Recording or living?

Recording or living?

Recording or living?

The United Airlines Affair

It was a shocking business and CEO Oscar Munoz was made aware of the fact very quickly by social media. His immediate reaction was to defend his staff. In a world where too many bosses’ first reaction is to deny responsibility and dump it on their staff this seemed to be a good move. Mr Munoz had underestimated – or, perhaps, simply not been well informed enough to comprehend – the extent of the security guards behaviour in physically removing a passenger from an overbooked flight. The subsequent outcry was understandable.

But let’s look a little more carefully at what was really going on in the cabin of the United Airlines flight. The cabin was full. The passengers were asked for volunteers to quit the flight. After some to-ing and fro-ing there were still too many passengers to allow four United Airlines crew members, who were needed at the flight destination, to board. That’s when the trouble began. In accordance, apparently, with United Airlines policy – and probably that of most other US airlines, too – a passenger was ordered to exit the plane. Why? Someone on that plane was willing to take a big cash bung for a 12 hour delay to their journey.

The reaction of the passengers, as far as I can tell, was – in this order – to whip out their mobile phones to get a good movie of the event then to indulge in loud exclamations of “Oh my God” and similar expressions possibly hoping for a miracle to happen. I would guess that some 25% of the passengers had been on a leadership or similar course in the last two years. I am sure there will have been at least one CEO of some company on the plane.

So where was the leader who stood up and ordered the guards to stop their manhandling of the unfortunate doctor? Why didn’t all the passengers stand up in protest? They had, I am sure, been taught to “stand up for right.” Didn’t they understand that standing up means standing up and that taking such events sitting down is complicity in what is happening?

If five passengers, possibly even one, had said that they would quit the plane unless the guards behaved properly the guards would have stopped. Passengers leaving a plane in protest is clearly not a good publicity stunt. If all the passengers had said they would exit the plane the matter would have been resolved without force or delay.

I cannot comment on whether cries of “Oh my God” were religious requests or simply expressions of horror. Either way they were unlikely to summon great assistance. Nor was movie making going to beneficially affect the breaking events. In fact, the passengers’ actions raise the question of whether as a society we are more concerned to record things than to live them. I have nothing against photographs but I’d rather eat a meal than film it.

United Airlines are in deep trouble. They deserve to be. But what of the people who sat by, filming and complaining but not actually acting?

Mr Munoz, you have had more than enough advice so I won’t give you any more. But I will remind you that every organisation is the lengthening shadow of the boss. I hope that your lengthening shadow may be one of greater consideration and less rule-book observance.

Every act of violence promotes more violence. Every act of non-violence improves the, increasingly slim, chance of our remaining a civilised society.