Maybe the Dr. Dao United Airlines passenger issue is now a thing of the past. They made their settlement, and part of that settlement was for Dr. Dao (and I imagine his family) to not speak of the details of that settlement in public. Such settlements usually include the “silence” clause, as it were, just as did the settlement O’Reilly made with those five women.
We can all easily imagine how everyone involved with United’s financial situation are still plagued by nightmares in regard to what this situation has cost them so far (i.e. the lawsuit settlement, the loss of business from the bad publicity, the loss of goodwill among their prior customers, the big dip in the stock market, and maybe a hundred other losses that we can’t even imagine) and what it will end up costing them when and if it is all really in the past and starts moving forward to the new look of United Airlines in the eyes of the public.
To me, the solution for any airline to ward off such behavior — before it has a chance to become a national and disgraceful front-page story — is to educate it out of the airlines’ staff’s mental “bag of tricks” for dealing with passengers under so-called tricky situations; and that education should apply to everyone involved with passengers in any way: pilots, airport security, local city police that may sometimes be called in, and any other personnel that might have any contact at all with the passengers.
One cannot think of better solutions when one’s mind is cluttered up with the strong-arm tactics of doing whatever it takes physically to remove a passenger, which is exactly what happened in the case of Dr. Dao.
Whatever happened to the customer is always right? Even when he (or she) might be behaving in a disagreeable fashion?
Well, so much for that incident. And so much for all the other incidents that have left a bad taste in the mouths of now-former United Airlines customers of late.
Allow me to tell you that all United Airlines personnel are NOT alike. And it is the few always-kind and always friendly personnel — whether on the phone or at the ticket counter or at the corporate office — that allow an airline (and in this case, United) to not only cling to some little part of their good reputation, but to keep it going, and perhaps bring it back up to snuff, as they say.
First, I will tell you about a seemingly bad situation that happened when I was on my way to Israel several years ago. My flight had been booked through United, and was going well until we had to change flights going into Jerusalem. There was a long delay that resulted in our not ever getting off the ground. It wasn’t until much later, after we all had to leave the plane, that we learned the pilot refused to take off because he believed there was something wrong with the plane, but didn’t want to alarm the passengers, hoping it could get fixed without too much ado. And while everyone was coaxing him to take off — after all, everyone was anxious to get to their destinations, of course — he stood his ground and had the flight attendants keep telling us that it wouldn’t be long now, right up to the point that he felt it would not happen that night and asked everyone to deplane, telling us all that we would be put up in a hotel with a generous comp for both dinner and breakfast, and we were all given a small United bag with a large T-shirt for sleeping (most everyone had their sleepwear in their checked on luggage) and everything one would need in the “essentials” department.
After I got back home from my trip, I wrote United to thank that pilot for standing his ground (he saved us from a very likely crash) and asked if they would like to do some little thing to make up for the long delay, even though it was for the safety of all. I received a very pleasant reply that I was entitled to a free flight anywhere I chose, as long as I used it within one year.
Then there were the two United agents I dealt with on the phone this past week. One had the personality and sense of humor that one loves to find in a friend — something that just keeps making you laugh and feeling good; and the other had the sense of compassion and understanding that got the job done, exactly as one needed it to be and on the first try.
You see, I had bought a ticket on United to visit my sister later this month. I bought it before all the bad publicity surfaced. It was both nonrefundable and non-changeable without incurring a big fee for the change. I wanted to visit my sister on general principles, not just because she had been ill lately, but also because I hadn’t seen her for a couple of years. Then I got a call from my sister’s daughter telling me that she had taken a turn for the worse and I’d better change my ticket to come as soon as I could.
While trying to change my ticket first with the agency through which I purchased the ticket, I was told that the charge to do so would be $250 in addition to the difference between the original cost and the current cost of the ticket. I told them that I would try with United itself and see if I could get a better deal.
That’s when I “met” those two United agents who not only told me they would waive the change fee under the circumstances, but they salvaged the coming home half of my ticket, making the overall cost of my new ticket that much cheaper.
Yes, the ticket agency would not, and said they COULD NOT, under any circumstances, waive the fee for the change, nor salvage the return portion of my flight or even offer a word of understanding sympathy for my plight. Yet apparently United grants the authority to their agents to do what they think best and win the goodwill of their customers at their level. All it takes is reaching the right agent (read that as one who is kind and friendly and understanding of the traveler’s needs and not afraid to make those necessary “executive” decisions).
I will continue to book my flights with United and let them know how much I appreciate those individual agents and pilots who really care about their passengers and are now probably working overtime to make up for all those who never went to “charm school” or learned the basic admonition of the medical profession, suitable for all mankind: “first, do no harm.”
Let’s all be on the lookout for the good that we find among any personnel, and United in particular these days, and give them their due.