Why Overbooking Should Not Happen

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Image Courtesy of Wikimedia

Karen Ha

Traveling by plane is the epitome of discomfort. Forced into a tiny seat and served school cafeteria-quality meals is not exactly the ideal. Surrounded by strangers and the occasional toddler throwing a tantrum, being on a flight is not exactly a pleasant experience. Flying economy class is often a “drag,” but United Airlines took this to a new level by literally dragging a man off his flight.

On Apr. 8, a doctor and his wife boarded a United Airlines flight at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport headed towards Kentucky. The plane was full, and seats were needed for four United crew members who arrived last minute. At first, the airline offered a measly $400 compensation to the people willing to give up their seats and eventually raised it to $800, but none of the passengers were willing to give up their seats. Then, four people were randomly selected to be removed from the plane. One of them was Doctor David Dao.

Dao refused to budge, and law enforcement came to forcefully pull him out. As they dragged him from his seat, he was brutally beat and battered on his way to the exit. Onlookers castigated law enforcement and recorded the horrific and unsettling incident. After the clips were released online, they quickly went viral. As a result, the airline has been suffering heavy backlash. Some of the immediate consequences included a public cry to boycott the company and its stocks plummeting by at least a billion dollars.

Different news sources have chosen to present this issue from different angles. One in particular decided to shed light on Dao’s troubled past as a physician. Why should that be relevant to the problem at all? The fact is that it detracts from the real issue at hand here: should airlines or any organization be allowed to overbook people? These organizations lose money when people fail to show up, but what happens when everybody does?

If these organizations choose to follow the money, then there should be some sort of regulation system, or at least a proper procedure to follow. No one, no matter who the person is, should be pulled off a plane in such a brutal manner. United Airlines could have kept raising the compensation until someone was willing to voluntarily give up their seat.

The key word here is “voluntarily” because everyone on that plane paid for their tickets. It is the company that failed to do its part. People should not be “randomly” selected to be removed simply because they are unlucky. They have every right to resist like Dao did. He did his part. It was United Airlines that failed to do its part. It is the airline’s fault that they chose to overbook people and not leave enough seats for its own employees.

However, the issue of overbooking does not just pertain to airlines. Many services organizations (and even universities like UCSB) accept more students than they can take. Overbooking is just another way for these selfish organizations to treat people like numbers. They can keep adding to its profits and subtracting the human side of the equation.

United Airlines did exactly just that. They overbooked for money and did not care about its  customers like Dao at all. They mistreated Dao, and he had every right to resist. This is why overbooking should regulated, or at the very least, have a proper and humane procedure to follow when an issue arises. If any of that cannot be implemented, then there is an even easier solution to all of this. Do not overbook people. It’s that simple. No airline or organization should be allowed to just “wing” that part.