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Is There a Doctor on Board?

Published: Apr 13 , 2017
Author: Alan Smith

Not anymore.

We’ve all seen them. Movies when a cry goes out for a doctor on board. If you fly United and you are a doctor you should put your head down, because you may be about to be thrown off the flight.

What a disaster! For everybody concerned.

A doctor was violently removed from a United Airlines flight by aviation police officials at Chicago’s O’Hare international airport on Sunday, in an incident captured and shared via social media several million times on video by fellow passengers.

Airport guards can be seen aggressively grabbing, bouncing his face of an aisle seat and then dragging, the passenger down the aisle of the plane, which was bound for Louisville, Kentucky. Other passengers can be heard screaming and shouting “Oh my God” and “Look at what you did to him.”

The airline said in a statement that the flight was overbooked, and that as no passengers agreed to voluntarily give up their seats the airline representatives had to choose four passengers to leave the plane at random based on ticket class, flier status and check-in time, and that one man who had been selected refused to leave his seat.

This apparently is pretty standard industry practice, airlines regularly overbook flights (betting on 5% of travelers not showing up) and then bump people off and give them a later flight and perhaps a voucher against future travel.

Now of course this is potentially good news if you are not chasing a connecting flight, a doctor’s appointment (especially if you are the doctor), a wedding, a funeral, or even a really important business critical meeting. You might end up ahead of the game.

One of your sources of power in a negotiation (which this should become) is what you have that the other side wants. If you have a seat that the airline wants back pretty desperately then you could trade that back for a better deal.

In this case the passenger was not prepared to leave the flight despite the incentives offered. Whilst he technically had to by law, the force and violence that bore down on him from a frankly zealous (to put it mildly) airport official had to be seen to be believed.

The opportunity for the doctor now is that as person with some considerable grievance he should make a proposal to United to help make the problem go away.

Whilst complaining and arguing about who was to blame may be remarkably cathartic, it will not get you very far. Free flights for life and a healthy compensation package may go a lot further.


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Alan Smith

About the author:

Alan Smith
My background is marketing and advertising. After graduating in Economics I entered the agency world to become, at 28, MD of London's largest independent below-the-line marketing provider.

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