It took no time at all for a member of the U.S. Senate to weigh in with a legislative solution to an incident that has outraged millions of Americans.
Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., has announced plans to introduce a bill that would make it illegal for a commercial airline to remove a ticketed passenger from an airplane.
I detest these kind of legislative responses to vast public outrage.
You know the story. United Airlines the other day tried to evict a passenger after seeking volunteers to vacate the flight to make room for four UAL employees who needed to fly from Chicago to Louisville. The airline picked names of passengers at random. One of the passengers refused. So the airline called in security officials, who then manhandled the passenger badly, pulling him off the plane after knocking out a couple of his teeth and breaking his nose.
The passenger, a physician who said he needed to see patients the next day — and just couldn’t surrender his seat on the flight — has vowed to sue the airline for damages.
UAL suffers terrible PR damage
Now we hear a member of the Senate weighing in.
Congress does this kind of thing on occasion, as do state legislatures. Public outcry emerges from an event, prompting lawmakers to propose state or national laws to make something illegal.
The way I see it, Congress need not act on this matter. Why? Well, United Airlines has gotten the message from the rage the public already has expressed over this incident. Moreover, I am quite certain executives at other airlines have heard it, too, prompting them to rethink their own passenger-removal policies.
I believe in good government and I am not one to dismiss the need for government to act when the cause merits it. I just don’t think this particular matter requires congressional action.
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz already has made a mess of his own response. He said initially that airline personnel acted according to policy; then he apologized to the man who got roughed up; then UAL announced air fare refunds for every passenger on that Chicago-Louisville flight.
United Airlines is now reviewing its policy. That’s good enough for me.
My strong hunch is that UAL won’t allow this kind of embarrassment ever to recur on one of its aircraft. I also would be willing to bet real American money that the other air carriers will follow suit.