Wednesday, April 12, 2017

United Airlines Bashing Underscores America's Mean Streak

Business as usual... Beating up  a paying passenger
Americans generally believe that Canadians pronounce the word "about" as "a-boot" and that as a people Canadians are generally mild-mannered and nice. 
While "a-boot" is laughably false, the idea that Canadians are generally nicer than Americans is absolutely truer than true, because pretty much every western democratic society is kinder and gentler than America.
In which western democracy would a paying airline passenger be violently ripped from his seat by thugs in uniform, for no reason other than it is in the airline's economic interest?
Could it happen in Canada, France, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Australia???

Nope, as the saying goes...... Only in America.

If you wonder why America has such a highly developed legal tort system, it is because corporate America generally lives by the tenet that screwing and mistreating customers is better for the bottom line than treating customers with respect and dignity and that the occasional fine or court debacle is just the cost of doing business and cheaper in the long run.
And so despite what everyone says, United will pay dearly for beating up a paying customer, the American court system geared towards appeasing the public with the occasional multi-million dollar award that while satisfying, does nothing to change predatory or otherwise shameful business practices of corporate America.

Don't listen to TV talking heads who agree with United in maintaining that the company had every right to do what they did in accordance with it's own contract, the infamous Contract of Carriage, which can best be described as the corporate version of "Manifest Destiny"

Not many commentators have read the infamous document (as I have), assuming that the company lawyers have covered United's corporate ass completely. You'd think they had, but the unique circumstances of the incident show otherwise and leaves the company open to a whopping lawsuit. According to the rules that United itself wrote, a passenger can be denied boarding for just about any reason that the airline deems fit. But the contract words are clear and the lawyers left a big loophole in defining the terms 'Denied Boarding' and 'Refusal of Transport.'

Plainly speaking, under Rule 21, the airline may refuse to board you on the aircraft for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to overbooking and is required to offer limited compensation, sometimes none.
But the rules change once you have boarded and "Rule 25- Refusal of Service"  kicks in, which provides that the company may deny you service and even remove you from the aircraft for a variety of reasons including force majeur, safety, security, but clearly not for business purposes.

Denied Boarding or Refusal of Transport. A distinction without difference?   Not at all. 

Any litigation will focus on whether the beat up passenger Dr. David Dao was denied boarding or refused transport under the terms of the Contract of Carriage and here United is utterly screwed..
It is a legal principle that the drafters of a contract are responsible for its content and that any ambiguity works in the opponent's favour.
If you were a judge or on a jury hearing the case which way would you rule, for the company or for the beat-up passenger?
United, it's sub-contractor and indeed the Chicago Airport security force, will all certainly be found to have acted outside the terms of service and will likely be ordered to pay millions.
My voice is not unique in holding that United will pay big time. Although the corporate line that United is in the clear is being parroted across mainstream media, defence lawyers across America are starting to voice their opinion that the opposite is true.
The only choice United has is to settle quietly and try to put the debacle behind them.

There are those that say that it will be a return to business as usual when the media and the public turn to the next story, but I'm not so sure.
The airline industry has a business model that is just incompatible with good customer service whereby they allow customers to book tickets and not pay for them when they don't show up. To compensate the airline takes more reservations than capacity dictates leading to the occasional but fully to be expected fiasco when too many passengers do show up.

Imagine if your favourite sports teams, concert artist or restaurant adopted the same policy?
Could you imagine sitting down to a Broadway play, having paid for your ticket weeks in advance, and then just before the curtain rises being told  that you have to get up and leave because the theatre has sold more tickets than it anticipated and that uniformed thugs will beat you up if you refuse to vacate?
What society tolerates such a cruel business model?

Welcome to America.


  1. Great generalizing of this whole incident. As a right-winger, you'd think you would be supporting a corporation's business interests in the making of profit.

    1. Considering corporations treat their employees at time like inanimate chattel, lay off and suppress wage increases at will while the Ivory Tower League ensure they give themselves double-digit increase rates in their pay packets year after year after year (and automation will make that bad situation worse), my liver bleeds cold borscht for corporations.

      You can bet I will go against big corporations at every turn given I'm called for jury duty.

      On another subject, I think hockey fans in Montreal are missing the obvious. Has anyone noticed the painted "Stanley Cup Playoffs" on the ice has bigger lettering in English than in French? Hasn't any separatist tried to get the English version scraped off and re-done in lettering half the size of the French lettering? How blind can those idiots be? Could it be American belligerence has trumped that of French Quebec?

      Mr. Sauga