After a video surfaced of a United Airlines passenger being violently dragged off a plane, the world was left in shock and awe. This incident, while an outlier due to its violent nature, is a natural progression of the draconian policies currently implemented by airlines in the United States. Flights are routinely overbooked in order to maximize profits, and, as a result, passengers are frequently forced to de-board at a moment’s notice, throwing their travel plans into limbo.
Although this particular case was eventually settled in court after significant media attention, the overarching issue of airlines mistreating their passengers warrants a closer look. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that hundreds of thousands of airline passengers were asked to give up their seats in this past year, and over 40,000 were forced to after no one volunteered. This report also shows that alone, United Airlines bumped nearly 63,000 passengers on overbooked flights in 2016; 3,765 of these passenger were removed involuntarily.
Overbooking flights, the policy that led to the United debacle and the thousands of other incidents nationwide, is fundamentally rooted in greed and now outdated. In the face of declining “no-show” rates, Southwest moved to end overbooking earlier this year, ensuring that customers are now able to receive the seats they paid for. It is now time that other airlines wise up and follow suit. Even if a passenger doesn’t catch their flight, airlines still profit from the sold ticket. It is important to remain diligent of an airline’s policies on overbooking. If consumers continue to reward companies that overbook with their business, change is unlikely.