Airline travel hit a new low this week. What’s your take on the United Airlines (UAL) debacle? Since you can’t drive to Hawaii, and we have a strong reliance on air travel, all of us will need to get on board to demand changes.
We haven’t found many people who aren’t talking about the UAL passenger being violently thrown off the plane to make room for an employee. It has caught the attention of the world and also the tone deaf responses from UAL as they continue to grovel while their stock tumbles.
But it didn’t stop there, and like many things, the long tail headed straight for Hawaii flights in an incident from last week. We perked up when we saw this newly reported threat happened on our home island, Kauai, where United is facing yet another big problem.
A United Airlines customer on Kauai was threatened to be placed in handcuffs.
Geoff Fearns, age 59, was removed from his seat on the UAL flight from Kauai to LAX. Ferns, who heads a real estate investment company, had been attending a conference. Heading home, he purchased a $1,000 full-price first class ticket. Fearns boarded the plane and was enjoying a pre-departure drink when a UAL employee told him he would need to get off the flight. When asked why he needed to, “they said the flight was overfull.” Fearns was told he would be placed in cuffs if he did not comply.
United indicated that due to mechanical issues with an aircraft, planes had been changed to one with fewer first class seats that resulted in the oversold condition. Fearns said that United resorted to its “how to screw over customers” guidelines and determined that someone else had higher priority than he did.
As in the more recent UAL incident, the airline again failed to appropriately deal with this problem at the gate before boarding commenced. Instead, Fearns was allowed to take his seat and was never advised that there was a problem until the incident nearly became violent.
Could United make this nightmare worse? You betcha! Fearns indicated that he wanted to get home and the only compromise offered him was an economy class middle seat between a couple who were fighting.
So how did United step up to the plate to rectify their wrongs? Fearns asked for a full refund of his first class ticket and for United to make a charitable donation. They refused. Instead, they offered to provide the difference in cost between the first class fare and the economy fare, plus $500 in future flight credit. Somehow, however, we are doubtful that this customer plans on flying the friendly skies anytime soon. When asked about returning to another United flight, the Fearns responded, “Are you kidding?” This meager compensation stands in sharp contrast to today’s news that all passengers on the other UAL nightmare flight are to receive complete refunds.
The Los Angeles Times reached out to UAL about this incident and their inquiry was not responded to.
We do know some of the UAL staff here on Kauai and have inquired to see what they know about this incident. While this is getting to be too common an incident for United, this stands as antithetical to a normal airline experience on Kauai. In this case, the customer said that crew members apologized en route for what had happened.
Fearns is considering suing United Airlines.
In terms of getting bumped, here’s how airlines that fly to Hawaii rank from most to least deplanements on their Hawaii flights.
Delta Airlines (worse than United!)
Hawaiian Airlines (least likely to get bumped).