Tout Then Schmoozle

Tout Then Schmoozle

FriendlySkiesLast year United Airlines made $4.5 billion. Could enraged, disgruntled consumers bring this company down?

Maybe. But you know what, folks? This is your fault. No, I’m serious. You’re to blame: You schmoozled when they touted.

Bet your bottom dollar that the CEO will fall and that the airline will lose substantial value. The outrage spinning around the world is actually quite amazing. Start with these twitter teasers: #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos, #BoycottUnitedAirlines, which include Jimmy Kimmel’s spoof video of the “friendly skies.”

UnitedcartoonSunday, United bloodied a doctor’s nose, dragged him against his will off a flight for which he held a confirmed ticket, because they needed his place to move crew to Louisville.

United operates four flights every Sunday from Chicago’s O’Hare to Louisville. On the last one of the afternoon, flight #3411, passengers gathered for boarding while a staffer announced that the airline needed “one” volunteer to give up a seat in return for a $400 credit towards another United flight and a confirmed seat on the next flight out. Boarding of passengers continued, but no one volunteered.

The boarding continue until the E70 aircraft was stuffed to the brink with all of its 101 passengers. There might have been 102 but crew had no time to check the toilets.

Then before the doors were closed, an airline staffer took the mike at the front of the cabin and raised the offer to $800! No takers. A few minutes later the staffer announced that four people were now being involuntarily removed, and that “the computer” had randomly chosen which ones.

Three left furiously, but one refused. He still hasn’t talked to the press. But he was dragged off the plane screaming, “I have to go home! I have to go home!”

He didn’t.

That’s United Airlines today. A few days ago it caused a national stir when it banned young women from boarding its aircraft because they were wearing leggings.

Recently United unveiled its new “Polaris Class” business class, squeezing 6 passengers across the width of a 777 for a minimum roundtrip business class fare of $8954.76 between O’Hare and Frankfurt. It’s been roundly criticized in the industry as the lousiest, poorest business class ever. It’s also the most expensive.

Not long after “unveiling” its Polaris Business Class, United announced it was going to compete head-on with low cost airlines and “unveiled” a new special class of service that disallows users to bring any carry-ons whatsoever into the cabin, and prevents any possible change without a complete forfeiture of the ticket and all its tiny value.

That would be a whopping $49 between Chicago and New York.

One of the most threatening letters imaginable was sent to all North American travel agents, requiring them to sign a statement that they would make every effort to first “upsell” a more expensive class of service before issuing a ticket using this new, low-cost fare.

Last year United made $4.5 billion.

Last month a Chris Christie operative in the New Jersey government was convicted of paying a bribe to United Airlines that according to court documents United accepted without a flinch.

Is United different from any big airline? Yes, personally I think it worse, meaner and clearly less smart. But remember in none of the egregious incidents described above has United violated any law.

And that’s the problem, folks. You embraced the airline deregulation of 1978 and the evaporation of the CAB in 1984 so you could feel “more free” and save $15 on your $200 ticket.

Then you schmoozled when they touted your “freedom to choose” a tighter seat, no food, no good air, unreliable schedules and wait 36 minutes on the phone to find out where in fact you’re flying to. All to save another $5 and you won’t even take $800 today to save yourself from being beaten to death!

That’s the end of the story. This is what you get.

I can’t believe that so many of you believe “in the market.” Well, this is what happens when consumers cede government control to the big guys.

How I pine for 1977.