United Threatened Irvine Man With Handcuffs In Order To Seat ‘More Important’ Passenger

Last week, business executive Geoff Fearns of Irvine, CA needed to get home early from a trip to Hawaii. He paid $1,000 for a first class seat on United Airlines. First class, royal treatment — right? Wrong.

Fearns was in his seat, awaiting takeoff, when an airline employee rushed onto the plane and told him he needed to get off. According to the businessman:

They told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute. They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me.

Quite an insult, considering the employee was addressing a first-class, full fare customer — who didn’t take it kindly. As in Monday’s incident, when Dr. David Dao was dragged off a United flight, Fearns refused to give up his seat. He told the Los Angeles Times:

I understand you might bump people because a flight is full. But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to.

United apparently never misses an opportunity to abuse its customers, regardless of race, class, or creed.  The person in the seat next to him advised Fearns to do as he was asked because United employees can get “pretty nasty.”

What a great reputation for an airline to have among its first-class passengers! How does a company like that even have repeat customers?

One employee, at least, was moved to offer a compromise before calling in the goons to wrestle the company president out of his seat. She offered to downgrade him to economy class so he could stay on the flight. Fearns agreed because, in his words:

I’m 59 years old. I’m not going to go rolling around on the floor with some security team.

He might have had second thoughts if he had known where he was going to be put — in a middle seat between a married couple who were fighting and wouldn’t sit next to each other. Fearns got two earfuls for the duration of the six-hour flight.

As president of an investment firm, Fearns had some sense that he had rights that had been violated. He started by getting advice from his lawyer, then contacted United Airlines to ask for two things: a refund for his flight and a $25,000 donation to a charity of his choice.

Apparently, Fearns didn’t yet know that the company is run by a complete jerk — CEO Oscar Munoz, who blamed Dr. Dao for getting himself battered to the point that he was hospitalized. The company president got a response from a ‘corporate customer care specialist.’ 

Here’s how much the airline ‘cares’ for its corporate customers — to say nothing of us lesser beings. Forget entirely about the charitable donation. However, a refund for the difference between the first-class fare Fearns paid for and the economy-class fare he ended up flying on would be in the offing — in a week. But he was rewarded with a $500 voucher for future travel on United Airlines. (Excuse me a minute while I snort my disbelief.)

When asked by the LA Times if he’d ever fly the airline again, Fearns laughed and said:

Are you kidding?

What he’s looking at doing is suing the company — which would provide a lot of gratification for the rest of America. Maybe in the process of a lawsuit, someone will answer this question: How can a company take a man’s money and then brutalize him in order to deprive him of what he paid for?

Feature photo from United Facebook page.

 

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Deborah Montesano

Deborah Montesano is a longtime political activist and blogger. She learned to fight against impossible odds by living for years in Arizona, but recently relocated to the more progressive-friendly city of Portland, Oregon. Find her on Facebook at facebook.com/thepoliticali/ or on Twitter @thepoliticali_1.

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