United Business Class: Airline Solves Ultimate Indignity…But At What Cost?

Would you accept a 'downgrade' for $10,000?

United Business Class: Airline Solves Ultimate Indignity…But At What Cost?

We’d all lick a flight attendant’s feet for an upgrade, but what would you do to avoid being shunted down? At least nine business class passengers recently faced this dilemma, with United Airlines offering them a $10,000 voucher to downgrade from business class.

This decision was forced after an “equipment issue” meant the airline used a smaller plane than usual to service an 11-hour direct flight from New Jersey’s Newark to Hawaii’s Honolulu.

As CNN Travel reports, “United Airlines had to swap out Boeing 777 aircraft for a Saturday flight from Newark to Hawaii, resulting in a reduction of business class seats.”

“These aren’t the passengers an airline wants to annoy.”

“So the airline offered miles to passengers willing to sit in a lower class of seating on the Boeing 767-300 for the 11-hour plus direct flight.”

In the end nine passengers accepted $10,000 in travel voucher compensation each for a total of $90,000.

On this, United spokeswoman Maddie King told CNN Travel, “Occasionally we have to change aircraft at the last minute and when that happens, we try to do the right thing and make the impact to customers as minimal as possible.”

King then revealed the passengers weren’t downgraded to economy, but to “premium plus”, United’s version of premium economy.

Not a bad day’s flight.

This then led into a broader discussion around downgrades, something known as an unlikely but cruel fate, but which now appears to be something airlines are really working on eliminating (or improving the experience of).

Whether or not other airlines start matching United’s exorbitant payoffs, it’s evident that United themselves have re-assessed their suck it up policy.

This becomes especially apparent when you compare it to their controversial treatment of a doctor in 2017, who was dragged kicking off a Louisville-bound aircraft by Chicago police officers in an incident that quickly went viral.

As People reports, “Following the incident, United outlined a list of changes, which included allowing employees to offer up to $10,000 to encourage passengers on overbooked flights to take a different trip.”

“Our review shows that many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what’s right,” United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said in a press release.

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