Imagine an overweight traveler at an airport. They're probably already dreading the flight. Now at the counter they're confronted by a petulant clerk who tells them that they're too fat to check in on a single seat. Or at the gate, they're told they're too fat to board the plane. Or on the airplane they are told they're too fat to stay in their seat. That just sucks.
But it doesn't matter which side is right. This is still a guaranteed PR disaster for United, and an an exquisite demonstration of how American airlines are staffed by myopic and self-destructive bureaucrats.
Here's how this will go down. There's going to be some poorly trained and deeply jaded United worker alone at a gate in Chicago. It's going to be February and half the flights will be canceled. Three things will be true: all the passengers will be delayed, all the flights will be full, and all the employees will be frantic.
And there's going to be a woman (or man) at the gate who seems just too big to lower the seat divider all the way down. And the gate operator will look at her body and tell her that she'll have to wait for the next available flight with an extra seat. Except as far as anyone knows that flight won't exist until some time in April. And now the fun begins.
Thirty minutes later the flight is still grounded while people scream at each other, which is what you want on a tight schedule. Fifteen minutes after that security gets involved, because airport customer disputes can end in arrests. Twenty-four hours after that discrimination groups start weighing in. Thirty-six hours after that United is on The Factor explaining why they don't hate fat people. Well done.
Is that fair? Who knows. Is it inevitable? Absolutely.
And here's how these policies get made. United executives said "we need to raise more money, but we need to do it in a way that doesn't piss off our customers." So - since they're MBAs and believe in numbers the same way Bronze Age hunters believed in talismans - they organized a focus group. This is science.
They had participants describe bad flights. The moderator brought up overweight people.
Now the only thing people like more than emoting about their sucky lives is self-importantly insisting that their lives suck because someone is being "unfair." Suddenly everyone in the room is a victim, competing to tell the most elaborate "this guy next to me was so fat it was the worst day of my life!" horror story. Everyone agreed that the airlines "should do something about it" and said they'd be "more inclined" to go with an airline that double-charged obese people. See? Science!
Except for how that's the opposite of true. No one is going to stare at a $50 price difference on Orbitz and say "well, I was going to save $50 - but I want to make sure I'm not squished next a fat person." People are going to buy the cheaper ticket and hope for the best.
Except for that overweight woman from Chicago. She and her companions and every obese person who hears about her are gone for good.
Honestly, are there any adults in any industry anywhere in this country anymore?
· United To Charge Heavier Passengers Twice To Fly [CBS2 Chicago]