It is no secret that I am not your equal. We are not the same age, gender, nor do we have exactly the same genetics. You have more money than I do and more property and other wealth. But we are both citizens of the US and we expect to be treated equally by the law, without regard to our dissimilarities.
You may have heard of the 69 year old United Airlines passenger who was forcibly removed from a flight. Cathy O'Neil has become a student and critic of algorithms which she discusses in her book Weapons of Math Destruction and in her blog Mathbabe.
I wondered how that particular customer was selected for removal. The article, linked above, implies that the company has an algorithm for selecting a passenger to be bumped when someone else is perceived to have a greater need. O'Neil says that an economy seat would always be selected over a business or first class seat and that a bumped customer would be one who does not have a high probability of buying many flights from the airline.
I thought a typical procedure would be to offer all those with seats a voucher as an enticement to give up a seat and to keep raising the amount of the voucher until someone volunteers to take it. There are videos of the incident and later tapes of airline apologies for the way the incident was carried out on YouTube.
I can see evaluation of people conflicting with the principle of equality before the law. Which of the two citizens has the greater potential for contributing to the society? Which has the greater potential for contributing to the income of the airline?
The Chicago Tribune writes:
Airlines can legally bump passengers from a flight, and major U.S. carriers did so about 475,000 times last year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That translates to one passenger bumped for about every 1,390 people who successfully boarded. But fewer than 1 in 10,000 passengers were involuntarily bumped; about 91.5 percent of people volunteered to take a later flight, typically receiving compensation such as credit toward future flights.
The US has this guide to air travel flying rights: