The Internet and social media is currently ablaze over the massive case of CRI (Cranial-Rectal Inversion, a nice way of saying head-up-the-ass syndrome) suffered by United Airlines over forcibly ejecting seated passengers to make room for other people. The particulars of both cases are not germane to the point. Suffice it to say that in both cases, a United representative told a paying customer they will get off the aircraft, under their own power is at their option.
I will say that United has the right to remove anyone they want for any reason at any point from their aircraft or property. Seated or not, full-fare or discount, half-way through the flight because they furrowed their brow in a way that worried the flight attendant. It doesn't matter. The customer also needs to realize that if they force the issue, it will not end well for them.
I will also repeat (to both sides) what the battle-hardened sergeant in war movies says to his young full-of-piss-and-vinegar soldiers to try and keep them from getting killed.
"Son, is this the hill you want to die on?"
Someone made the decision to allow a situation to escalate past the point of reason. Someone also made the decision to use force so United got what they wanted at the expense of passengers. With the potential for situations like this to explode and cause a mess (United lost almost a Billion dollars in market capitalization for a few hours over this), the people there in the situation (both sides) need to make a decision to push to the end, or decide "the cost of pushing isn't worth the outcome."
I can see the customers side in this, I can also see United's. I do not condone or condemn either side. That being said, the United representative who made the decision was the crux. In the interests of good customer service, if someone is seated, that should be that and the transferring workers or other passengers need to find an alternate route. The situation could have been averted if it was addressed before the customer was seated.
This situation falls squarely into the "Zero Tolerance" policies that surround us at schools, the airports, government buildings and many more places. Examples include the child who has his GI Joe taken away from him because of the "no weapons" policy and Joe has a 2" long plastic rifle. Or someone has aspirin that is easily identified as aspirin confiscated. I could go on, but you get my point.
Zero Tolerance policies came about because companies and agencies could not or would not trust the person in the situation to make the right choice. Sometimes, there is no "right choice," only two bad ones, equally as bad for someone. Using ZT's just said "no" to everybody, all the time. The ZT policies need to be abolished. A Company who puts people in positions of authority needs to let them make the on-the-spot decision, because no written policy can cover every possibility. That same Company needs to back the employee, publicly and privately, right or wrong.
There will be times when there are no good outcomes in a situation. When that happens, all you can do is say "Our representative was in a tough situation and he made a tough decision with the intent for the best possible outcome for everyone involved." Don't talk about new policies, retraining employees or any of that other bullshit. Make it clear to your employees at the outset what the objective needs to be and support the decision maker, even if they tell the boss to screw off, the customers are going, not the employees.