Dear United Airlines:
You’re having a very bad week and for good reason. If you’re looking for sympathy, keep moving because you won’t find it here.
No, not after the way you “reaccommodated” a bumped passenger by dragging him from one of your planes.
It’s probably pointless and redundant for me to offer free P.R. advice, so let’s at least be quick about it. One, your company’s every flailing or failing moment of operation is tapeable, starting in the amount of time it takes for someone to reach for an iPhone. You should know this by now.
Two, after the first eight lines of standard P.R. defense don’t sell – including blaming the victim – please skip over the next one, the trite statement that this doesn’t “reflect who we are.” Yes, it does. That flight crew felt empowered to behave badly. That’s the problem that needs fixing.
This thing has taken off in part because for so many of us it crystallizes every bad notion we have about your industry. You folks are even worse than the banks about dreaming up add-on fees for things that any reasonable person would expect to just be part of standard service.
We have oligopolies in one major industry after another, and we confuse that with actual capitalism and with actual competition. Airlines have merged and merged and always said this will improve choice and service, but the result is nothing of the sort.
It is the planned result: fewer choices and less leverage for the paying customer. It would be a stretch to say you can get away with anything, but that’s clearly the idea.
I have an aunt in California who I haven’t seen in a couple of years. I’d like to visit her, catch up on some family history and see my West Coast cousins.
I see three choices. One is the train, but the government has never taken Amtrak seriously, so its network is spotty. Getting from here to Sacramento either involves a train, a bus and second train, or it means getting someone to drop me off in Omaha so I have a straight, 41-hour shot. It’s a civilized way to travel, and it’s a great way to see the country, but it’s also ridiculously expensive. Again, America – priorities.
Option two – the obvious one to most intelligent humans – is to bite the bullet and fly. We did that last time we visited California. What a joy: Cramped and uncomfortable, connecting flight in L.A., organized chaos, the whole deal. But it’s quick and roughly one-fourth the cost of Amtrak, which already gets my tax money to subsidize long-haul trips.
Option three – To heck with this noise. Just drive. I’ll be questioning my choices when I can’t find a Waffle House on I-80 in western Nebraska, but I’ll see the country, and I won’t have to deal with the likes of your airline.
I’ve had it with your industry. I’m not making a statement, because all evidence indicates you tuned those out years ago. I’m just navigating things with fewer and fewer good options.
Follow Jeff Fox on Twitter: @Jeff_Fox