United Airlines and the Costumer

If United Airlines substantially reimbursed passengers every time a United Airlines departure was more than 30 minutes late, an awful lot of people would thereby obtain a considerable sum of money.  But, of course, nothing of the sort happens although it is somewhat commonplace that United departures are often substantially later than scheduled.  And unless a person is forced to stay overnight in a hotel, United Airlines essentially offers no compensation to passengers for its tardiness.  Yet, late United departures are quite commonplace—so much so that when a departure is actually on time, there is almost a sense of wonderment on the part of passengers.

I hold a very simple view, namely that United Airlines needs to be a bit more tolerant of customers.  And the most salient reason for line of thought just articulated is none other than the reality that we live in a world in which in so many things change through no fault of our own.  Indeed, the point just made clearly holds for United Airlines.  And it strikes me as more than a little narrowminded for United Airlines to suppose that no such thing holds true for passengers.  Nowadays, a measure of malleability is ever so relevant to living well.  For example, parents could be set to leave the house for the airport on time, only to have it turn that the baby-sitter is 45 minutes late.  Are the parents at fault here?  Surely not.  Should an airline treat the parents as if they were at fault?  Again: Surely not.

My view is very, very simple.  For example, an airline company should allow somewhere between 3 and 5 occasions a year why a frequent flyer of that very airline is not able to arrive on time for the flight.  There is no reimbursement.  But there is also no fee for a change of flight owing to tardiness or a major shift in responsibility on the part of the passenger.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, I have no trouble with an airline company making a substantial profit.  Just so, an airline company should not come across as utterly exploitive in doing so.  Alas, United Airlines is very much coming across as exploitive to that degree.  Indeed, the company would seem to be so animated by the aim to make a profit that it appears to have lost a tremendous measure of sensibility to the life of being a human.

As I have indicated above, I have no qualms whatsoever with the idea that United Airlines is very much concerned to make a profit.  But something has gone terribly wrong when making a profit is unequivocally anchored in a considerable measure of moral callousness.  For an airline company whose flights often taken-off more than 30 minutes later than scheduled, it is surely quite morally callous for the company not to accords its frequent flyers, in particular, a measure of malleability with respect to flying.

© 2017 Laurence Thomas

About Laurence Thomas

Laurence Thomas is Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy at Syracuse University. His most recent book is The Family and the Political Self and his most recent article in French is "Juifs et Noirs: Au-delà du Mal" in Trigano (ed.) Juifs et Noirs: du Mythe à la Réalité. Thomas has published numerous essays on the topic of friendship. The essay "The Character of Friendship" has appeared in volume on friendship, entitled Thinking About Friendship, edited by Damian Caluori and the essay "Friendship in the Shadow of Technology" has appeared in the anthology Moral and Moral Controversies edited by Steven Scalet and John Arthur. His most recent essay--entitled "Being Moral and Handling the Truth"--is about circumstances under which it is morally permissible to lie. Indeed, an example is given in Section IV of a lie being morally virtuous.
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