More Ethics Observations On The United Flight 3411 Ethics Train Wreck

Yes, Ethics Alarms was able to find a photo of an actual plane-train wreck.

Observation 1.

This was all due to moral luck

If  four passengers had taken the United offer to surrender their seats, or if the passenger selected by the agent had complied, grumbling quietly, we would neither know about this horrific episode nor would anyone be talking about it. Yet the United employees would still have lied, and would still have abused United customers. They just didn’t get away with it, that’s all. They were unlucky.

Good.

Observation II

NOW passengers are informed.

Fine print is technical disclosure, but especially in the era of electronic ticketing, not actual or ethical disclosure. Before this episode, most flyers didn’t know what they had agreed to regarding overbooking, nor were they even aware that there was such a thing as “involuntary bumping” A lot more are aware now. From travel site One Mile At A Time:

When an airline knows that a flight is likely to be oversold, they’re required to solicit volunteers. Sometimes airlines will ask at check-in, and other times they’ll ask at the gate. When it comes to a voluntary denied boarding there are no regulations as to what you get….

When airlines can’t find volunteers and still have more passengers than seats, they need to involuntarily deny people boarding. Every airline has a clause in their contract of carriage allowing them to do this. Furthermore, airlines all have procedures they use for determining who gets bumped. Some airlines bump the people who don’t have seat assignments. Other airlines decide based on who checked in last. Others decide based on status and the booking class you have.

Do note that the number of passengers being involuntarily denied boarding was at a 20 year low in 2016. Out of roughly 660 million passengers last year, only 40,000 were involuntarily denied boarding, which is roughly 0.6 involuntary denied boardings per 10,000 seats.

If you’re involuntarily denied boarding, the Department of Transportation regulates what you’re entitled to. Here are the rules, as published by the DOT:

  • If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.
  • If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $675 maximum.
  • If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum).
  • If your ticket does not show a fare (for example, a frequent-flyer award ticket or a ticket issued by a consolidator), your denied boarding compensation is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first class) on that flight.
  • You always get to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can request an “involuntary refund” for the ticket for the flight you were bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your inconvenience.
  • If you paid for optional services on your original flight (e.g., seat selection, checked baggage) and you did not receive those services on your substitute flight or were required to pay a second time, the airline that bumped you must refund those payments to you.

As you can see, in many cases you’re entitled to a sizable cash payment, up to $1,350. However, here’s the dirty secret of the airlines. In a vast majority of cases they’ll only offer cash compensation if you specifically ask for it. Otherwise they’ll offer you the same voucher they gave anyone who was voluntarily denied boarding.

Note, however, that none of this involves taking people who have already been seated off of the plane. That’s because bumping doesn’t work that way, and also because the United flight in question wasn’t overbooked, as discussed below.

Observation III

When passengers are seated, the price goes up.

The incompetent United staff was using voluntary bumping procedures after they were no longer operable. Did they know that? I’m guessing no. Neither did the passengers, certainly the news media wasn’t aware, and maybe even CEO Munoz didn’t figure it out, but who knows? All he does is say what he thinks he can get away with.

As a result, the passengers were offered the going rate for to give up seat assignments when they would actually be giving up seats. They had possession at that point. No wonder there were no volunteers, for this was a unique situation. The United employees were too dim regarding market theory to realize that the customers had all the leverage at that point, and they had to start offering a lot more than $400 and $800 dollars. I might give up the chance to be seated on a plane for $800, but once I’m boarded, seated, my carry-on luggage is stowed and I’ve settled in with full expectations of getting to my destination as planned, I better hear a real sweet deal. If the United staff has said, “Folks, we have a special situation here. We’re prepared to pay 5,000 bucks, plus a free round trip ticket to anywhere United flies, in exchange for your seat. First four hands up gets this deal of a lifetime,” I have no doubt at all that there would have been lots of hands.

It is fully within reasonable probability that an airline might find itself requiring to clear one or more seats in an already seated and filled flight. It is also obvious, or should be, that vacating such seats will be much more difficult than dealing with an overbooked situation (which this was not) at the gate. Why didn’t United have a policy and procedure for such a contingency? This is basic Ethics Chess: foresee potential ethical dilemmas before they occur; take steps to avoid them, but know what you must do when and if they occur.

Although the episode involved dishonesty, disrespect, unfairness, arrogance, irresponsible conduct, and a culture that minimizes service and regard for the customer, at the root of all of it was incompetence.

Observation IV

The news media followed United’s cover story rather than reporting the facts.

It’s amazing, when you think about it. This story never seemed quite right. As mentioned in the previous post on this topic, nobody, including me, had ever heard of an airline telling seated passengers that they had to leave the plane. Nevertheless, the passengers accepted what they were told by United, the United officials continued to explain the situation as caused by overbooking, and the news media went right along with it too. The provocatively-named blog Naked Capitalism nails it (much thanks to Alexander Cheezem, who sent me the link just in time to make it into this post) thoroughly; I’ve highlighted a couple of sections in red, because the are crucial.

This widespread misreporting has the unfortunate effect of making United’s abuse seem like a disastrous handling of a routine problem when it was much worse than that. For instance, Amy Davidson of the New Yorker gets this wrong even with the knowledge that United decided to bump passengers to seat crew:

United overbooked it; that happens all the time. The airline let everybody board, and then decided that it needed four more seats to get some crew members to Louisville for work the next morning.

Let us underscore: even putting aside the violence, what happened in this case does NOT happen all the time, and that has legal implications.

Absence of reporting on airline regulations leads to widespread skewing of story in United’s favor. Even though most readers may think United is getting beaten up aplenty in the press, in fact it is getting a virtual free pass as far as its rights to remove a paying passenger with a confirmed seat who has been seated.This seems to reflect the deep internalization in America of deference to authority in the post 9/11 world, as well as reporters who appear to be insufficiently inquisitive. And there also seems to be a widespread perception that because it’s United’s plane, it can do what it sees fit. In fact, airlines are regulated and United is also bound to honor its own agreements.

It is telling, in not a good way, that Naked Capitalism reader Uahsenaa found a better discussion of the legal issues on Reddit than Lambert and I have yet to see in the media and the blogosphere (including from sites that profess to be knowledgeable about aviation):

Lawyer here. This myth that passengers don’t have rights needs to go away, ASAP. You are dead wrong when saying that United legally kicked him off the plane.

First of all, it’s airline spin to call this an overbooking. The statutory provision granting them the ability to deny boarding is about “OVERSALES”, specifically defines as booking more reserved confirmed seats than there are available. This is not what happened. They did not overbook the flight; they had a fully booked flight, and not only did everyone already have a reserved confirmed seat, they were all sitting in them. The law allowing them to denying boarding in the event of an oversale does not apply.

Even if it did apply, the law is unambiguously clear that airlines have to give preference to everyone with reserved confirmed seats when choosing to involuntarily deny boarding. They have to always choose the solution that will affect the least amount of reserved confirmed seats. This rule is straightforward, and United makes very clear in their own contract of carriage that employees of their own or of other carriers may be denied boarding without compensation because they do not have reserved confirmed seats. On its face, it’s clear that what they did was illegal– they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats, in violation of 14 CFR 250.2a.

Furthermore, even if you try and twist this into a legal application of 250.2a and say that United had the right to deny him boarding in the event of an overbooking; they did NOT have the right to kick him off the plane. Their contract of carriage highlights there is a complete difference in rights after you’ve boarded and sat on the plane, and Rule 21 goes over the specific scenarios where you could get kicked off. NONE of them apply here. He did absolutely nothing wrong and shouldn’t have been targeted. He’s going to leave with a hefty settlement after this fiasco.

His analysis checks out. “14 CFR 250.2a” is an FAA regulation. Here is what is says per a Cornell law school site, which courteously supplies links to definitions of key terms:

§ 250.2a Policy regarding denied boarding.

In the event of an oversold flight, every carrier shall ensure that the smallest practicable number of persons holding confirmed reserved space on that flight are denied boarding involuntarily.

So the lawyer who popped up on Reddit looks to be on solid ground in saying it was an FAA violation to try to kick off a confirmed passenger in favor of crew.

Similarly, if you look at the relevant part of United’s Contract of Carriage, which indeed is Rule 21, “Refusal of Transport,” you will see a remarkably long list of situations and types of passengers, including “have or cause a malodorous condition (other than individuals qualifying as disabled), those who violate United’s policies regarding voice calls, and pregnant women in their ninth month, unless they have a recent doctor’s note (pray tell, since when are airline personnel expert in determining how far along a pregnant woman is?). And again you see nothing remotely like a “we need the seat for business reasons” or a catchall “because we feel like it”.

Astonishingly, a USA Today story, United Airlines can remove you from a flight for dozens of reasons you agree to, where the reporter was alert enough to consider United’s legal position and even mentioned the contract of carriage, spun the piece completely in United’s favor. Not only did the author apparently fail to read the relevant section, his sources gave the Big Corporate Lie that United must be right. From the article:

“Those contracts are well thought through. They are generally fair and balanced, and they reflect the market,” said Roy Goldberg, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson who practices aviation law in Washington, D.C. “As a general matter, passengers have rights, but airlines have rights, too.”

And the article like so many others, mischaracterizes the issue as overselling, falsely telling millions of readers that United was on solid ground.

Conclusion: the U.S. news media is unprofessional, lazy, inept, not very smart, and fails the public when it is most needed. What did reporters dig into?  What did it feel the public had a right to know? The victim’s past! Not the law. Not United policies. Not what really happened, even though it had the head start of the passenger videos!

How can anyone trust journalists to inform us any more? Not only are they flagrantly biased, they don’t do their job—in this case, none of them? Why would anyone trust them?

For all the trouble it can cause, Americans should fall to their knees and praise the internet. We would be at the mercy of these arrogant, Constitutionally-protected hacks were there not citizen journalists doing their work and catching their mistakes.

In the end, this may be the most important revelation coming out of the story.

Observation V

So choosing Dr. Dao for ejection wasn’t random after all.

A passenger has come forward to reveal that Dr. Dao originally volunteered to surrender his seat in exchange for the cash offered, but when he was told that he would not be able to get to his destination until the next day, withdrew his acceptance. Then the United staff chose him to leave anyway. He was, in effect, punished for volunteering. This wasn’t “eenie meenie miney mo”: it was “Oh, you don’t like the deal  you agreed to  because you assumed it was better than it is? Tough. You’re stuck with it whether you like it or not!”

It was a bait and switch, enforced by police.

Nice.

39 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement

39 responses to “More Ethics Observations On The United Flight 3411 Ethics Train Wreck

  1. Arthur in Maine

    One of the more interesting aspects of this: it’s now apparent that all relevant employees (other than the cops) were actually employees not of United, but of Republic Airlines, which was flying under contract and livery for United.

    Republic Airlines also flies short-haul routes under Delta and American brands and liveries.

    This is quite common; most short-haul flights on regional jets and turboprops in the US are actually operated by a number of smaller carriers – including Republic, Skywest, Chatauqua, Mesa, GoJet and others. Some of these short-haul lines are actually wholly-owned subsidiaries of the flag carriers. Republic isn’t.

    I’ll give United credit for one thing, in an otherwise dismal damage control effort: it hasn’t attempted to separate itself from Republic (though I’ll bet it’ll try in any subsequent tort action). The public wouldn’t stand for it.

    But if I was in the C-Suite of Republic, I’d be crapping myself right now. The company has been in financial trouble for some time, it relies on contracts with all three of the legacy airlines, and this level of staff incompetence can’t possibly be viewed favorably when time comes for those contracts to be renewed.

    But that doesn’t put United in the clear, at least from a public perception standpoint. They relied on Republic to represent their brand well, and clearly failed with the tick-and-tie.

    • luckyesteeyoreman

      Arthur, what you say plus Jack’s mention of market theory has really spun-up the wheels of my cynicmobile. But of course, this incident with Dr. Dao will only result in higher ticket prices for all – fewer airlines, fewer routes, more overbooking, and probably, new rules in favor of airlines (and police) about requiring passengers to leave a plane they have already boarded.

      • luckyesteeyoreman

        Maybe “cynicmobile” should be “Eeyoremobile.”

      • brian

        I don’t think you’re being overly cynical here. I have seen multiple responses from media, politicians, and the CEO all following the basic pattern, propose solutions that do not address what went wrong. A handful of employees acted incompetently, and United (and probably most airlines) didn’t think through their carriage contract, Police were ill trained, and the culture of United is horrible in general. But instead of addressing any of those issues, they all have motivated reasons to misconstrue the issues and offer ‘solutions’ to problems that don’t exist.

        Things that could be done:

        1) CEO comes out and says we are going to train and empower our staff to deal with more and varied types of situations as they arise. We also recognize that our current customer facing staff do not have the appropriate level of customer service training, which is entirely the fault of management. We are going to fix this starting now. We have pulled together XYZ resources and will be meeting weekly for the next 12 weeks to generate a comprehensive plan to begin changing our culture. You can expect an interim report in 4 weeks.

        2) CEO says, we are going to set up a true reverse auction, paying cash, for all situations when we have to either remove or deny a paying customer due to reasons beyond their control. We will train all gate staff and front line managers on how to conduct this easy and straight forward auction. We should have been doing it already, because the value of the additional seats we can sell by overbooking far outweigh the costs we incur from the small portion of riders who we must justly compensate for any inconvenience.

        3) Chief of police says, our police officer were not adequately prepared for this type of situation. We are reviewing our training material to make sure we address this situation, but are also conducting a wider review of our polices and training to look for additional blind spots in our policy. I feel it’s important to point out that this situation was not typical from our departments perspective, we are rarely called onto a plane to remove a passenger unless that passenger is being disruptive and the crew requires law enforcement help because most denial of boarding situations are handled at the gate. While the unique nature of the situation does not excuse our conduct and does not mitigate the seriousness of our officers deviation from our normal conflict resolution procedures, spelled out below, I hope some clarification along with our commitment to review our procedures will help the public understand and trust our police force to serve and protect them.

        Instead, the CEO comes out and says we will never call the police to remove a passenger from the plan again. Thanks jerk, you are changing a policy that will only effect the most visible portion of this train wreck but does not deal with the systemic failures which lead to the event. How are you going to handle the other 10 mistakes your airline made prior to calling the police which are directly under your control and far more important to your general customers experience with United.

        We are getting calls from politicians to ban overbooking. Overbooking is not the problem. Not only was it not involved in this instance, but even if it were, there is a simple, well thought out solution that does not involve banning, more laws backed up with the threat of more force, or more regulation. The whole premise behind overbooking was that you pair it with a reverse auction in the rare situations when you actually have too many customers. The amount of money that is paid to each 1 in 10,000 overbooked tickets to get them to voluntarily give up their seat pales in comparison to the extra revenue those other 9,999 seats generate. Customers can still go to the airport in the knowledge that if they must travel than they will travel, because they can set their reserve price to be bumped from the flight at a dollar value higher than everyone else. There is no way that a plane full of people will all say no to $100,000 in cash for a day’s delay. We don’t need more laws, we don’t need more regulation, we don’t need more intrusion from the state. Overbooking combined with true reverse auctions are win win situations that management should jump at the opportunity to take. Instead they kept the overbooking and watered down the auction because they are either too stupid to understand the economic principles, too arrogant to actually care about their customers, or so shortsighted that saving a couple bucks from the most inconvenienced customers at their exact time of maximum inconvenience sounded like a good idea.

        Lastly, none of the proposed solutions coming from politicians or the media will address the cultural problems at United, but it more than any other contributing factor needs to change. Otherwise you will continue to have employees in positions of power that will abuse customers in one way or another. There is no set of rules, solutions from politicians, or rewording of contracts that will stop disgruntled employees from taking out their frustrations on their customers. What these employees need is leadership, and sadly they will not get it, which means the paying public will not get better treatment from this company.

        • Boy, you saved me a whole post there, Brian. Terrific. Comment of the Day: I may not get it up until tomorrow.

        • I think that the reverse auction stuff is talk of the moment: in the long run, it’s very unlikely they’ll empower gate agents on weekend shifts in small cities to pay $10,000 to five passengers from a flight that carries 60 people.

          I think that the real issue here is the flight crew that popped up, and that eventually we’ll find that after you get through the union and contractor issues, there was just no one at the top of that Sunday night shift with the experience to say, “That plane is boarded. We’ll get you to Louisvile some other way.”

        • Yes, thanks Brian – I am very glad Jack selected your comment for a Comment of the Day (congratulations). I think I am most astounded by the apparent lack of contingency planning on the part of United – for seeming to be hog-tied, pants-down, and utterly without a plan for resolving a crew shortage, without transportation arrangements that would avoid the passengers-aboard-vs.-available-seats mismatch that led to the mistreatment of Dr. Dao. Are flights between Chicago and Louisville THAT few, THAT constrained, that United could not find and afford to pre-arrange, on a contingency basis, to pay another carrier for flying those crew to Louisville? I mean, are all the “puddle-jumper” aircraft at the Chicago airport, and the crews who support them, overbooked, too? Unbelievable. Inexcusable.

      • …only result in higher ticket prices for all.

        So what?

        When the embedded interests fail, new companies will emerge that CAN meet the market need. Airlines are critical in many lives. They will not go away, short of TEOTWAWKI.* Thus, people will seek a better price and/or better service.

        Someone will fill that need, if the market is allowed to run without constraint. This is called capitalism, something we should try again. 🙂

        Companies that give bad service (let alone beat their customers bloody) should be allowed to fail, not propped up like United will be. Their corporate culture is corrupt and diseased, and should not survive. Not in my America.

        *The End Of The World As We Know It

        • I wish congress would find ways to deregulate airlines in a way that encouraged new entrants. As it is, there are so many barriers to entry that new airlines (or expanding airlines) require a high amount of investment capital. I have no idea for a solution.

      • This is mostly wrong, Lucky. There are lots of ways to deal with the overbooking problem: for one thing, you can let fliers purchase immunity from being bumped. There are dozens of better ways. Higher ticket prices will result in more airlines. And after this, the regulations will be tougher on the airlines, as the barn door will be locked after the fact, as usual.

        • “Higher ticket prices will result in more airlines.”
          I wish the market was free enough to count on that, but it isn’t.
          Immunity from bumping (for an extra charge) is a good idea.
          United needs better contingency plans for moving its crews around.

          The incident involving Dr. Dao did not arise from overbooking, anyway.

          • We played a simulation game in grad school where we ran an airline. The only airline that stayed in business was the one with premium service (and pricing). Cutting fares and service killed an airline. (Of course, it was the algorithms behind the game that determined the outcome, but it was still interesting.)

  2. jwest877

    As for the compliant, if not outrightly supportive (of United), press… one need not look further than the old adage “follow the money.” Though major airline advertising is down, fewer airlines means less competition on many routes, airlines like United are still major national advertisers in print, television, and radio. No one should underestimate the sway and corrupting influence this can factor in media coverage of a big company like United. It is a not talked about often enough problem, and a story like this is a perfect example.

  3. valkygrrl

    There’s another (less violent) recent incident. Jack did you see this yet? http://www.latimes.com/business/lazarus/la-fi-lazarus-united-low-priority-passenger-20170412-story.html

    “That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute,” Fearns said. “They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me.”

    “I understand you might bump people because a flight is full,” Fearns said. “But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to.”

    • John Billingsley

      There goes the “no passenger is more important than another” argument.

    • THIS is corrupt and diseased. And exactly how the Establishment wants it to be: the peons (look it up) live by the whim of the masters. Laws are for the little people, as Hillary’s ‘indiscretions’ show. When who you are decides how you are treated by the law, the Republic is dying (if not dead)

      • valkygrrl

        What exactly does Hillary have to do with this? Do you think she and the “deep state” are making airline policy in secret?

        Go see an awful popcorn movie, get a hobby, get laid, something.

        Do you want to know what causes this stuff? Lack of regulations preventing it.

        • Typical. Clssic. And wrong. By all means, place all the burden on rules, like they can make people competent, compassionate and ethical.

          The solution is building understanding of right and wrong, problem solving skills, practiced respect and compassion, competent management and training, and accountability.

          Or just have a dictator who shoots those who screw up.

          • valkygrrl

            And people who don’t want to be competent, compassionate and ethical? Let them run roughshod over everyone?

            • Let the market forces make them unemployed. This is even easier in these days of social media. In yesteryear, word of mouth prevented such from prospering from their bad behavior.

              Society used to be polite, Hollywood movies notwithstanding. We lowered the standards, and this is what you get. The problem is regulations themselves, which were rarely created in the interest of the customer despite what they say, but are usually made to tilt the field on favor of the ones making the rules, or their contributors.

              Socialists make rules for the way they want reality (and people) to be. Everyone pulls together for the common good, all are equal (except for those in power, who “are more equal than others”), and the right viewpoints are obvious to everyone. When some decide to be bad actors, socialists make more rules (that don’t apply to them), and the cycle continues.

        • brian

          I’m not a huge John Adams fan, but I think his thoughts on government get at a split here when he said, ‘Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.’. I think this can be generalized a bit to the idea that self governance to some degree relies on people having basic levels of decency and ethics. Without those, all the rules in the world can not force people to behave correctly. You are clearly on the side of government should be used to solve problems. I am on the other ideological side, laws and regulations are largely there to clean up a mess after it occurs, to avoid the situation requires responsible and ethical behavior on the part of people.

          Remember, at the heart of this episode is excessive use of force for the purpose of securing private property. Adding more regulations enforced with the threat of violence strikes me as increasing the likelihood of similar situations, not decreasing it. We have a choice to make, as individuals first, and as a culture second, what kind of a world do we want to live in? If we want to be treated fairly and with respect, then we must stand up for and demand that treatment. If we want rock bottom prices and poor treatment than keep on using United. If we want high prices and poor service than get the government more involved in regulating the industry because monopolies always deliver some combination of higher prices and worse quality…

          • With a caveat: laws and rules both delineate societal norms and enforce them. Conduct is still unethical when it is legal, but a lack of prohibition strongly suggest that society approves.

            • valkygrrl

              That kind of thinking is why we had sodomy laws for so long and why people fight against the repeal of anti-gay stuff. Because they don’t want to show approval.

              That’s how Aliza thinks. Please be better than that.

              Everything that is not forbidden is allowed. Society is free to disapprove but forbidding required justification not mere disapproval.*

              *For what it’s worth, forbidding beating people who don’t want to leave a seat they paid for seems justified, to me at least.

              • Everything that is not forbidden is allowed.

                Well, yeah. Duh. This ethics business still confuses you, does it? Because something is allowed doesn’t mean it’s ethical, right, fair or wise. And when the law goes from forbidding something to not doing so, it sends an undeniable message that the conduct is fine.

                Terrible analogy with sodomy, which was forbidden due to ignorance, archaic taboos, religious bias and ethical immaturity. Legalizing sodomy sends the message that it’s OK? So what? It is as OK as any other sexual activity between consenting adults.

              • *For what it’s worth, forbidding beating people who don’t want to leave a seat they paid for seems justified, to me at least.

                Uhmm, we have a law for that already… they call it assault, and just because no one has been charged yet in this case does not mean we need more laws. There will be charges here, if the relevant DA is not a total scum in the pocket of big business and/or the police union.

                Then again, this IS Chicago. Been run by Democrats (socialists) for decades now. Your point is still null, as socialists can ignore one law as easily as two, or a hundred, when they do not want to prosecute.

          • valkygrrl

            You are clearly on the side of government should be used to solve problems. I am on the other ideological side, laws and regulations are largely there to clean up a mess after it occurs

            Otherwise known as ‘this is why we can’t have nice things.’

            Why do you think I disagree? Freedom, yay. Happy happy freedom till some ass beats a man bloody for not wanting to leave the seat he paid for. But…

            If we want high prices and poor service than get the government more involved in regulating the industry because monopolies always deliver some combination of higher prices and worse quality…

            Unregulated monopolies. The airlines were regulated not all that long ago. Prices were high, and fixed and the airlines had to compete on service. My very first flight as a kid, the flight attendants almost wouldn’t leave me alone, showed me the flight deck. Kept my soda filled, not just half a can and see you for the buh-bye. In coach, all the way in the very back near the lav. Now they compete on price and now bottomless root beer, can’t bring your own past the jackbooted thugs running the pornoscanner, and no standing up to how the TSA treats people.

            • Incompetent assholes who lie and disregard basic rights and decency are not the inevitable result of freedom and the lack of government constraints, often devised by people who are just as dumb, careless, and irresponsible, if not more, than the people they are regulating.

              That’s the fatal flaw of your reasoning, VG, and statist reasoning generally. Just because it’s “the government,” you wallow in the fantasy that our masters are necessarily wiser, fairer, less conflicted, more just, less ignorant and more qualified that those who actually are in business. They aren’t. No objective observer could possibly think that. Indeed, they are likely to be less wise, if for no other reason that they have no accountability.

        • There are already regulations. They didn’t work. Nanny state regulations don’t work because there are too many of them, people don’t know what they are, and they can be, (and are) violated by people with the political power to do so.
          On the other hand decency and ethics make the answer obvious without regulations. Ethical behaviors come from a culture of respect for people not persons, expectations with natural consequences and built in fairness. Over-regulation works against this by creating a sort of pseudo-conscience that is both external to the person and subject to interpretation by politics.

    • I didn’t. I’ll check it out. Yechhh.

  4. Gregg Wiggins

    You’ve cited the U.S.; this is a regulatory issue in other parts of the world, too, and the United States is arguably the least generous and passenger-friendly place for this to happen. Consider the rules airlines must follow in the EU, for instance. http://www.airpassengerrights.eu/en/your-rights-a-summary.html

  5. the U.S. news media is unprofessional, lazy, inept, not very smart, and fails the public when it is most needed.

    My favorite story about inept reporting was the story that the Austin American Statesman reported in the early ’90s that because X% of the blood samples taken at the University of Texas student health center tested positive for HIV, X% of the entire student body of UT was also HIV positive.

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