United Airlines introduced its famous slogan in 1965: “Fly the friendly skies.” The man who led the agency that coined the phrase explained: “Let us show the public our warm ‘good-guy’ genuine concern side, as well as the efficient side they already appreciate in us.”
A slogan may just be a slogan, but at the time, at least, it represented a promise. United would strive to be humane, and make flying, intrinsically stressful, a warm experience.
It is, by now, safe to say that the promise has been broken. The capstone was this week’s brutal and bloody eviction of David Dao, a paying customer, for the sin of wanting to remain in the seat that he had paid for. But the airline has been on an inhumane trajectory for quite some time. That’s why this week’s catastrophe will not be fixed by increasing the eviction fees offered to customers, or by figuring out some other means of removing people from airplanes with less violence.
Bumped Off Your Flight? Know Your Travel Rights
The scandal is the predictable byproduct of a relentless obsession with filling planes to absolute maximum capacity coupled with open and invidious discrimination in the treatment of customers. It is a strategy that (along with those nasty baggage and change fees) yielded almost $10 billion in profit over the last two years. But the overload and discrimination are a toxic combination; the human costs, to state the obvious, have become apparent.
United’s 2010 merger with Continental marks the turning point. Before then, United had been, variously, a regulated carrier; the world’s largest firm owned by its employees; and, from 2002 to 2006, in bankruptcy. All the while, it operated in a relatively normal, if not particularly profitable, way. The merger changed that. Combined with Continental, United became the world’s largest airline—and vastly more profitable. But it led, in the short term, to a giant mess, forcing the carrier to adopt ever more extreme policies, transforming it into industry leader in the abandonment of basic decency. See full story at Wired: https://www.wired.com/2017/04/uniteds-greed-turned-friendly-skies-flying-hellscape/