I never fly United. Not because I fear a couple of guys will suddenly wrench me out of my seat, knocking out a few teeth and putting an overall damper on my traveler-as-livestock experience. I never fly United because the nearest airport to where I live is a Delta hub and I’m a sucker for hoarding that airline’s frequent flyer miles so I can be treated like a Holstein by that carrier without paying for it. I tell you this to establish the fact I have nothing personal against United Airlines, so when I comment about that airline’s recent spectacular PR fails I do so without any baggage, thereby avoiding additional exorbitant fees.
Actually, I’m not going to pick on United. I’m going to pick on the basic business model airlines operate under. They sell more tickets than seats available as insurance against no-shows. If everyone shows up they’ve got to figure out a way to placate the pissed-off passengers for whom a seat isn’t available. Their first tactic is to offer a small bribe that gradually escalates in value until they get enough volunteers. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In United’s case, they needed to make room for their employees and not paying customers. So they made the perfectly logical decision to wrench a paying customer from his seat, mashing his face and providing fodder for a hugely embarrassing video that would go viral within moments of it being posted. The passenger will most likely sue for a much larger amount than United would have had to pay to convince him to change flights.
I’d like to propose another way to reward air travelers for the regular abuse they suffer. Introducing TLS Rewards. TLS being an acronym for Treated Like Shit. Each time a passenger submits an instance of being treated like shit by an airline, they accrue a number of points that’s in proportion to the abuse. Lost bag? 100 points. Whacked in the head by a passing beverage cart? 150 points. Hoping for those yummy Biscoff cookies but all they have is peanuts with your coffee? 50 points. Grabbed from your seat by a couple of security guys and your head bashed into the armrest resulting in lost teeth? 10,000 points and first class seating for life with the firm promise that once seating you won’t be brutally un-seated. Plus unlimited Biscoff cookies. When you accrue enough TLS points you become entitled to various rewards such as the chance to chase baggage handlers with the Jetway, unlimited vouchers for that all- Slim Jim snack box, permission to use a pillow to suffocate the guy hogging both arm rests and the chance to use the plane’s PA system to entertain the other passengers with your impressions of indecipherable gate agent announcements. Perks like these would seem to be just the type of mood changers that could offset the otherwise unpleasant aspects of flying, while not compromising safety. You can still earn free flights and upgrades through existing frequent traveler programs. Under TLS Rewards, you can also earn fun opportunities for revenge…and everyone knows, that’s what we all really want.