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Dinesh

It isn't random. I don't know why they said it was. It is governed by their IDB policy, which is part of their contract of carriage, section 25.A.2. https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriage.aspx#sec25

I've heard it said that this policy is submitted to the DOT and must be followed, but I don't know if it's true.

Ken

One reason for not kicking off First Class passengers is that the compensation paid is based on a multiple of the fare paid, so it is obviously cheapest to boot the lowest payers. In this case it was going to be expensive as the next flight was the following day, so their were hotel bills as well as compensation, and if I paid the ridiculous amount for first class I would be unhappy if they gave me a cheap hotel.

That actually leads to what they should do. Make a lower cost fare that has no guarantee of that flight, and make it clear at booking. Limit it to about 5% or 10% of passengers and then those passengers can't complain because they have chosen that fare. At the moment they are trying to hide the fact that they actually do this. I always fly a reasonable time before anything important because this, as well as weather and other circumstances delay flights.

Z

"If you are giving out four prizes by random drawing to a room with equal numbers of men and women, and all four prizes went to the men, the process is "fair" but the outcome may be perceived to be "unfair.""

Seems like you could always find some dimension along which the winners were all from the same group. I think fairness is a property of the process and not the outcome.

Kaiser

Z: you got the crux of the post. In textbooks, we like to start with the assumption of a fair process and compute the chance of an unlikely outcome. But the reverse problem is even more interesting. Usually we observe the outcome and we do not know how it is generated. In this case someone asserts that the process is fair but it is not auditable. So reasonable people can interpret the unlikely outcome either as a chance rare event of a fair process or an average event of an unfair process.

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