After the Passenger Dragging Incident – What Happens Now

You’ve seen the video from the United passenger dragging incident (and if you haven’t, it’s everywhere); a man is dragged by his arms down an aisle, blood oozing from his mouth, because he refused to be bumped from his flight. It is painful to watch.

Passenger Dragging Incident: What Will Happen

But what will it mean for United, for all airlines, and for travelers like you and me? Some predictions.

United: In the short run, the bad barrage of publicity will likely hurt the carrier, especially coming on the heels of United’s leggings debacle (where certain passengers were barred from boarding because they were deemed inappropriately dressed). However, this probably won’t last too long since a lot of airfare shoppers simply want the very best deals, and if the cheapest flights are on United, that’s what they’ll buy.

All airlines: The bad publicity could have one longer-lasting effect for all airlines on short-haul routes which can be reached by car. Some travelers may consider the inconvenience of driving a few hours a worthwhile trade-off to avoid even a hint of hassle from an airline (add in security hassles, too). As for those airline execs who watched the United video and said, “Whew! Glad that wasn’t me” – for many of the flying public, it was you, it was all of you, all the airlines, guilty or not. They may not remember United but they’ll remember the image of a guy being dragged on a plane.

So all airlines could get hurt in the fallout.

What Should Happen

It’s important to remind ourselves how much air travel has improved in recent years; better on-time arrivals, lower lost bag rates, more new planes. However, this is also an era of packed planes and tight schedules which also apparently means less and less tolerance for any passenger behavior viewed as outside the norm, whether it’s someone wearing clothing featuring a political slogan, a passenger that smells bad or takes up too much space, or a passenger who refuses to give up a seat when told he has to go.

Airlines must join forces to address these thorny issues – and solve them – instead of making flight attendants or gate agents the judge and jury over millions of passengers who may be breaking an airline rule they’ve never heard of. If this doesn’t happen, watch for more incidents – and a lot more disturbing video going viral.


Updated: August 23, 2017