US Airways responds to a stunningly stupid and inaccurate piece in the Washington Post that attempts to link the practice of overbooking to the death of Carol Anne Gotbaum. Ms. Gotbaum was not bumped due to overbooking, but was denied boarding because she arrived late. [Washington Post]

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  1. InThrees says:

    When you can get threatened with police for simply disagreeing with a ticket agent at a counter, I think it’s likely that this disturbed woman would have had problems of SOME sort regardless of whether she had made it to the airport on time or not.

    As has been pointed out many times by many others… the tragedy here was the failure of the authorities to follow established procedure (don’t leave cuffed suspects in isolation) and perhaps even the decision of the family to let this woman travel alone to begin with. (But that presumes some previous manifestation of this level of instability… which may not have been there.)

    On a personal level I’m just incredibly glad I don’t have to fly often. I do occasionally have to kick myself for forgetting to leave my multi-tool at home when I visit a federal building… hide it in the bushes out front and hope a) I don’t get arrested for stashing a weapon or something and b) remember to get it on my way out.

  2. TPK says:

    From the original article:

    “… we sat with several Mesa/US Air staff members and a pilot … [who] … said that to increase profitability, Mesa understaffs …, while US Air overbooks all flights and often issues duplicate seat assignments.

    I understand the concept and perhaps even the need for overbooking in general, but if you hold a confirmed seat reservation that is fully paid for, how can it possibly be legal to issue duplicate seat assignments without committing plain old fashioned fraud? If I purchase this ticket for this seat for this flight, how can they legally sell someone else the exact same product, and then deny me that product that I have paid for in good faith? How are these airlines not sued into bankruptcy for doing this?

  3. scoosdad says:

    “According to the most recent Department of Transportation statistics, just 1.4 passengers out of 10,000 will find themselves involuntarily denied boarding because of overbooking on US Airways.”

    Wow…are they allowed to use the number of unsold seats on flights to “cancel out” the number of overbooked seats or something? That 1.4 per 10k (just for US Air) is awfully hard to believe!

    Or do they not consider it “involuntarily denied boarding” if the airline eventually gets the passenger to its destination through some other means (rebooking, switching airlines, 100 mile taxi rides, etc.)?

  4. Mr. Gunn says:

    1.4 passengers out of 10,000 will have their seats denied due to overbooking

    So by their own admission they’re totally OK with screwing over tens of thousands of people every year by this practice.

  5. mkguitar says:

    I have had the US Airways “system” refuse to accept my baggage at check in at 43 minutes before flight time. Their published at posted cut off time is ( or was on that day) 40 minutes.
    It is only because I am a Gold Level Frequent Flyer that I was able to raise a stink with a Supervisor and get my bags on the plane. ( The Agent at check in backed me up and confirmed the time discrepancy to the Sup.)

    I am in no way surprised that they would screw over a passenger and deny boarding on a reserved ticket.

    FFocus.org is a meeting place for USAirways victims, most of whom are business travelers stuck using a US hub.

    MK

  6. cascascas says:

    @scoosdad:

    It’s not Involuntary Denied Boarding if you volunteer to take a later flight and accept a travel voucher, etc. as compensation.

    That’s exactly why gate agents always seek volunteers when a flight is oversold – they’re trying to stay out of the FAA stats. (And possibly trying to get away with giving you less compensation than you’re entitled to)

    Denying boarding to a passenger is an absolute last resort if they can’t get enough volunteers…

  7. jamar0303 says:

    I sound like a broken record by now, but please, please take the train if at all possible. That way the airlines know they’re doing something wrong when it hurts them like that. That, or take Virgin America if you go somewhere that they cover.

  8. humphrmi says:

    I’m glad to see that USAirways has responded to this article in the Washington Post. Consumerist commenters getting the facts wrong are one thing, but a paid journalist misrepresenting the facts in a tragic fatality so that they can grind their axe about overbookings is unacceptable.

  9. jburland says:

    @HUMPHRMI
    I’ve been waiting for someone to address the REAL issue here viz. the Washington Post’s appalling journalism and management (although I get the feeling that it’s more a guest commentary that a staff journalist.
    As for the rest of the commentaries: if airlines didn’t overbook to compensate for no-shows (including your political representatives who by the way recently renewed their RIGHT to book multiple flights and NEVER pay for the ones not used) prices would rise by 10% to cover the unsold seats.
    We’re talking roughly 1 involuntary denied boarding per 100 flights…
    It’s life.
    Get over it!

  10. Buckus says:

    US Airways may suck gonads, but as a journalist you should still get your facts straight.

    And if you ever took a statistics class in college, you’d know that if you have enough data points (flights with no-shows in this case) you can extrapolate the probability of a no-show on any given flight and overbook to compensate.

  11. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    I don’t care if you’re going to go bankrupt, I don’t care if a flight has a 99% no-show rate, I don’t care if the seat is worthless once the plane is in the air. It does NOT entitle you to sell something you don’t have (a seat on an airplane). PERIOD. END OF STORY. How is it not straight-up fraud to sell 105 tickets on a flight that has 100 seats?

  12. 737900er says:

    It is legal because the passenger pays for the service of going from Point A to Point B, not to go from Point A to Point B on a particular flight (or in a specific seat on that flight).

  13. Charmander says:

    I read the story, and according to my understanding of it, she did not arrive late. It was a connecting flight, she was already checked in, and she arrived 25 minutes before departure. US Airways written policy is 15 minutes prior for checked in passengers.

    I agree with the previous poster. It is FRAUD, plain and simple.

  14. jburland says:

    OK, so how would we all like the following situation (quite common on LoCo’s, but not – yet – prevalent on network carriers?
    You don’t make the booked flight (no matter for which reason, no matter how much you paid, no matter what) and your ticket expires. No refund. No alternative flight. No options.

    Buy a new ticket.

    That’s the option

  15. pshah says:

    I hope victim’s husband sues the airline … that is the only thing that might help change the policy… sad but thats how bottom line obsessed corporate america has become.
    I understand probability and statistics but once the husband talked to the agent explaning his wife’s situation the HUMAN response should be to ask if anyone on that flight would like to give their seat to this lady instead of calling the cops..