We're Sorry You Haven't Read Our Fine Print: An Apology From United Airlines

By Emily Schleiger | Apr 11, 2017

Recent passenger experiences have been upsetting to all of us here at United Airlines. We apologize for being forced to re-accommodate certain individuals, but even more so, we apologize that they did not read our complete Contract of Carriage. If they had understood that purchasing a UA flight constitutes total agreement with the fine print of our 46-page online document, expectations might have been different.

Our Contract of Carriage sheds some light on the removal of the man from our recent flight from Chicago to Louisville. Since the flight was overbooked, we asked for volunteers. (Note: "volunteer" is omitted from Rule 1: Definitions, so we define volunteer however we want.) When no one stepped forward, this man was chosen to volunteer to leave. We're sorry he didn't volunteer to cooperate. If he had, security wouldn't have volunteered to knock him against the armrest, bust his face, and reassign him a seat off the flight. Had things gone differently, he may have been granted space roped outside to the airplane's wing instead. (See Rule 4, section D: Reservations, "Seat assignments are subject to change.")

We're sorry the scene appeared harsh, but we'd like to remind our Passengers of Rule 5: Cancellation of Reservations, which generally summarizes that your ticket means nothing if we say it means nothing. Also, see Rule 25, section A, part 3a: Transportation for Passengers Denied Boarding, and note that we *did* transport the Passenger (at no additional cost to him!) twice: once via aisle drag, and a second time via gurney. Also, because we consider ourselves ambassadors to the friendly skies, we will refrain from enforcing Rule 21, section I, which states any Passenger who causes UA any loss, damage or expense (e.g., the cleaning of blood off armrests and aisles) consents to reimburse us.

We've also received attention lately because we requested a change of clothing for two children in spandex leggings. Because the girls used special Friend of Employee discount passes, they were considered Puritans, not Passengers, according to Rule 1: Definitions. They were thus subject to a special dress code that falls outside our Contract of Carriage. We're sorry leggings were invented, but would like to remind everyone that for full-fare Passengers, our dress code is less strict. Even your tuba can wear leggings if you purchase a full price adult ticket for it (which you'll have to do if you want to bring any such large musical instrument on the flight; refer to Rule 23, section D: Cabin Baggage Requiring a Seat).

A quick reference to our Contract should also clear up some other customer complaints:

  • For customers on the flight rerouted from Buenos Aires to Palmer Land, Antarctica, we apologize that you didn't read Rule 24, section A, part 3: Schedules Are Subject To Change Without Notice, which states that your destination can be altered at our whim to any other within the same hemisphere.
  • For the customer removed from a recent flight because of your "malodorous condition," we're sorry you neglected to read Rule 21 Refusal of Transport, Section H, Safety: "Anyone wearing the knockoff perfume COCO LOCO shall be immediately removed for the olfactory well-being of the flight crew."

To set future expectations, we're altering our Contract of Carriage to redefine "ticket" as "raffle ticket." This should clarify that when you buy a ticket with us, you're buying a chance to fly to your desired destination. Selling flight "raffle tickets" means we'll be able to overbook even more, hopefully increasing profits dramatically from the scant $2.3 billion we made last year.  Redefining "Passenger" as "Winner" will also help us achieve our goal of making "every flight a positive experience for our customers."

So be sure to read our fine print, and then purchase a chance to win a flight in the friendly skies with us.


Emily Schleiger (@EmilySchleiger) is a Chicago-based writer.

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