United Overloads Plane, Kicks Off Passengers Who Paid The Least For Their Tickets

Last week, a United Airlines flight from Burlington to Washington, D.C. was deemed too heavy to fly, so the company had to decide who to boot off. In a moment of what was almost certainly accidental honesty, they targeted the 20 least profitable customers. We know this was their criteria because they announced it to the rest of the passengers, so those who remained were able to rest easy knowing that all the cheapskates, budget travelers and poor people were gone.

One of the passengers on the flight was Bruce Poon Tip, who tweeted about it as it happened:

United Airlines Service. Just announced they have a weight problem and have to remove 20 ppl in order of how much you paid for your ticket!

[…]

So uncomfortable with United Airlines removing families and older couples who bought cheap tickets. Sad frankly.

[…]

It’s funny, there is no anger really. People are embarrassed. [The gate agent] has announced that you will be thrown off based on how much u paid.

Although it’s probably not the end of the world to have your bargain-hunting skills revealed to strangers, it seems like it would make more sense from a customer service perspective to select passengers randomly, or to use some criteria that in no way reflects on the passengers personally–like random selection, or the last n passengers to board.

United responded to Tip that same day via Twitter and acknowledged that going by ticket price was uncool:

What airport and what gate? We’ll look into this. @brucepoontip

[…]

This shouldn’t have happened. We are locating the correct station and gate no. and will address the issue today.

As of today, however, the airline hasn’t posted any follow up item on their Twitter feed. United also hasn’t said whether what “shouldn’t have happened” was the use of ticket price to select passengers, or the fact that the removal criteria was announced publicly.

“United Flight Kicks Off Passengers Who Paid Least for Tickets” [Jaunted via This or That] (Thanks to sgmaxx!)