Stratford — Last Sunday, United Express made headlines when police dragged a passenger kicking and screaming from a fully booked flight. A Stratford, P.E.I. family later spoke out about their treatment by Air Canada, who saw fit to boot a 10-year-old boy from an overbooked flight during March Break.
Both airlines offered half-assed apologies to the paying customers whose travel plans were ruined because of overbooking. The airlines defended their positions, though, pointing out that the customers were offered hotel and travel vouchers as well as financial compensation. Because of all the media attention, the airlines have decided that now would be as good a time as any to start giving passengers incentives to exit the plane after it’s already in the air.
“Overbooking is routine,” said Air Canada representative Sheila Osborne. “It lets us sell flexible tickets, it lowers costs for customers, and it allows us to give fully refundable tickets. Once the plane is boarded and there are not enough seats, we typically ask people to volunteer to leave.
“With this exciting new program, people will have the chance to parachute from the plane from thousands of feet up. We’ll then compensate them more than we would normally, but only if they survive.”
United Airlines rep Donnie Bordello said that most who take advantage of the program will not survive.
“These customers will land in the Atlantic Ocean or the middle of nowhere and die of a whole host of causes: drowning, freezing, starvation, heart attack, or just their chute not opening,” he said. “This means far fewer payouts from the airlines. It’s the ultimate game of risk — people love games!”
Frequent flyer Mark Norris of Halifax said he’ll be the first to “jump” at the opportunity.
“I book cheap flights all the time, then get off when they call for volunteers before takeoff; I get some sweet deals that way. I’m in pretty good shape and I went skydiving once before so I’ll roll the dice — why not? YOLO!”
According to regular Air Canada passenger Tina McPhee of Fredericton, it’ll be nice to have the option to leave partway through a flight.
“They somehow always seat me next to a screaming baby or the most talkative guy in the world, the food is awful, the in-flight movies are brutal, the flight attendants are rude,” she said. “After an hour I’m praying for death anyway, it’s just that now I’ll actually be able to do something about it. Great new incentive program, I say!
“If I do survive, I can really cash in,” she reasoned. “If I don’t, I’ll never have to fly Air Canada again. I can’t lose!”
Both United and Air Canada have plans to install addition emergency exit seats to accommodate parachuting customers.