I disagree with Bob Gust's April 13 commentary "No sympathy here for that airline passenger." Gust's argument is more a defense of privilege than of justice. I suggest that one who holds an airline ticket owns a place on a designated flight, period. And regardless of class, time of ticket purchase or anything else, in a situation like this the airline should essentially make an agreement to get the seat back, which probably means offering enough money or points to get passengers to relinquish their seats.
The passengers had good reasons for needing to be on that flight, and the problem of the airline's overbooking should not put an unwilling passenger off the plane. The airline should have to negotiate the return of a seat rather than use the police.
Paul Uhler, Eden Prairie
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Gust is correct in his facts: there was no overbooking; the airline requested that passengers leave to ensure that a flight crew could reach its destination in order to fly another plane on schedule; the airline did offer compensation. Gust may even be correct in his judgments: "generous compensation," "he behaved like a spoiled 6-year-old," "defiant United passenger."
But attorney Gust forgot proportionality. We demand proportionality when a police officer kills a suspect who may or may not have robbed a convenience store. We demand it when one country bombs another that has only short-range rockets to deploy. We demand it when demonstrators with signs and shouts are tear-gassed and dragged through the streets.
In this case, a 69-year-old physician stood his ground against being put off a plane — no hitting, biting or scratching. Proportional responses could have been enhanced compensation for him or another passenger; telling him he would be barred from future United flights in perpetuity; finding another plane on another airline for the crew going to Kentucky; or, driving the 297 miles between Chicago and Louisville. The crew didn't have to drive — a driver who wasn't about to pilot a plane could drive.
Let us not champion the corporation over the individual when the corporation acts like a bully.
Elaine Frankowski, Minneapolis
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I thought I was the only one who thought the United passenger deserved no sympathy until I read Gust's commentary. It is indeed very troubling that public outcry has been totally behind this selfish passenger who, as Gust says, "reacted like many six-year-olds."
Even more disturbing is that Congress has now put a priority into reviewing how airlines should reposition flight crews to get their operations back on schedule ("Lawmakers put the heat on United," April 13).
Mark Weber, Minneapolis
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It's funny how Congress is now up in arms about the way airlines treat customers since the doctor incident, when in fact Congress has basically done nothing for the last 40 years since deregulation of the airlines. The supposed "passenger bill of rights" in 2009 didn't do much except limit tarmac wait times and have better disclosure rules for cancellations. But Congress has remained silent on the major problems with air travel — passenger load capacity, seat size and legroom.
Just within the last 20 years, passenger load capacity has increased from an average of 67 percent to 87 percent; seat sizes have decreased from a width of 20 to 17 inches, and legroom has decreased to between 30 and 31 inches, from between 34 and 36 previously. This is why so many flights today are crowded and uncomfortable — too many people packed into smaller spaces.
Three of our federally elected officials in Minnesota sit on the two powerful committees that determine the rights of airline passengers: Sen. Amy Klobuchar is on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Reps. Jason Lewis and Rick Nolan are on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. These two committees could have easily imposed rules that mandate airlines to have decent size seats (at least a 34-inch width), tolerable legroom (at least 36 inches), and not max out passenger load.
The public owns the airways, and Congress should stop complaining about how passengers are treated and actually do something. Requiring the airlines to treat us like humans instead of livestock would be a good start.
Joe Tamburino, Minneapolis
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Contrary to Gust's commentary, Dao was firmly within his legal rights to refuse deboarding, according to United's own contract for carriage. While it is true that a passenger may be denied boarding due to overbooking (under Rule 25, Denial of Boarding), once a passenger has been boarded, the rules change. At that point, Rule 21, Refusal of Transport, is the applicable rule; it specifies why a boarded passenger can be thrown off a plane, and neither overbooking nor the convenience of the airline is on the list. In fact, no passenger then boarded on Flight 3411 met the criteria of Rule 21. So if United was unable to bribe passengers to give up their seats, it was contractually obligated to fly with the people on board, and its crew would have had to find another way to get to Louisville.
Not only was United morally wrong, it was legally wrong, too. And it appears that no United employee, including the CEO, has been properly instructed in contractual obligations. Fortunately, it seems that Chicago's airport police have realized that they are not hired muscle for the airline; all three officers involved have been suspended.
Keith Pickering, Watertown
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I have seen fellow passengers' video on Facebook and YouTube of Dr. David Dao's responses to the airline employees. He did not behave "like a six-year-old" or engage in "histrionics." The fact that Gust finds the airline's treatment of Dao justified is not only troubling to me but appalling and horrifying.
Cecilie Gaziano, Minneapolis
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One has to wonder how Gust would have reacted if he was being physically abused and manhandled by the airport police. The fact that so many people are on the side of Dr. Dao should not be viewed as "troubling." That fact should be celebrated and applauded because it tells us that most Americans still believe that their fellow citizens should be treated with respect and not forcefully dragged off a plane.
George Larson, Brooklyn Park
$15 MINIMUM WAGE
If Minneapolis insists, it should be the first to build in two tiers
I have spent my career working to hone my craft to become the best at what I do. After years of hard work, I have made it to the top at Manny's Steakhouse, where I have been for the past 20 years. I am very proud of this accomplishment and am rewarded with a handsome salary. So why does the Minneapolis City Council insist on giving me a 50 percent wage hike from $10 an hour to $15 an hour? ("Support at tipping point for $15 wage," April 12.) I did not ask for nor do I need this raise! If you apply a $15 minimum wage to front-of-house restaurant workers, it could severely damage our pay structure and be detrimental to smaller restaurants who could not absorb such a rise in labor costs.
The restaurant business is not for everyone. Show me a waiter or bartender who is in favor of a $15 minimum wage, and I will show you a young and/or lazy worker with little desire to make the restaurant business their career. They would rather have the guaranteed money than work to improve their craft. Please do not cast me into this lot of the restaurant workforce.
I don't understand why the City Council can't exempt those of us that make more than $40,000 a year from the ordinance? Can't it just write that language into the law? The only explanation I've heard so far is that none of the other cities in the eight states that have raised the minimum have a two-tiered system. Let's be first!
Patrick Tierney, Minneapolis