United viral video reveals poor airline practices

By Minju Park, Columnist

Sunday’s viral video of yet another controversy involving the airline industry has taken the internet by storm. The video involved a plainclothes police officer dragging a bloodied man off of a United Airlines flight due to an overbooking mishap.

This is only one out of several other videos that have been circulating recently, including a video of a young boy receiving a full-body pat-down from a TSA agent and videos at airports showing the confusion as a result of President Donald Trump’s immigration ban.

Airports are highly regulated and vulnerable. They attract large numbers of people who will then be crammed into airplanes for multiple hours, flying at several hundred miles per hour while suspended in the earth’s atmosphere. It seems it can be a situation of high tension that could potentially create disaster.

But many Americans don’t realize the struggles that come along with navigating airlines beyond delayed flights and expensive tickets.

Although the TSA claims they do not keep record of racial backgrounds of people who they stop from security lines, Business Insider reported in 2012 that employees from Logan International Airport in Boston estimated that 80 percent of the people stopped are minorities.

From leaked documents in 2015, it was revealed that the TSA utilizes a system called the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT). SPOT is designed to identify potential terrorists through the science of “micro expressions,” based on the research of  psychologist Paul Ekman.

While the TSA denies that such a practice would lead to racial profiling, the accusations from Logan airport indicate differently. Identifying such “micro expressions” does not indicate whether someone is a terrorist, and may lead to identifying threats based on other characteristics instead, such as race.

The TSA is only one part of the airline industry that is in need of drastic change. The recent viral videos indicate other necessary changes, such as the ways airlines treat passengers and handle crisis situations, as well as issues regarding overbooking.

According to the Chicago Tribune, there was both an increase in the number of consumer complaints in 2014 as well as the rate of passengers being bumped from flights due to overbooking compared to the previous year.

This combination of airline traits brought on the unfortunate incident of the man, who was later revealed to be a doctor, being dragged off the United airplane on Sunday. Due to the airline’s decision to overbook the flight, they resorted to forceful removal when nobody volunteered to change accommodations.

The staff then handled the situation immorally with poor treatment toward the passenger, who was bloodied and screaming while a security officer dragged him away.

While this situation did rile up angry reactions, with some even declaring a boycott of United, the responses did little to majorly affect United’s position as one of the “Big Four” airlines that control close to 70 percent of the U.S. market, according to Fortune.

Fortune reported that while there was a slight dip in United’s stock on Monday following the incident, the shares “closed up nearly 1 percent Monday,” indicating a rise in stocks. 

There needs to be more change in the airline industry that holds so much power over its passengers and continues to hold this monopoly even as it reveals the corruption in its practices.

While these countless viral videos of security check lines or on-board airplanes may seem petty or easy to dismiss, they demonstrate the reality of airline practices in the current age. To prevent future injustices, serious reform is necessary to provide quality service to consumers.

Minju is a sophomore in Media.

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