By now you have heard the story and seen the video of United Airlines dragging a passenger off an oversold flight. Could this level of disregard occur in senior living?

By Steve Moran

By the time you read this, it is almost certain that you have heard the story and seen the video of United Airlines dragging a passenger off an oversold flight because they needed the seats for a deadheading crew member.

Here is the video: (Warning: It is pretty graphic)

What Does This Have to Do with Senior Living?

We all know that if a flight is overbooked (which is legal to do with only limited consequences for the airline), they can refuse to allow even passengers with a paid ticket to fly. It only makes sense then that if a passenger manages to get on a flight and it turns out there are no empty seats, they can make that passenger get off the airplane.

What is weirder is that apparently, even if you have a seat and are already sitting in it, the airline can just throw you out of it because they have to move a crew around. It seems pretty unlikely, though that it is ok to do bodily harm in the process. But what is concerning is that I am not 100% convinced that the laws and the court will not protect the police and the airline.

Missing the Big Picture

As bizarre as it may sound, let’s assume for a minute that United Airlines and the Chicago Aviation Police will end up being vindicated from a legal perspective, the most important question to ask is: how did the airline and airport police become so callous that they would treat someone this way?

For a number of years, I was a volunteer ski patroller which is a role that is part EMT on skis and part policeman. I did my training and my initial ski patrolling at Bear Mountain in Southern California and our culture was that making customers happy had high value. They paid a lot of money to ride on our slopes and it was our job to give them a great experience.  

This was even true when people were breaking the rules, which mostly meant they were just doing something stupid without thinking.

Differences in Culture

When I moved to northern California, I changed mountains and discovered the culture was very different. We were ski patrol. We were at the very top of the pecking order and we could boss people around. We could yell at them. We could pull their ticket if they broke the rules.   

I was startled when I realized I was thinking about customers according to my new culture rather than the way I had been trained and in accordance with my core values. It was really depressing.

Culture is everything and it starts with the belief that customers matter. I am pretty sure if that person who was removed had been the uncle or grandfather of a United Airlines employee it would have gone very differently.

Time for Introspection

What kind of culture can allow this type of situation to occur? Can and does this kind of thing happen in senior living? Could this level of disregard occur in your community?