult to deal with, he becomes a danger to the flight.
+20 # janla 2017-04-11 17:02
Quoting paulkinzelman:
[feel free to append this to my previous answer] Was the man really a doctor? His behavior doesn't sound like it to me. Or more importantly, what *should* they have done? It's easy to oppose stuff and provide simplistic answers (trump won on this technique), but much more difficult to figure out what really should have been done. And what would the man have done if the plane had been held on the ground due to ATC delays? When somebody is that difficult to deal with, he becomes a danger to the flight.

Yesm he was a dc - and are you saying Docs aren't supposed to resist this kind of treatment? "Difficult to deal with?" He paid for his ticket; he was in his seat!
+10 # AJNorth 2017-04-11 17:16
"Was the man really a doctor?"

If you had an I.Q. larger than your shoe size, you would have taken the [minor] trouble to answer that question for yourself, rather than displaying your abysmal ignorance for all to read. Here is but one source for the answer: .
+7 # The Ice Maiden 2017-04-11 18:15
Sticking to your guns isn't doing you any favors, Paul.
Take a step back and imagine you were in charge of dealing with the situation. What would you have suggested as a way to "fix" the problem your company policies created? Would YOU really have been comfortable with a passenger being man-handled like this passenger was?
+19 # Kiwikid 2017-04-11 19:10
Whether he was a doctor or not was irrelevant. He was, and remains, a human being. While much of what you say paul... is correct, the problem is that United got the process wrong. Bumping people off flights happens all the time. As has been said, inducements are offered. This is done BEFORE embarkation. The problem here is that the plane was fully loaded before they realized they had a problem. If sufficient inducement was offered I have no doubt volunteers would have eventually come forward to leave the plane. And if they didn't, the airline needs to suck it up. It's not the passenger's problem.
+1 # Citizen Mike 2017-04-12 10:27
Easy to figure out what else United could have done other than resort to violence. First, ask nice, then either pick someone else or announce the plane will not leave until the man gets off or someone else volunteers.

What bothers me is that no other passengers got up to defend this guy when he was attacked. I sure would have gotten out of my seat and slugged or put a stranglehold on one of those company goons who were attacking a fellow passenger. At the very least blocked them from dragging him out and called 911 to report an assault.
+50 # mill valley maven 2017-04-11 14:15
It's unfortunate that I have already booked a flight in October on United.
That will be the last time I ever fly with such a disreputable and irresponsible company!
+23 # chrisconnolly 2017-04-11 14:23
I hope UA gets the pants sued off them. This is about as far from good business as it gets. I hope every passenger on every flight asks if they are going to be dragged off their flight and protests with obstruction any forced removal.
+23 # norman markowitz 2017-04-11 14:27
"Overbooking" and various cutbacks on domestic flights began with the Reagan 'deregulation" and got worse over time, a kind of casino air travel to complement the larger system of casino capitalism in this case though there is a major question of racism, directed against a passenger of Chinese background and that can and must be addressed
I both support and participate in various consumer boycotts and have through my adult life but but I realize their great limitations

. What is called for here is first a serious reregulate on of the airline industry which will address a overbooking and other abuses resulting from deregulation and also enforcement of the civil rights laws which banned discrimination in public accmodations of which airlines are one--training employees about this.

United Airlines 're-accommodati on&" reply shows that thet are either ignorant or contemptuous of civil rights legislation which applies to Chinese people and people of all ethnic backgrounds
+1 # NAVYVET 2017-04-12 06:41
Casino air travel made me laugh, but also say "ouch!" I used to love airline travel, with free luggage up to a reasonable weight, those little TV-type dinners and wide range of beverages, enough steward/esses to treat all passengers like human beings, a major experienced airline, and competent, well-rested pilots.

The last time I flew on a commercial airline was in 2003. I still got my spare luggage on board and don't think they charged for it (although everyone does now), but the carrier was a hired minor airline I'd never heard of, and who knows how exhausted the pilots were, or how many hours they had in that kind of aircraft? The meal was a horrible box lunch sandwich, far skimpier and worse tasting than the big ham & lettuce heros we used to get on freebie ride-hitched military aircraft when I was in the Navy. I take diuretics that make me thirsty, but got rare visits for a tiny can of soda. I crave water, and they didn't have enough to go around. Those who wanted beer or whiskey--unless they were in the Uppah-Clawss section--didn't get anything. Worst of all (except for the possible poor maintenance of the airplane and sleepiness of the air crew) were the cramped up seats, which I notice because I'm old and have arthritis. It's worse now than it was in 2003.


Airline travel reminds me of the experimental frogs in water being brought to a boil! I'm not a frog. That's why I no longer fly.
-1 # tgemberl 2017-04-12 11:40
Norman, you make some good points. But I think it's important to be careful about saying this was affected by racism. If the person were black or hispanic, I would think there'd be more chance of racism playing a part.

Here's another anecdote that I think is relevant. In the 90's, there was an instance where a black family didn't get service at a Denny's restaurant. They claimed it was a matter of racism. Having patronized a lot of Denny's for quite a few years at that point, I realized it was probably just bad service. I am white but often didn't get service just because I was sitting in the wrong section of the restaurant. As I said at the time, "Denny's hasn't institutionaliz ed anything but bad service." Denny's servers would often walk by you and avert their eyes because they knew you weren't being served, but you weren't in their "section," so it wasn't their responsibility.
+26 # mmalinco 2017-04-11 14:36
How could the flight be, "oversold," if the man had a seat? United didn't want to pay to fly the flight crew to its destination on another carrier or pay a back up crew to staff the flight the crew was supposed to staff.

I don't think I'll be flying, "the unfriendly skies, anytime soon, if I can help it.
+29 # jabberwocky 2017-04-11 14:50
Did the passenger commit a crime? Did he threaten anyone? Was he violent? Did the police arrest him? If so, on what charges? If not, what justified the use of force?
+4 # orangehen 2017-04-11 15:11
Oh for goodness sake, cancel it, mill valley! That would be the honorable thing to do. Don't be a "craven maven", LOL....
+1 # randrjwr 2017-04-11 22:11
Quoting orangehen:
Oh for goodness sake, cancel it, mill valley! That would be the honorable thing to do. Don't be a "craven maven", LOL....

Honorable? Yes. But probably expensive if, like most of us ordinary folk, she bought a non-refundable ticket.
+24 # peggym1 2017-04-11 15:21
Yes, I will boycott United. I am stunned that an airline that has overbooked the flight can force people to get off the plane! And then, if they don't want to go, drag them off? This is just a little too over the top -- these people paid for their seats, if United had some staff they had to fly somewhere, well, figure it out some other way, fellas. Wow. Immature behavior on the passenger's part? I don't think so.
+34 # hipocampelo 2017-04-11 15:34
Only a volunteer can offer to give up a
validly ticketed seat. There can be no
forceful removal. That does not need to
be learned; it's obvious. Good luck United.
You're going to need it.
+20 # C.H.Winslow 2017-04-11 16:00
Use of "negative power", strikes, boycotts, etc., is an excellent way for a modern democratic people, hooked up by electronic social media, to begin to really change the politics in this country. Moneybags cannot afford to send enforcers to make you buy something, so start taking cues from the more retrograde cases and make use of this quite potent power that, as consumers, you possess.
+24 # dotlady 2017-04-11 16:19
Fascism in America is now manifesting itself in ways we will all be facing. I wonder what would have happened if ... the guy they pulled out had turned out to been a cop?
This is completely unacceptable - a doctor with responsibilitie s the next day, or said he did. No matter - the airline is in the wrong any way you cut it. No one who has paid a fare should be forced to give up his seat.
+10 # kcmwilson 2017-04-11 16:30
United could have hired a helicopter or chartered a small plane to move their employees. They already offered $3,200 to buy them much could a small charter cost? Probably not the millions they are going to lose from this debacle.
+2 # viejavaca 2017-04-11 16:53
Hopefully he was a doctor and can pay for a very good junk yard dog lawyer. If he doesn't SUE, he doesn't have my sympathy. If he doesn't want the money he will get, he can give it to Doctors w/o Borders or Partners in Health or....
+16 # Kootenay Coyote 2017-04-11 17:59
What do I think? I think United Airlines acted illegally, as did its police enforcers, & that racist selection is highly likely. & by the way, the aeroplane was NOT overbooked: United merely wanted to accommodate employees who had NOT booked seats on that liner. Its stocks are falling: may they crash & burn.
+14 # sharag 2017-04-11 18:05
Boycott United. Stop using that airline. It's the only thing they understand.
+10 # rogerhgreen 2017-04-11 19:41
I am 77 years old and I have travelled around most of the world. UA has never been anywhere near my favourite airline, to put it mildly. I have written to them to say that I will never fly them again, unless everybody associated with that incident (including supervisors) is fired, and UA promises that nothing like it will ever happen again. BTW the Canadian Minister of Transport Bill Morneau has announced that nothing like that passenger removal would happen in Canada. I didn't vote for the Liberals, but I suspect that is correct. Canadians are too nice and think that being civilized is a virtue.
+17 # Wise woman 2017-04-11 19:45
Years ago, I was taking one of my yearly trips to Colorado. I always flew Continental Airlines because it was direct. One time we had a brief layover at O'Hare. Due to wild weather, our plane was a half hour late and we missed our connection to NY. Well, Continental rolled out a new jet and took all 7 of to our destination. Continental doesn't exist anymore along with other good airlines. When competition ends so does fairness and decency.
+4 # Diane_Wilkinson_Trefethen_aka_tref 2017-04-12 11:21
Quoting Wise woman:
Continental doesn't exist anymore along with other good airlines. When competition ends so does fairness and decency.
This loss of alternatives to a gargantuan company's products and services is a result of the twin policies of non-enforcement of anti-trust legislation and failure to expand existing legislation based on changes in today's market place. These policies are wholly owned by the corporatist Republican party. If YOU are a Republican and YOU disapprove of these policies, take whatever action you believe appropriate. Change your registration or fight within the party for the now abandoned principles of equal and fair treatment of all citizens under the law.
+4 # randrjwr 2017-04-11 22:06
Since the privileged passengers were another flight crew, why not bump the sitting flight crew and let the new guys fly the plane to Louisville? Probably some rule against it.
+5 # pres 2017-04-11 22:33
United Airlines is a classic example of what you DO NOT want a business to behave like.
For over a half a century United has been my last resort in air travel for reasons like the above. (although the French airline, UTA, is almost as bad)
-1 # rxfxworld 2017-04-12 02:02
Deregulation of the airlines was begun under Jimmy Carter, not Reagan as Norman Markowitz contends. Rwemember Jimmy? He was a blue-dog Democratand before he became a saint (post-presidenc y) he also started the present Middle East mess by having the CIA arm the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, thus arming OBLadin. Now United can legally remove anyone for any reason. Before Jimmy they couldn't. In this case they could have arranged alternate travel for the passenger on another airline + $$$ or for their crew. Arrogance cost them millions. In an effort to smear Dr. Dao (the passenger)they brought up the irrelevant fact that he had a conviction for over prescribing 10 that's right 10 years ago; whereas they've been behaving like the bullies they are yesterday, today and every day.Flying has become an adversarial system. Now..why would a Democratic president design a medical system where the price you pay in premiums,gets you tiered service, platinum gold, silver, bronze--just like the airlines, That was the sainted Obama. Enjoy your healthcare, just like the airlines. ,
0 # tgemberl 2017-04-12 15:01
Hindsight is 20/20. You are talking about the 1970's. Don't judge Carter by today.

To tell you the truth, I don't even blame Reagan for his policies much. But by about 1990, it was clear they weren't working. What was an experiment in low taxes and regulation in 1981 has now become a dogma. People need to learn from mistakes.
-2 # yolo 2017-04-12 07:16
I agree with all of you that what happened to this man was not right and terrible to watch. United Airlines has to atone for what has happened. I know most of you will not agree with me but United Airlines is made up of tens of thousands of people like you and me, dedicated to trying to help others. So while they can't change what has happened, they can do their best to learn from this mistake and ensure it never happens again. We are all human and we make mistakes. But let us not judge a person or a company based only on the mistakes it has made but whether it learns from those mistakes and tries to make things better.
+1 # tgemberl 2017-04-12 11:17
I agree with Reich. This is outrageous.
0 # ladymidath 2017-04-15 21:47
I am gobsmacked by a couple of these comments actually defending what United did. There is no excuse. Perhaps they are paid trolls trying to act as apologists, or maybe they just don't understand the seriousness of what occurred. It is good to see that no one is falling for it though. A paying customer refused to get off the plane and he was viciously assaulted. Those are the facts, I hope he sues and wins.

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