On Monday, video of a passenger being violently dragged from an overbooked United flight sparked outrage and sunk United Airlines into yet another PR mess. Late night talk shows were quick to skewer the disturbing incident. On Monday night, for example, Jimmy Kimmel aired a United Airlines parody, highlighting the absurdity of an industry that can overbook flights and then forcibly remove paying customers from their seats. In a mock-commercial for the airline, a chipper flight attendant offers a winning slogan: “If we say you fly, you fly. If not, tough sh*t.”
It’s funny because it’s basically true.
In case you missed it, the incident with United started when the airline overbooked a flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday night. After the flight boarded, passengers were asked to volunteer to leave the plane to make way for United employees who needed to get to Louisville for work on Monday. When no one volunteered, four passengers were selected to leave; one passenger, who said he was a doctor who needed to see patients on Monday, refused to go. Eventually airport security forcefully removed him from his seat; multiple videos of the event show the man bleeding from his mouth and being dragged, apparently unconscious, down the airplane aisle. (You can read more about it and see the videos here.) Needless to say, this was not a good look for United.
During Monday night’s show, Jimmy Kimmel mocked United’s decidedly lackluster response to the incident. In a statement tweeted Monday, United CEO Oscar Munoz said, “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.” Kimmel was not having it. “That is such sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility corporate B.S. speak,” he said. “I don’t know how the guy who sent that tweet didn’t vomit when he typed it out.”
Kimmel followed up with a new “commercial” for United. (Warning: This clip features video of the violent encounter on the United flight. It’s disturbing. As is the fact that there are audience members laughing during the recording of the encounter — I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are laughing because they are uncomfortable about what is clearly a very messed up situation.)
“We’re United Airlines,” a smiling flight attendant croons. “You do what we say, when we say, and there won’t be a problem. Capiche? If we say you fly, you fly. If not, tough sh*t. Give us a problem, and we’ll drag your ass off the plane. And if you resist, we’ll beat you so badly, you’ll be using your own face as a flotation device. United Airlines: F*ck you.”
As savage as the parody is, Kimmel points out a depressing truth: In no other industry would customers tolerate overbooking or being bumped from seats for which they had paid. And, yet, when it comes to airlines, many people expect this kind of behavior as a matter of course. “[The airlines] know this,” Kimmel says. “That’s why we’re stuck with them.” He’s not wrong.