The skies aren’t so friendly anymore

It seems like it is the people versus the airlines these days. It’s no longer about who flies the cheapest. It’s who won’t kick your butt while you’re with them.

By now you’ve heard about the incidents: United was thrashed after a man was bloodied and dragged on the ground while being forcibly removed from a plane. Naturally it was captured on cellphone video from multiple angles and the airline is still dealing with a PR nightmare. (They have since reportedly settled with the victim). American Airlines had one of its crew caught on tape making a woman cry and challenging another passenger to a fight. A Delta passenger was kicked off a plane for trying to use a bathroom. WestJet lost someone’s dog after it was put on the wrong plane. It was eventually reunited with its owner.

‎In light of the ordeal United faced, it revised its policy for removing people. It used to kick people off an oversold flight to make way for United staff. While the airline would still do that it has put in restrictions and limitations for when it is done.

That’s all fine and dandy that policies are being reviewed (funny it always takes something like this to happen before industries take note) but how is overselling allowed to happen?

I have never gone to a theatre performance or concert and worried, “Uh oh, I hope I get to use the seat I paid for.” There has never been fear that three of us will show up and two will be voted off American Idol-style.

I realize airlines compensate passengers for the hassle or inconvenience of having to switch people around but how about just not doing it so they save some money and ultimately lower airfares? That would be a smart idea. Focus on a better customer experience and you might have more profits because people would feel compelled to fly with you – and not boycott in the case of all these scandals.

A rep at Air Canada told me the problem with overselling is that computer algorithms scan historical data and pinpoint on which flights people tend to not show up. Based on that, the system forecasts it would have those extra seats and ultimately not be overbooked. OK, sure, that makes sense.

But at the end of the day, airlines cram so many people into a plane so what harm is it in having three or four open seats on a 200-seater?

Remember when the biggest problem facing travellers was cramped leg room? Now it’s violence, overbooking, baggage fees, bad food, frequent delays, aggressive flight crews – and so on and so on.

Hey, at least gas prices are down and that road trip isn’t looking so bad after all.

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