Demonstrators protest United Airlines at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. (Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images)

United Flight 3411 has caused the airline a major headache and rightfully so.

In case you missed all the fuss, a United passenger was dragged off a flight originating in Chicago so that room could be made for four crew members. Initially, the airline said the flight had been overbooked, but it turns out they wanted to bump some paying customers to be sure the crew made it to service another flight.

The customer-service blunder has cost United quite a bit. It’s stock dropped and lots of folks have said they will boycott the airline in protest.

United passenger threatened with handcuffs to make room for ‘higher-priority’ traveler

But this controversy has a cash silver lining.

You can make money by being involuntarily bumped from a flight or volunteering to give up your seat. Here are some articles with strategies to cash in if you’re flying on a popular route prone to overbooking.

Why Delta Air Lines paid me $11,000 not to fly to Florida this weekend

How to make money on oversold flights

Why you want to get bumped off your next flight (and how to do it)

How to not get bumped from a flight (and how to make the most money if you do)

By the way all the passengers on United Flight 3411 will get full refunds for the cost of their tickets, USA Today reported. (United CEO feels ‘shame,’ passengers will be compensated)

Are you wondering if United will suffer long-term from the treatment of one of its U.S. customers? Will people abandon the airline for its competitors?

“The emotional fury such incidents generate usually is fleeting, lasting a few days or weeks at most,” write Washington Post reporters Tracy Jan, Thomas Heath and Christopher Ingraham. “The reality, they say, is that consumers have long put price, convenience and personal taste ahead of outrage.”

They continue, “The short-lived nature of consumer movements is partly why experts in crisis management often advise executives to placate the public in the short term.”

Color of Money question of the week
So will you boycott United even if it means booking a more expensive flight? Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “United Boycott.”

No phone talk in the air

You think things were bad with the United passenger getting man-handled?

Well, just imagine the fights that were likely to break out if airline passengers were allowed to make calls during flights.

Under a proposal by former Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler, passengers would have been allowed to make calls during cruising altitude.

The space passengers are forced to occupy is already tight and the thought of having to listen to people prattle on during a flight – with no place to escape — would certainly lead to altercations.

“While most consumers may have difficulty getting a cellular signal at 30,000 feet, changes in technology are increasingly enabling the use of cellular networks in the air,” reported The Post’s Brian Fung.

Common sense prevailed.

Ajit Pai, now chairman of the FCC, nixed the proposal saying, “I stand with airline pilots, flight attendants and America’s flying public against the FCC’s ill-conceived 2013 plan to allow people to make cellphone calls on planes. I do not believe that moving forward with this plan is in the public interest. Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet.”

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Live Chat cancelled today
I’m so sorry but I have to cancel the chat today. I’ll be back next week.

In the meantime catch up with last’s week’s chat where we talked about taxes.

Color of Money columns this week
Knowledge isn’t power. The right knowledge is power.

Stay informed about your money. Read and share my columns for this week.
Airlines have the right to bump you, so don’t get carried away

How to protect yourself — and your wallet — from fake news

The Pepsi ad and the cost of obesity
Last week’s corporate controversy involved a now pulled Pepsi ad with Kendall Jenner, which featured a staged protest. Things seem to cool down after Jenner hands a police office a Pepsi.
Last week I asked: What do you think of the Pepsi ad and that it was pulled?

Earl Roethke of Minneapolis simply wrote, “Who watches ads?”

Karen C. Reidelbach of Virginia Beach wrote, “I think it’s interesting that soda alone is demonized as the cause of type 2 diabetes instead of the sugar in the form of simple carbohydrates. Follow the money. Our health isn’t really the top priority.”

“What is troubling is that the soda industry is only one in a long list of industries that specifically target minorities and the poor as prime targets for the sale of sickness and death,” wrote Judith of New Jersey. “Go into any poor and/or minority neighborhood and you will find a disproportionate number of billboards and advertisements for alcohol, cigarettes, and seriously unhealthy food. The message is clear – if you are peddling merchandise proven to lead to obesity, severe health problems and premature death, the best point of sale has a brown face, little money, a second rate education, and limited or no access to healthy alternatives.”

Have a question about your finances? Michelle Singletary has a weekly live chat every Thursday at noon where she discusses financial dilemmas with readers. You can also write to Michelle directly by sending an email to Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more Color of Money columns, go here.