Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

Every time I think we've hit peak-United, I see another ladder.

No sooner had the airline finally taken responsibility for its abject, violent treatment of 69-year-old Dr. David Dao -- who had done nothing more than pay for a ticket and refuse to "volunteer" to be bumped for an airline employee -- then another story emerges.

As the Los Angeles Times' David Lazarus reports, Geoff Fearns says he needed to come back early to LA from a conference in Hawaii.

So he bought a one-way ticket and paid the $1,000 full fare. In First Class.

He says he sat on the plane, sipping a little orange juice. All was right with the world.

Then a flight attendant stormed in and asked him to vacate his seat.

Why? Please stop me if you've heard this before, but Fearns says he was told the flight was overbooked.

But wait. He was in First Class.

"They told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute," he told the Times. "They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me."

Well, at least it wasn't an airline employee flying for free. Oh, what am I saying? This is plain insulting.

The overbooking was apparently caused by a change of aircraft after a mechanical issue. There were simply fewer seats in First Class.

Then Fearns, the 59-year-old president of investment firm TriPacific Capital Advisors, offered the magic sentence: "They didn't say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they'd put me in cuffs if they had to."

That loud noise you hear is the United Airlines PR department trying to book a flight out of town. On American.

You'll be wondering when the police arrived and whether Fearns has a broken nose and a few scattered lacerations.

It seems that he complied with the order and was moved to a middle seat in coach. There, he had the joy of sitting between a married couple who really didn't like each other at all.

You'd think United would immediately have offered to refund his fare and even get Zach Galifianakis to shoot a special edition of Fearns Between Two.

Fearns says he wrote to Muñoz and asked for a full refund and a $25,000 donation to charity.

Instead, all he got was a refund of the difference between his first class seat and the fine one in economy, as well as a $500 credit toward a future flight. Whenever they could find another miserable couple for him to sit between. (Yes, a joke.)

I haven't yet managed to get a response from United. Perhaps its PR people are, indeed, busy booking one-way flights to Aruba in any class they can find.

Again, though, the impression left is that United's employees are mere automatons who follow orders created by the most thoughtless, guileless, most insipid money-person the airline could find. And the notion of handcuffs does offer a quaint echo of what happened to Dao.

Who will come out of the mahogany upholstery tomorrow?

Perhaps a United passenger who was upgraded just because, then served sumptuous food, garlanded with flowers and sung lullabies to by the whole crew on a red-eye?

I live to dream.

Published on: Apr 11, 2017
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