This Would Have Driven Me Slowly Insane On An Overnight United Flight

A United Airlines passenger recorded his inflight experience flying from Washington Dulles to Edinburgh, Scotland. The buzzing sound was “endured” by everyone in the cabin for six hours. He complained to United about it, and they responded with a perfunctory customer service offer.

@united hard to believe offer from customer service was only $50 or 2500 miles. I endured this for 6plus hrs from Dulles to Edinburgh on 9/4. Do better and you should be ashamed. The plane had a leak, the captain never came back to check on it and the headache…..

— Bob Campbell (@hokiebob88) September 28, 2022

I’m actually not sure whether this would have kept everyone up, at least those passengers in business class able to lie down. For some it might have just blended into the background of aircraft noise. At least I hope so. However that’s just a matter of the extent to which a passenger might be able to tune things out, and 2500 miles or $50 in United scrip seems insufficient for what others would equate to discredited CIA tactics.

There’s a certain level at which an airline is selling a night’s sleep in business class. Former United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz declared “sleep is the new black” when unveiling the carrier’s Polaris business class product. As such, service disruptions in business class should yield far greater compensation to passengers than airlines usually deliver. The airline literally isn’t delivering the product they’ve sold. Airlines like to say that all they ‘owe’ under their contract of carriage is transportation from one place to another, but that is explicitly not what they are marketing to customers to get them to pay more.

However for other products it’s a bit of a different matter. Premium economy is a little more space so you’re not quite so crammed in. A seat that doesn’t recline at all deserves compensation, but ‘disturbed sleep’ isn’t quite the promise breaker that it is in business class. And for passengers in economy? Airlines are almost literally promising you’ll be uncomfortable (except on Delta before the pandemic).

Does an airline promise to get you to your destination in physical safety, or to get you to your destination without driving you slowly insane? And do they owe you anything back when they fail to do the latter?

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