All airlines apparently overbook their passengers for their own financial reasons, hedging their bets that at least one, two, or three passengers or so may not show up for take-off and they won’t be left with empty seats that they could have sold. There have been times when I needed a last-minute seat and they were all booked, but just hours later I was informed that there was one last seat available if I took it right then. When I boarded the plane, it was really the absolute last seat on the plane: in the very back, crunched up against the window. But it got me where I needed to go.
Reservations are always being made and unmade right up until flight time; and changes are sometimes made as the passengers are boarding the plane, or even after they are seated. I have been on more than one flight where, after we were all seated, an announcement came over the loudspeaker seeking volunteers to give up their seat for some stated amount of money. When there were no immediate takers, the enticement went up considerably.
Yes, I was once able to take advantage of their offer, since I didn’t actually need to be at my destination until the next day, but I had to make several phone calls at the airport and change everyone else’s plans in my regard. The main reason I took advantage of the airline’s offer was because of the need of the passenger who would be taking my seat. It was obvious that no one else was offering to make the exchange, and my actual need to be where I was going had at least 12 hours of leeway built into it.
Chances are, most people have very tight schedules when they book their flight, whether it’s for business purposes, social purposes — such as attending a wedding or such — or even visiting a sick friend or relative that may not have much time left for the visit. Most flights are purposeful flights, and once the plans and arrangements have been made for the pick up at the airport and the arrival at the intended destination and such, it might not be so easy or convenient to make last-minute changes to accommodate someone you don’t even know, or who is making it appear that his or her needs are more important than yours.
One would think that when it comes to airline personnel, especially those who need to be somewhere by a certain time in keeping with their job, that between the airline and the crew, they should be able to make proper and adequate arrangements and plans, just like all “regular” passengers have to do (but at lower fares), just in case they cannot arrange to get those last-minute “space available” seats that only become available if they are vacated by the passengers sitting in them.
But — and this is a big but — what if there are no available last-minute seats, and no one wants to yield theirs up, no matter the enticement offered? Better to have those backup plans with actual reservations than to create a disgraceful scene on board the plane by “randomly” selecting those who must give up their seats, no matter what (against their will), such as what happened recently with the horrible, despicable, gruesome and terrifying removal of one such passenger — Dr. David Dao.
Considering that the only plans the airlines seem to have so far for accommodating last-minute important passengers are to offer some incentive for deplaning and hope for volunteers, or to pick one or another or several of the passengers and demand they leave the plane, why couldn’t they at least tell the passengers that they will have to do that, and up the incentive to a deal that surely some would not be able to refuse?
I have to imagine— because I don’t know — that somewhere in the printed information found on everyone’s ticket, if they ever bothered to read it all, that there would have to be something about being kicked off the plane if they felt it necessary to give your seat to one of the airline personnel. If that is not part of the ticket information, I imagine — again — that it soon will be. And now, it is obvious that that kind of information needs to be in bold print, in a prominent place, AND mentioned to the passengers at the ticket counter.
Now (and we should never need a really bad example in order to do the right thing in the first place), after that absolutely horrendous episode of airline personnel (starting the ball rolling) and local police and/or security personnel dragging Dr. Dao off the plane against his will, making a spectacle of themselves while causing him bodily harm — no matter what “kind” of a person he was or is, or what they dug up about his past — one would think that airlines would create a standard policy for such situations (one that includes treating passengers with human dignity even as they must inflict their unwanted will on the passengers).
There may well surface some details that will put another face on this story, but it cannot change the picture or video we have all seen of Dr. Dao being dragged off the plane, his face bloodied and bruised, his glasses hanging off his face, his whole body being pulled down the aisle with no regard for the man’s human dignity, his shirt up and all passengers watching in horror.
What if it had been a female passenger who refused to vacate her seat? Would the police have dragged her off in the same manner, with her skirt or blouse riding up, as was Dr. Dao’s shirt? What if it had been a pregnant woman who felt the need to get to her obstetrician, who was leaving the next day to go overseas and this was the only time she could see him? What if that passenger had been a dignitary of some sort, but not known to the airline, since he or she was traveling incognito? What if it was a teenager, maybe on his or her first flight?
But now that this situation has been blatantly and vividly brought to the attention of the public, it cannot be removed from our memories, and the most important thing that all personnel can do — whether airline personnel, security personnel, or police personnel — is to make it common practice to treat every human being with human dignity, by simply using common sense and doing things in the right way to begin with.