Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sometimes a Drag Can Be a Good Thing

(From the June 8, 2017 issue of the Grand Haven Tribune)

In aeronautics, “drag” is a term that means a resistant force, air on a wing that slows down the craft. It can be a bad thing if the goal is fuel efficiency and faster speed. But drag can be good if the need is to stabilize or slow a plane for landing.

In the same way, the incident of an airline passenger being dragged out of his seat and off an airplane could be seen as a bad thing or a good thing. At first, it seemed awful. A paying customer forcibly removed from a flight because the airline overbooked it? Making a customer pay for a company mistake?

But then more news came out, and we learned that the passenger was not a person of the most stellar character. We also learned more that overbooking is a standard practice because cancellations and no-shows are standard and the airlines actually have thin profit margins on every seat sold. So, unfortunate as it was, he could have been less belligerent and worked with the airline.

As it turned out, he later settled with the airline for an undisclosed amount. The airline promised not to drag human beings any more, or something like that. A United spokesman said in one news report: “We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do."

That sounded ok until the end. When it comes to airplane seats I hate the center. I’d feel better if they promised to put their customers in the aisle or window seats. Since they overbook a lot, keep those center seats for the employees or others who are the last to arrive.

Or maybe, just maybe, they could revisit this whole incident and embrace the drag. It’s just like aeronautics—it could be a good thing depending on how and why it’s done. Just as airlines have bag policies, they could have drag policies.

Of course, one policy should be that no one gets dragged based on the airline’s own mistake. But there are plenty of other reasons to consider productive drag policies.

One that comes to mind right away has to do with carry-on luggage. Since the airlines charge for everything these days, many passengers try to avoid checked luggage fees and carry all of their luggage on board. Of course this means some people inappropriately have too many or too large suitcases to fit in the overhead compartments. These people should be dragged back off the plane, along with their bulky gear. Fasten some wheels and casters to their fannies and off they go. There would be more seats and storage for the rest of us, who brought one small bag that fits above us or beneath the seat in front of us. Call it the “no bag no drag” policy.

Then there are a host of other potential, shall we say, “draggage” policies for airlines:

The “mag drag” policy—you get dragged off the plane if you tear an article out of the in-flight magazine, leaving a tattered mess for the person who has your seat on the next flight.

The “nag drag” policy, if, apropos of nothing, you complain about the weather, customer service, your job or anything to the total stranger sitting next to you. An especially bumpy exit should be given to a person who does this to me when I’m reading, wearing headphones, or otherwise sending strong signals that I am not to be disturbed. I’d push a button: “bing!” The flight attendant would come. “Yes sir?” “This person is complaining too much—please drag them off the plane.”

If people who are able-bodied take too long walking down the aisle, stowing their one bag, settling into a seat, the airline could execute the “lag drag” policy. “Sorry—you’re slowing down the boarding process. We’ll be dragging you to the jetway now.”

Don’t even get me started on the poorly dressed. Air travel used to be classy. Now people show up in sweats, pajamas, thongs and all manner of inappropriate or incomplete outfits. Put me down as in favor of a “rag drag” policy. Not properly dressed? It’s your fault if you get rug burns on that exposed skin after being dragged off the flight.

Also, anyone who is so obviously drunk that they weave as they walk down the aisle should be dragged right back off the plane under the “zig-zag drag” policy. They may not even know it happened.


All of this may be far-fetched, but that’s how my mind travels some times. Who knows, you might even see such policies announced by a flight attendant during pre-flight instructional video, set to the music and ending with United’s theme: “we love to fly and it shows.