Rejected first draft of United Airlines CEO’s latest apology for the forced removal of a passenger booked on a scheduled flight.
To all our worried United customers:
Let me assure you I’m way more disturbed today than I was when I first learned about the unusual manner in which a passenger was taken off a plane at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago.
Some of you complained that my initial reaction was insensitive for defending the flight crew, saying it properly followed our company procedures for the “involuntary denial of boarding.”
Since then, I’ve gone back and re-read the employee conduct manual cover to cover. It seems I was mistaken.
I can’t find anything that says it’s all right to violently drag a ticketed passenger from an aircraft, and give his seat to an off-duty crew member. The cellphone videos of this incident get more distressing every time I see the plummeting price of our company stock.
So I want to promise all our disgruntled shareholders – and customers – that this type of horrific event will never happen again aboard a United flight. Starting today, new procedures are being put in place to better handle these difficult situations.
The first order of business is amending all corporate policy directives to eliminate the unfortunate phrase “involuntary denial of boarding.” From now on, the process will be called “humane displacement of reluctant travelers.”
Whenever a flight is overbooked, or we need last-minute seats for transiting crew members, cabin attendants will offer passengers wads of actual one-hundred dollar bills – not just vouchers – to get off the plane.
Warm hand towels and bonus bags of snacks will be handed to passengers who agree to leave, regardless of whether they’re seated in first-class or coach. Those with peanut allergies can trade up for a gourmet Biscoff cookie on their way out the door.
Voluntarily departing passengers will also be allowed to take one pillow and one in-flight blanket, in case they have to spend the night sleeping on the floor of the airport.
Let me assure you that any person we remove will not be selected because of race, ethnicity, or body type. Furthermore, we’ll try our best not to separate family members, unless one of them is wearing leggings. (Yes, ladies, that includes yoga pants).
Once a passenger has been chosen by the crew for removal, a special swift-response team will be summoned. The team will be led not by airport police, but by wildlife officers who are specially trained to subdue large mammals.
A tranquilizer dart will be prepared, its dosage based on the estimated weight and agility of the recalcitrant passenger. The dart will then be administered with a muffled air rifle of the type used by zoo veterinarians to sedate captive apes, panda bears, and large cats.
As soon as the pre-displacement tranquilizer takes effect, the passenger will be carefully pried from his seat, placed on a stretcher and carried off the plane. This will be done as rapidly as possible, to avoid blocking the center aisle.
Each United Airlines terminal will have a designated recovery room for recently removed passengers. In our hub cities such as Denver and Newark, these facilities will offer free Wi-Fi, mood lighting, and Starbucks coffee.
Medical personnel will be on hand to supervise disoriented travelers until the drug wears off, and they are stable enough to roll their carry-on bags through the concourse without endangering others.
Upon fully regaining consciousness, removed passengers will be asked to complete a short survey rating their experience. If they happen to be enrolled in our award-winning frequent-flyer program, we’ll automatically elevate their membership to Premier Gold status.
And if they should be humanely displaced from a future United flight, we’ll bump them all the way up to Premier Platinum!
Look, we know traveling is stressful enough without having your face bloodied while being booted from the plane. What happened at O’Hare will never happen again.
So, please come back to the friendly skies. We promise to treat you like a panda.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.