United’s cu­ri­ous tale about flight ‘vol­un­teer’ takes us back to ‘1984’

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY JOSEPH CURL “The pur­pose of Newspeak was not only to pro­vide a medium of ex­pres­sion for the world­view and men­tal habits proper to the devo­tees of Ing­soc [the English So­cial­ist Party], but to make all other modes of thought im­pos­si­ble. It was in­tended

— Ge­orge Or­well, “1984” ap­pendix, “The Prin­ci­ples of Newspeak”

There is some­thing very “1984” in the words flut­ter­ing around over the strange case of a doc­tor be­ing ripped from his seat aboard an air­plane, pum­meled into sub­mis­sion by three burly men and dragged — quite lit­er­ally — bloody and scream­ing down the aisle and off the plane.

One word that has emerged is “re-ac­com­mo­date.” The pas­sen­ger wasn’t dragged off the plane; he was “re-ac­com­mo­dated.” Another is “over­booked.” We’ve heard that word be­fore, but re­ally only from airlines, and we the sheeple just ac­cept it as part of life. Yet another is “vol­un­tary.” And we have the Chicago po­lice to thank for a brand new def­i­ni­tion of “fell.”

Let’s use them all in a cou­ple of sen­tences. The air­plane was “over­booked.” The plane needed pas­sen­gers to “vol­un­teer” to get off. When one re­fused to leave “vol­un­tar­ily,” he was “re-ac­com­mo­dated.” Then, when three husky men as­saulted him, he “fell,” smashed his face and poured blood as he was dragged down the aisle.

Or, as United said shortly after the in­ci­dent: “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was over­booked. After our team looked for vol­un­teers, one cus­tomer re­fused to leave the air­craft vol­un­tar­ily and law en­force­ment was asked to come to the gate. We apol­o­gize for the over­book sit­u­a­tion.” Then United chief ex­ec­u­tive Os­car Munoz added that’s when they had “to re-ac­com­mo­date these cus­tomers.”

Let’s take them one at a time. Airlines “over­book” planes. That means they sell more seats than they have. The thought be­hind the prac­tice is that some pas­sen­gers will can­cel, oth­ers will re­book other flights and they’ll end up with a full plane to max­i­mize rev­enue.

But in this case, the plane wasn’t over­booked in the clas­sic sense. In­stead, United Airlines de­cided to kick off four pay­ing pas­sen­gers to make room for flight per­son­nel try­ing to get to the des­ti­na­tion so they could staff a flight the next day. That ex­plains why the pas­sen­gers were let on and then or­dered off.

Wait, they weren’t or­dered off, not ac­cord­ing to United. The air­line asked for “vol­un­teers” to “vol­un­tar­ily” get off the plane. They sweet­ened the deal, first with an of­fer of $400, then with a deal of $800 plus a free ho­tel overnight and a first-in-the-morn­ing flight the next day. But since it was al­ready late in the day, no one took the of­fer. So some pas­sen­gers had to be in­vol­un­tar­ily “re-ac­com­mo­dated.”

In this air­line Newspeak, to be “re-ac­com­mo­dated” means to be kicked off the flight — with­out the of­fer of the cash and ho­tel. United claims it used a ran­dom sys­tem to de­cide which four pas­sen­gers were to be “re-ac­com­mo­dated,” but the air­line is known for be­ing petty and vin­dic­tive, so few be­lieve the process was re­ally ran­dom.

As of yes­ter­day, after the in­ci­dent oc­curred, “re-ac­com­mo­date” is de­fined by Ur­ban Dic­tionary to mean “to beat up and vi­o­lently drag pay­ing pas­sen­gers off an air­plane in or­der to make room for air­line crew on stand-by.” Ouch.

Dur­ing the de­ba­cle at Chicago’s O’Hare air­port, one pas­sen­ger did not “vol­un­teer” and did not want to be “re-ac­com­mo­dated.” So, of course, three mas­sive thugs were dis­patched to make him “vol­un­teer.” As they phys­i­cally ripped him from his chair, they smashed his face so hard he poured blood. Wait, strike that. The Chicago po­lice of­fi­cers called in by the air­line said Mon­day that the man “fell” as he was be­ing “re-ac­com­mo­dated.” “His head sub­se­quently struck an arm­rest caus­ing in­juries to his face.”

Mr. Munoz dou­bled down later, throw­ing some new words into the mix. He said air­line per­son­nel “fol­lowed es­tab­lished pro­ce­dures” when re­mov­ing a pas­sen­ger from a plane be­cause it was “over­booked,” and he then called the pas­sen­ger “dis­rup­tive and bel­liger­ent.” He was be­ing ripped from his chair and smashed in the face, so, yeah, maybe.

Wait, we mean he “vol­un­teered” to be “reac­com­mo­dated” after the plane was “over­booked,” and he “fell.”

United threw another doozy out on Tues­day. The four United flight crew mem­bers, they said in a state­ment, were “must-ride” pas­sen­gers. Uh, what were the pay­ing cus­tomers, then?

Only Ge­orge Or­well knows for sure.

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