It's tiring that every time a video surfaces, the social media world explodes and people call for justice and retribution.  The latest PR nightmare involving United Airlines is no different.  Seeing a man dragged out of his seat and off an aircraft by a security officer and law enforcement is somewhat disconcerting.  Considering that many of us fly several times a year for business and pleasure makes it especially tough to watch.  Thoughts of "It coulda been me" may have even percolated into your thought process.  Well, stop right there.  It wouldn't be you.  Wanna know why?  Mainly because responsible individuals comply with lawful instructions of flight crew members.  It's that simple.

The airline owns the aircraft and regardless of how much you paid for your travel ticket, you don't have an absolute right to be on the plane.  Flying is a privilege and is subject to a few things.  First the need for the airline to ferry flight crew members for future flights to and from departing airports.  Second, you can't act unruly.  In the case of United and the doc dragged off the plane both seemed to play a part.

According to recent reports, the flight was not overbooked.  But it was full.  That means for the four person crew to be seated and get to the next airport, four passengers had to be "re-accommodated".  Three of the four understood, followed the instructions of the flight crew without incident.  The fourth refused to comply resulting in the protocol of airline personnel to call for security and law enforcement.  You may be horrified at the video watching a seemingly helpless man being dragged off an aircraft.  Get over it.  He wasn't helpless.  He made a bad choice.  His refusal to get off the plane which the airline had every right to request got him in trouble.  His actions had consequences.

This whole thing was entirely avoidable. At the point when the gate agent and flight attendant are asking a passenger to exit the aircraft the conversation is over.  Get off the plane.  Period.  When a passenger refuses, what else should be done? The gate agent and the flight attendant are not empowered to physically remove a non-compliant passenger from the aircraft.  They HAD to call in security and law enforcement.  And what is security supposed to do?  They HAD to remove the passenger.  You don't get to pick and choose the rules you want to follow.  Even if the man had refused to acknowledged the flight attendant request, at the point when you've got security and law enforcement telling you you gotta vacate the seat, get up and walk out.

Maybe the airline would've upped the $800 offer for the inconvenience of having to take another flight (the legal maximum is $1350). Maybe the airline should look at their own policies and board the flight crew first to avoid this in the future.  But these are longer term discussions points.  The immediate issue is that a man who was asked to leave, for the reasons that are in the fine print when you buy a ticket, should have.  He's lucky they didn't tase him.  Actually maybe that would've been a decent option instead of him screaming down the aisle.

On a related note, Governor Christie weighed in on the issue saying that airlines should not be overbooking.  Aside from the Governor's ignorance, it's an absurd idea.  Who should bear the brunt of the cost for vacant seats when travelers plans change?  If the airlines don't overbook to make sure every flight is full and cost effective, the cost will be passed onto the flying public.  The Governor had nothing positive to offer regarding the recent NJ Transit debacles under his watch, but now the guy who's administration is best know for a bridge scandal is lecturing the President and the airlines on reservation policy?!?  Is this some sort of sad joke?  The Governor may have lost any prospect of being a serious national player.  He may be using his office to secure his next job on sports radio, but the media still goes to him for comment, because he's the Governor. Until this term ends and he's out of office we're still gonna suffer through his ignorant, ill-informed and counter-productive ideas.

Despite the Governor's sound bites, nothing will change regarding how the airlines practice bookings.  That said, here's a simple, workable solution:  Put the flight crew on the plane first and then board the passengers.  Better to have the "You're being bumped" conversation at the gate instead of on the plane.  Oh, and hire a new PR guy because the public statements from United are only making the situation worse.  But despite all that, before you jump on the security measures and decisions made by the people on the ground, consider holding the man in the video responsible for his own actions.  He took a stand, refused to comply with a perfectly reasonable and legal request and suffered the consequences.  He shouldn't get a dime.

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