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Boycotting United Airlines after viral video may be tough

Summary

United Airlines CEO says the company 'takes full responsibility' after paying passenger dragged off flight

Travel agent warns it may be difficult to avoid flying with United because they reach so many cities

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – If you’re one of the many people considering a boycott of United Airlines following that viral video of a passenger being dragged off an overbooked flight over the weekend, you may run into some challenges.

A local travel expert says the carrier’s network may simply be too vast to avoid but Claire Newell is offering up some advice. Newell is calling it a PR nightmare for the company. “I feel like this should’ve been handled before anybody boarded that aircraft.”

But she says United is an Air Canada partner for US destinations and is sometimes the only to serve smaller cities, so many may have to fly with them — and if the fare is right, people will take it. “If I had the choice between two airlines that were similar priced, I would probably choose another airline until I know how this is dealt with. But at the end of the day, it’s all about when the flights are going, the cost of the flights and convenience for passengers.”

Newell adds airlines will keep overbooking but you can avoid getting bumped. “Just try to get specific seat assignment. Check in as early as possible and avoid taking the very last flight of the day so if you are bumped, you can still get home.”

Criticism and fake United Airlines slogans have popped up all over social media in response to the footage of a bloodied man being taken off the plane, while being dragged down the aisle by security guards.

People have taken to Twitter and using the #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos to propose slogans such as ”We Put The Hospital In Hospitality” and ”We’ll drag you all over the world.” What’s adding further insult to injury is the fact the CEO of the airline is standing by his employees.

This incident comes at a time when Canada’s transport minister is set to introduce an air passenger bill of rights sometime this spring. That is something Marc Garneau promised last fall. “When a passenger books a flight and is then told that it’s overbooked, they have certain rights.”

Garneau couldn’t say if what happened at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport could legally happen here but is adamant his upcoming bill will give travellers some recourse. “Those are things where the passenger must have reciprocal rights with respect to the airlines and we’ll be bringing out those measures.”

Meantime, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz apologized for what happened, calling the incident “truly horrific.” And the Chicago Aviation Department has suspended one of the three officers who removed the man, saying he did not follow standard operating procedures.