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How a reasoned response could have avoided the #United Airlines billion dollar losses

This will help you make the right decisions and avoid costly consequences.


This morning I read how United Airlines has lost more than  $US1 billion ($1.3 billion) in one day after a bloodied and upset doctor was dragged off a flight he paid for.

I also was reading scientific advice from The Mayo Clinic about how the reasoned brain takes longer to ‘boot into action’ than our more primitive brain.  We act out of impulse (the ‘Amygdala hijack’ – yes that’s what it’s actually called) – and usually we regret the impulsive decision and action. The Mayo Clinic recommends when confronted with a threatening/confrontational situation – PAUSE – to let the reasoned brain kick in.




When something like the United incident happens – I often ask myself how would I handle the situation.

Now, my preference is to avoid physical force – unless people are in danger.  Yes, I’m ‘a conflict avoider’ where possible. I’ve learned to remove ‘myself/my ego’ from conflicts

When I helped train airline security people in Australia, we’d perform realistic exercises where staff were confronted by resistance and rudeness (from ‘actors’).  There are some times when security people have to act swiftly and forcefully.  In most cases though, a delay in action of little as the time for a deep breath – can give time for the more reasoned brain to take charge. Also, the exercises help staff remove ‘the ego of authority’  (“you must obey me“) from a conflict.

From what I understand from the United Incident – security staff spoke to the passenger chosen (at random) to have to leave the plane. The passenger refused and started screaming when security tried to remove him by force.

Security people are used to having a job to do and doing that job. They are used to people complying to their authority.

Here’s what I would have done:

1. I’d train security people to not resort to force (in a case like this where the non-compliance did not seem to pose a threat to others – only a challenge to ‘the ego of authority’)

In cases where a passenger poses a risk, then they may have to use force.

2. I’d get the captain to announce something like.  “Now one of the passengers we randomly selected to leave the plane says he needs ti travel to treat patients tomorrow, so here’s what we’re going to do. We need someone else to volunteer to leave and we’ll give you two minutes to think about it – remembering you’ll get $800 and we’ll get you on the next possible flight. If no-one comes forward – we’ll have to wait another 2 minutes.”


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I reckon giving people time for the reasoned brain to kick in would have resulted in a peaceful resolution.  When we trained airline security staff in Australia – we taught them to remove the ‘ego of authority’ out of conflicts – to not see non-compliance as a threat or insult to that authority.

Also, based on what I’ve seen in the United Airlines video and my experience working with various security organisations and experts (not just airlines),  I reckon when the passenger started ‘screaming’ the security wanted to get him off that plane as fast as possible.


Good security people are often well-trained professionals skilled at defusing tense situations.

I look forward to talking to my security contacts to get their expert opinions on how THEY would have handled the  UNITED situation. My particular area of expertise is ‘persuasion’ and helping people make ‘good choices”.


A calmer (non-Amygdala-hijack) choice is usually a better choice.







One comment on “How a reasoned response could have avoided the #United Airlines billion dollar losses

  1. efangelist
    April 28, 2017

    Reblogged this on efangelist and commented:

    Today I heard how the passenger got a confidential pay-out (I’m guessing is very large) and the whole embarrassing and damaging ‘incident’ could have been avoided.

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This entry was posted on April 13, 2017 by in Uncategorized.
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