What should WE, possible future fliers, learn?
And what should the other airlines learn?
The extra brutality is not the real issue. United, or XYZ Airlines, can always claim “it is not us; it is they, police or local authority security forces”. The real message to any passenger is:
“XYZ Airlines would, most probably, fly you to your destination, provided you have a valid ticket AND provided the airline does not have something more important to do. If XYZ would fail to fly you on time, they might compensate you, or maybe not.”
Should United and the other Airlines stick to the above message? Of course they should! Because, what can we, the passengers, do? Do we know another airline with significantly better commitment to its passengers?
Why should United and the other airlines contemplate to change their basic paradigm of trying to exploit the seats of all their flights? This is absolutely in-line with TOC, isn’t it? Some flights have the limited number of seats as a micro-constraint. Overbooking is an exploitation scheme, because many times passengers don’t show up and then it is a waste not to sell the seat to a paying passenger. Now, if there is a real need to fly several crew members, because otherwise another flight might be delayed or cancelled causing very high cost, then it makes perfect sense to nicely ask some passengers to give up their seat for some compensation the airlines think is fair.
The only question is whether WE, potential future passengers, agree to this widespread win-lose scheme of the airlines.
The scope of question is much wider than this specific case. There are many other cases where we are, very politely, asked to change our plans because it is too expensive for the airline to fulfil their commitment. The Israeli airline, El-Al, has lately cancelled, at the very last minute, many flights because of lack of pilots. Let me stress the point: cancelled at the last minute! El-Al management blamed the pilots, and the pilots blamed the management. It is nice to have somebody else to blame. Do I care who is right? Blaming does not solve anything.
I hope some airlines would see the opportunity to develop a decisive-competitive-edge policy of behavior and make it work. I do not claim it is easy – just that it is possible!
Remember: the real constraint of any business is the market demand! If you fail to subordinate to the demand then the future demand would go down, and then you won’t have an internal constraint as well.
It is still possible to have an internal constraint, but the constraint has to be exploited only to the level that still provides good overall subordination to the market.
Let me point out that having to add crew members to a full flight is a good example of interactive constraints! Another operational wisdom the airlines have to learn.