What happened to US Airways

It is brutal video recordings from the interior of an airplane that causes outrage on social networks. They show three airport police officers dragging a 69-year-old man out of his seat. His head hits the armrest, one of the policemen is dragging him out of the machine, his glasses slipped and bleeding. The officials had previously asked the man to skip his flight. The United Airlines plane from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked, and four other crew members were supposed to fly with it. United Airlines was therefore looking for four volunteers who would give up their flight for money. When nobody answered, the riots broke out.

Millions of people have now seen and shared the recordings of the incident. Many criticize the actions of the US airline and security personnel, and one police officer has been temporarily suspended. United boss Oscar Munoz apologized publicly, but at the same time defended his crew. The crew would have acted according to the regulations. This raises questions not only among the passengers concerned.

Why did this man have to get off the plane?

According to the airline, the four passengers who were to forego their flight were selected at random. So it could have hit anyone present. "However, the airlines do not proceed in a uniform manner," says a spokeswoman for the Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry. It is impossible to say in general what criteria the airlines use to select passengers. Some airlines prefer punctual passengers or frequent flyers, while others use the principle of chance.

Why are flights overbooked at all?

Airlines usually offer rebookable and cancelable tickets. So there is always the risk that flights will start with empty seats if passengers decide otherwise at the last minute.

In order to avoid more passengers appearing than seats are available, algorithms create forecasts for each flight. According to them, it is decided how much is overbooked. The passengers behave differently depending on the route: on a holiday flight to Palma de Mallorca, all passengers usually appear, overbooking is not advisable. On the other hand, on a flight from Munich to Hamburg, which is mainly used by business travelers, usually not everyone will appear. The damage is also limited, as there is usually the next flight an hour later. However, there is no guarantee that you will be allowed to fly in the next aircraft.

Is it more common for the situation to escalate as it did in Chicago?

The events leading up to United Flight 3411 are unprecedented. Usually the airlines try to find volunteers. You often lure them into business or first class with money and upgrades. Only if that doesn't work is there a risk of trouble, but usually already outside at the gate and not only on the plane, where the situation can hardly be resolved.

Is it a coincidence that this happened at United of all places?

United has been notorious for many years for poor service and rude customer care. Country singer Dave Carroll landed an Internet hit in 2009 with over 16 million clicks in which he talked about the airline. United baggage workers broke his guitar prior to a flight, but his complaints were dismissed. So he wrote a song and published it on Youtube. The damage to United's image was immense.

Thousands of complaints from alienated customers are also collected on the website www.untied.com. Long-time United observers believe that the cause of the problems lies in a corporate culture that has grown over decades, in which customer wishes hardly play a role. Today's United boss Oscar Munoz has praised improvement and started a customer service program. Flight 3411, however, takes the initiative to absurdity.

Does Lufthansa now also have a problem as a United Airlines partner?