The Great Stupid Is Airborne!

Not surprising, at least to me, the carrier (in multiple senses of the word) is United, long recognized by travelers as an incorrigible ethics dunce. The latest from United, however, announced in a head-exploding tweet, is special. The airline announced,

“Our flight deck should reflect the diverse group of people on board our planes every day. That’s why we plan for 50% of the 5,000 pilots we train in the next decade to be women or people of color.”

Wait: who says the flight deck crew should reflect the demographics of the passengers? Why would anyone but a fool say that? Is there really any air traveler who cares about any characteristic of the pilot and co-pilot other than that they be the best qualified people available to fly the plane safely and deal with whatever crisis that might occur?

I know I don’t care what color, gender or ethnic group my planes’ pilots belong to. Why would I? Do you? Does any sane traveler think as they hurtle groundward, screaming, “Well, if we crash, at least it will be because the airline met its diversity quota!”

Conservative website PJ Media headlined the revolting development (Pop cultural literacy quiz! This was once a catch phrase: “What a revolting development this is!” What was the TV show, and for extra credit, who was the actor who said the line in every episode?) this way:

United Airlines Announces They Will No Longer Hire the Best Pilots

Continue reading

The Emotional Support Peacock And The Tragedy Of The Commons

The Tragedy of the Commons is a term originating in ancient economic theory describing a situation in which a shared-benefit system is destroyed by individual users who selfishly behave contrary to the common good by depleting or spoiling the resource involved. Ignorance or denial of this principle, which is based on centuries of observing the human race, is core to progressive and liberal ideology, unfortunately. Another way of expressing the tendency is the old adage, “Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”

Federal regulations over the last decade–I’m assuming under Democratic auspices, but I don’t care to check,  it doesn’t matter to the post—have required airlines to accommodate passengers with not just seeing eye dogs but “therapy animals” and “emotional support animals” that supply the passengers who own them with relief from anxiety. These creatures must fly at no cost and uncaged, and so far, no discrimination regarding species have been set.  It’s a nice regulation, don’t you think?  I think its nice.

However, if there ever was a policy that guaranteed the Tragedy of the Commons, this was it. Many passengers exploit the rules by calling their pets “therapy animals”—and really, aren’t they all?—to save money and hassle. The number of animals flying in the cabin with passengers doubled, and doubled again.  Some passengers were bitten by dogs. Some animals defecated in the aisles. Some of the passengers  flew or attempted to accompanied by  comfort turkeys, goats, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, reptiles, spiders, and even more exotic companions. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/18/17

It’s an All-Fred Morning!

Every day, Ethics Alarms head scout Fred sends me multiple suggestions for posts from he finds heaven-know-where. Even when I can’t fit them in, they often serve as references and always are enlightening.

1. I suspect this belongs in the Polarized Nation of Assholes files: For two years, since he returned from service combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, Lieutenant Commander Joshua Corney, has kept his promise to salute his fallen comrades in arms by playing a recording of Taps every evening before 8:00 p.m on his five-acre property in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. It takes 57 seconds. It does not exceed volume limits. My dog barks longer that that every night after midnight when we put him out. Nonetheless, some of Corney’s neighbors have filed objections with the  borough. Now Glen Rock, which allows church bells to ring, among other sounds, ordered Corney to limit the playing of taps to Sundays and what it termed “flag holidays.” Each violation of the borough’s order would bring a criminal fine of 300 dollars. But the borough’s enforcement action involves two big constitutional no-nos: the heckler’s veto and content-based censorship. The borough is relying on a nuisance ordinance that prohibits sound that “annoys or disturbs” others, and just one individual annoyed by the somber Civil War era bugle solo is enough to deliver a “heckler’s veto.’

The ACLU is on the case, and backing Corney as he fights the action. It writes,

“If a “heckler” could shut down anyone who said or played something that annoyed or offended them by complaining to government officials, freedom of speech would be no more. For more than 75 years, it has been black letter First Amendment law that the government cannot censor speech simply because it is not universally appreciated.

Moreover, the borough cannot use its vague nuisance ordinance to single out only Lt. Commander Corney’s musical expression for censorship from the range of sounds that are part of the borough’s regular sonic landscape. The borough has not ordered Lt. Commander Corney to lower the volume of taps or claimed he has violated a noise-level ordinance.

And it could not claim such a violation because the recording neither exceeds any established noise levels nor is it as loud as many other sounds the borough tolerates — including many sounds that do not communicate a message, like lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chainsaws, and vehicles. Censoring clearly protected expression, like taps, for being too loud, while allowing louder sounds that carry no constitutionally protected message turns the First Amendment on its head.”

Bingo. It is in cases like these that the American Civil Liberties Union shows how essential its role is in protecting the freedoms here that are so frequently under attack.

2. I was surprised when I learned some time ago that undercover police officers used to routinely have sexual relations with prostitutes before arresting them (homosexuals too, when they werebeing persecuted and  prosecuted). Just two months ago, Michigan became the last state in the U.S. to make it illegal for police officers to have sexual intercourse with prostitutes in the course of an under-cover (or covers) sting. Now Alaska wants to go an additional step, banning “sexual contact” with “sex workers” entirely. This could be mere touching or kissing. Advocates of Alaska’s House Bill 73 and Senate Bill 112 argue that police catching sex workers in the act by engaging with them sexually is a human rights violation, and Amnesty International has made an official statement supporting that claim: “Such conduct is an abuse of authority and in some instances amounts to rape and/or entrapment.” Police, quite logically, point out that the bill would make  successful undercover investigations impossible, which is, of course, the whole idea.

“[The prostitutes] ask one simple question: ‘Touch my breast.’ OK, I’m out of the car. Done. And the case is over,” Anchorage Police Department Deputy Chief Sean Case told the Alaska Dispatch News in a hypothetical example. “If we make that act (of touching) a misdemeanor, we have absolutely no way of getting involved in that type of arrest.”

Ethics Alarms is anti-prostitution. As with recreational drug use and probably polygamy, prostitution, which harms families and the young women and men exploited and abused to support it, is almost certainly on the road to legalization. Government won’t protect vital society ethics norms, but it will order you to buy health insurance because it’s for your own good. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “More Ethics Observations On The United Flight 3411 Ethics Train Wreck”

Public discussion and media reports is finally waning regarding United’s cascading botch of a full and fully seated flight in which the airline wanted to get four seats back and had neither the law, nor policy, nor sufficient justification to acquire them. Thus its agents lied, exceeded their authority, mistreated a passenger, called in police, and they further escalated the fiasco, badly injuring the victim in the process. (Their conduct was similar in some ways to that of the police officers who killed Eric Garner.)

Even now, however, many people still believe this arose from an overbooked flight. Some misguided pundits are still blaming Dr. Dao. The news media has not taken responsibility for its terrible reporting on this incident, and still hasn’t done a good job explaining what really happened. Meanwhile, Delta has taken advantage of United’s pain by announcing that it will pay up to $10,000 to bumped passengers in the future. And Southwestern won itself an all time record for audacious cheekiness with the above ad, which United deserves. [UPDATE: Apparently this is a hoax, not a real ad. Too bad.]

Here is brian’s Comment of the Day on this ethics train wreck in the sky:

The 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.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

The United Ethics Train/Plane Wreck Sails On: A New, Worthless Apology, Ann Althouse Buys A Ticket, And More!

[ And yes, it is worth the attention it’s getting on an ethics blog. Greater ethical lessons and enlightenment can arise out of a transaction at a lemonade stand than in nuclear disarmament talks; this basic, establishing principle of Ethics Alarms still is elusive to many readers, and I don’t know what else I can say to explain it for them. Of course other things are going on: Bulletin: this isn’t a news site. No, the fact that Sean Spicer said that “Even Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons” and the news media, knowing full well what he meant (and that what he meant was technically correct, though still a jaw-droppingly cretinous thing to say) still turned it into a big deal —because he works for Donald Trump, and there for is evil—and Nancy Pelosi even said the it mandated his removal (no, the fact that Spicer is incompetent mandates his removal—“Best people,” Mr President? Remember “Best people”?—but we knew that) is not a more important ethics story.

I am seriously considering just banning every commenter who makes one of those “Why are you writing about this when children are dying in the Congo and Flint still has bad water?” complaints. Write your own damn blog. I have clients, a full time job and many other responsibilities, taught for four hours yesterday, and most of all, had a Red Sox game to watch. Istill posted about 2000 well-considered words. I am not your Ethics Monkey.]

Reports from the still accumulating United Flight 3411 ethics carnage:

Look! A new apology! United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz performed a backflip and issued a brand new apology for the fiasco on United Express Flight 3411, and said in a statement;

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment.  I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard.   No one should ever be mistreated this way.  

I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.    

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.  

I promise you we will do better.  

Sincerely, 

Oscar

Quick reactions:

….Well, I hope you will do better, because it would be almost impossible to do worse.

…Wait, I thought the United agents were following procedures and that this was all the fault of the “disruptive” passenger? Didn’t you say that? I’m sure I read that you said that…

…”Outrage, anger, disappointment”? When did Munoz express any of those? The word he used before was “upsetting.” In his previous “apology,” which extended to the passengers who were “re-accommodated,” a weasel word if there ever was one, since they were “un-accommodated’…

…Yes it is too late to do the right thing sometimes, and this apology is a perfect example.

If the soon-to-be-forcibly retired United CEO had issued this apology immediately, contemporaneously with  placing every involved employee in Chicago on leave until the matter was fully investigated, it would have been a #1 apology on the Ethics Alarms Apology Scale, the best of the best, the top of the line….

1. An apology motivated by the realization that one’s past conduct was unjust, unfair, and wrong, constituting an unequivocal admission of wrongdoing as well as regret, remorse and contrition, as part of a sincere effort to make amends and seek forgiveness.

However, when such an apology follows a previous apology that expressed none of this, but instead a reflex insistence that no wrong had been committed and that the victim of the wrong was at fault, the second apology becomes a #7 apology on the scale, one that is insincere and not a true apology at all:

7. A forced or compelled [apology], in which the individual (or organization) apologizing may not sincerely believe that an apology is appropriate, but chooses to show the victim or victims of the act inspiring it that the individual responsible is humbling himself and being forced to admit wrongdoing by the society, the culture, legal authority, or an organization or group that the individual’s actions reflect upon or represent .

Munoz’s second apology also insults the intelligence of everyone following the incident. We know what United’s attitude was: the United CEO expressed it:

“Be still peasants, and don’t scream like little girls when you get your comeuppance! We decide what your rights are! Next time, try walking to Louisville! I bet our surly representatives, cramped seats and stale pretzels will start looking pretty damn good before you get though Indiana.”

Now he’s suddenly horrified and contrite. Sure he is: he’s horrified because United stock is falling, and contrite because a public relations crisis management specialist told him to be.

Too late. We know what you really think, and we don’t forget that easily. Continue reading

Quick United Ethics Plane Wreck Passenger Addition: The Journalists And Others Smearing Victim David Dao

Which one is David Dao? What is he like? What has he done? IT DOESN’T MATTER…

I had to post this as soon as a comment on the original post mentioned recent revelations about the abused passenger on—and then off–  United Flight 3411 yesterday.

David Dao (that’s his name) will naturally be the object of research by the news media, because he’s now a public figure and they are overwhelmingly scum. However, whatever exposure his past and present receives as a result of his unwelcome celebrity due to a United employee fingering him for no particular reason as a passenger to sacrifice to solve problems of the airline’s own making, none of it has any relevance to the episode. There is no justification for further injuring Dao by invading his privacy. It is a cruel and unethical thing to do. It is unethical journalism, because the details of the doctor’s life do not contribute anything to an understanding of the story and the issues that the conduct of United raises.

Never mind! This is the Paul Newman film “Absence of Malice” crossed with “Airplane”—an innocent bystander is swept up in a controversy, and as a result is embarrassed before the world because journalists never consider the Golden Rule, and seldom care about fairness, decency, compassion or the consequences of what they publish. “The public has a right to know,” they posture. Really? Why does the public have any right to know about Dao, besides what they see on the YouTube videos?

TMZ, a bottom-feeding celebrity site,  first dug up Dao’s history, posting a click-bait headline.  The Courier-Journal, a Kentucky affiliate of USA Today, then piled on with a story about the “doctor with [a] troubled past.’  The New York Daily News,  The New York Post, The Washington Times, The Chicago Sun Times, D.C.’s ABC affiliate  and People Magazine all joined the fun, the game being “Let’s see if we can further embarrass and humiliate this man, because United didn’t do enough already.” People’s expose was titled “Revealed: All About the Doctor Dragged Off Overbooked United Flight — and His Troubled Past.”

Did I mention that the woman whose life is put on the front page in “Absence of Malice” kills herself? (Melinda Dillon received an Oscar nomination for the role.) Continue reading

More On United’s “Ethics Plane Wreck”

Ethics Alarms reader Arthur in Maine correctly declared that yesterdays’ multi-stage fiasco involving United Air Lines, an abused passenger and the police would be the first Ethics Alarms “ethics plane wreck.” He was correct.

Now we learn that the entire mess was based on a lie: this was no boating accid….sorry…the flight was not “overbooked.” United just decided at the last minute to fly a flight crew to Louisville, so it bumped four passengers against their will and lied, saying that the flight was overbooked. In addition to the policy-defying employees, and the brutal police, passengers on the United Flight 3411 Ethics Plane Wreck, which has spare seats aplenty, include

Recent passengers:

1. The United staff responsible for the fiasco added to their ethics foul with this official summary of the incident, cited by the United CEO:

Summary of Flight 3411

. On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United’s gate agents were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight.

. We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation) and when we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.

. He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.

. Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight. He repeatedly declined to leave.

. Chicago Aviation Security Officers were unable to gain his cooperation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist – running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.

Verdict: Dishonest, self-serving and misleading: Continue reading

KABOOM! United Air Lines. Unethical. Incompetent. Stupid. Insane. Unforgiveable. [UPDATED]

Just read this, which goes with the video.

Quick summary: a United flight supervisor came on board a sold-out flight and demanded that four seated passengers leave the plane  so four United employees could take their seats. Four passengers were chosen at random, and one, an older man, refused. Police were called and he was beaten and forced off the plane.

Really.

It’s hard to type with all these brains from my head explosion on the keyboard, but…

1.  No business that treats customers like this deserves to stay in business.

2. Any solution would have been better. Anything. Charter a flight for the United employees. Pay 10,000 bucks per passenger as incentive. Offer a lifetime ticket. That the united employees couldn’t come up with a less abusive and disrupting solution shows terrible training, terrible judgment, and a terrible corporate culture.

3. I am stunned that no passenger, when the older man who refused to go began to be abused by the police, stepped forward to take his place. I would think that would be an obvious response. Can we all pledge here and now that before someone is dragged screaming of a flight we are on, we’ll step forward and give up our seats?

4. I have to travel a lot for my business, but I will move heaven and earth not to have anything to do with United.

5. The carrier should pay dearly for this.  It is inexcusable.

More accounts: New York Times, Hot Air, Vox, NPR, FOX6Now.com, The Gateway Pundit, neo-neocon, Boing Boing, View from the Wing, Raw Story, Fox News Insider, CBS Chicago, , Guns & Money, The Federalist, IJR, FOX31 Denver, AOL, Instapundit, Axios, Eschaton , Mediaite, The Ring of Fire Network, View from the Wing, BGR, Mashable, CBS Pittsburgh, The Daily Caller and Outside the Beltway

And this, from Hit and Run at Reason:

While United’s customer service policies in this case are clearly heinous and absurd, let’s not forget to also cast blame on the police officers who actually committed the brutality on United’s behalf. NPR reports that the cops attacking the man “appear to be wearing the uniforms of Chicago aviation police.”

While there may be something to be said for the ability for private businesses to summon the help of the police to remove people from their premises if they refuse to leave peacefully and their presence is unwanted, there is no excuse for the police to cooperate when the reason their presence is unwanted is not “causing a disturbance” or being violent or threatening to other customers, or stealing goods or services, or doing anything wrong at all, but rather wanting to peacefully use the service they legitimately paid for.

Shame on both United for calling the cops on a passenger to make the lives of their employees and business easier, and shame on the police for having any part of it.

[UPDATE: According to A.P., others may agree with the above; “Chicago aviation department says officer involved in dragging man off United flight placed on leave,” A.P. tweets.]

 

Portrait Of A Really, Really Stupid Ethics Train Wreck

This is the incredibly ridiculous United Airlines/dress code/ leggings story. I don’t want to write about it: there are no good guys, lots of miscreants, and I have a well-earned bias against United already.

Fortunately, the travel site One Mile At A Time did a thorough and ethically astute analysis, here, ending like this:

I see non-revenue passengers asked to follow different rules nearly every time I fly — you probably do too. Nothing about two non-revs being asked to change clothes and/or take a later flight is shocking or newsworthy or even interesting to anyone with an ounce of perspective.

Exactly: not even interesting. So how did this become a hot story on cable news and social media? Well..

1.  Two employees of United didn’t follow company policy regarding proper dress when they fly free. They were Wrong.

2. A family behind the two employees in line and who didn’t understand what was happening leaped to conclusions, and made their daughter change what she was wearing too, completely unnecessarily. They were Wrong.

3. A prominent  publicity-seeking social justice warrior, Shannon Watts, was an observer of all this, and began furiously tweeting, misrepresenting what was going on, and claimed that United was engaged in sexist and discriminatory conduct, when it was not.  She was Wrong.

4. United’s Twitter team responded by referencing the §21 of the company’s Contract of Carriage, stating that passengers can be denied boarding for being “barefoot or not properly clothed”. This was confusing, since that provision had nothing to do with why the two non-revenue passengers were told to change. Typical of the crack United staff, however. Incompetent. Also Wrong. Continue reading