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United Airlines is in the news again, although this time it's not quite so clear cut as to the rights and wrongs but it is clear that their behaviour was inappropriate. The story is simple: an aged (94) and frail woman was accompanied on a 15 hours trans-Pacific flight by her daughter. The family aren't rich and they saved up to pay for a business class seat so that the old woman would be more comfortable but her daughter travelled in economy. They say staff didn't help much and also that the daughter was told that she had to remain in economy and could not repeatedly visit her grandmother. One has to have some sympathy with the airline and with the other business-class passengers. The airline had to make a decision: ban the daughter or move them both so that they could sit together in economy. It is not clear if business-class was full but even if it was not, there was no entitlement to an upgrade for the younger woman. It's not a unique situation: nurses and nannies are often in this position and the rules are clear: an occasional visit is tolerated. Constant attention is not.

It's being presented as a bad story for United in the context of the assault on a passenger in Chicago recently but viewed in isolation, it's a very different case. No one comes out of this smelling of roses, even though United has offered compensation.

For an example of the widespread one-sided coverage of this story see http://www.msn.com/en-ca/trave...

And for a response from United see http://metro.co.uk/2017/04/13/...

But the truly bad (if unsubstantiated) stories are racking up, almost daily it seems.




Given the vast number of air travellers and the number of overbooked flights, it's strange that reports are not more common, suggesting that the practice actually works much of the time and when it doesn't people are happy with the money they get. But not always. But this EasyJet case shows that airlines can handle cases efficiently and effectively, although not necessarily humanely.



Some information about overbooking and your rights in the USA (the EU is different) are here: http://www.independenttraveler...

That same website carries an article saying "you've been in Europe for two weeks and have run out of clean pants..It may be tempting to throw on something that more or less passes the sniff test and head off to the airport." Oh, yuk. And it's even worse in English where, to us, "pants" is, well, something you'd not want to sniff half-a-dozen of to decide which smells least.


Then again, there's also a fascinating counterpoint to the United stories. This attention grabbing headline gives the impression of an airline going well beyond any sensible service standards: "Etihad Airways turns plane around for elderly couple to visit dying grandson "

Well, kinda and while it was a lovely thing to do, it was also in the airline's interests.

First, the aircraft had left the gate but had not taken off when two elderly passengers found that there was a genuine family emergency. The aircraft returned to the gate, they and their luggage were taken off and the plane left after a short delay. Yes, it cost the airline both time and money because delays are costly .. but it also meant that it did not have two elderly and very distressed people on board who would have had to find an emergency route home as soon as they landed and, therefore, an even more distressed flight. It's in the interests of the airline and other passengers to avoid that.

But there was an exceptional level of service, including (how this was managed is not clear but it's seriously impressive) retrieving their car and delivering it to the arrivals door so they could jump in and drive away without delay. Well done, Etihad and Manchester Airport. But it's not like they aircraft turned back after three hours or something, is it?




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