If you haven’t seen the brutal video of a passenger on United being beaten to force him to give up his seat then you must have been hiding under a rock but that’s not what I want to talk about. I’ve read countless twitter posts, articles and opinions on this issue but no one has pointed out the simple and obvious solution to this problem to avoid it from ever getting to this point. What is that you ask?

All United needs to do is to add a simple tick box to their site when booking a flight that asked the question, “Are you willing to give up your seat for compensation if we are overbooked?” If no one had ticked the box, United would know that this is a full flight and no one is willing to give up their seats WAY BEFORE anyone shows up to the airport or boards the plane! The gate agent and flight crew would have PLENTY of time to figure out alternative arrangements for their employees and even other standby passengers.

Let’s face a simple reality here, some passengers have critical events or activities they are traveling from point A to point B for and simply can’t miss that flight (weddings, funerals, graduations, etc). I am one of those people that would never give up his seat for compensation as I fly mostly for business. I get paid about $200/hour so if I’m delayed 4 hours, the delay costs my employer $800. Delay me 12 or 24 hours and that cost escalates from $2400 to $4800. The $1300 cap on compensation automatically puts me OUT of the running to give up my seat. I imagine the doctor in this incident also falls into that “high earner” category and the $800 meant little to nothing for him as it does to me. Eight hundred dollars is 4 hours worth of work for me, why would I give up my seat for this? Of course there are plenty of people that would jump at the chance at getting $800 or $1300 but this may have been a scenario where perhaps many high earners were on board and simply wanted to get to their destination. Contrast this with a minimum wage earner making $8/hr that would earn $32 over a four hour period, the $800 is a very attractive offer.

Perhaps United should use credit scores or net worth of its passengers to ascertain who is likely to want to get bumped. If they knew this about me, they would know not to bother asking. Why can’t United data mine from Facebook and figure out that Sally in seat 10B is going to her sister’s wedding in Louisville and won’t give up her seat? Or that Grandma is seat 11a is on a once in a lifetime vacation and can’t give up her seat?

In a day and age when we have iphones and apps for every conceivable scenario it is remarkable that airlines still can’t figure out that a flight is full and people on that flight aren’t interested in giving up their seats way before the flight even boards!

If this tick box existed on booking of this flight and someone had selected it then United should have known exactly who to offer compensation to right off the bat. Actually, United should get really smart and start letting people pre-bid on getting bumped – I’d put my self on the list for $7500 and up for a domestic flight and $20,000 for an international flight. So if I’m flying from New York to London and United wants my seat, they can come to me when they’re ready to pay 20k for that seat.

I know what you’re thinking..it’ll be too expensive to implement all of this but considering that United at one point today lost $700 million in market value, I don’t think they can afford not to do it!