If by now you haven’t seen the horrifying video trending all over social media of the doctor/United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged off a plane, here’s a recap.
According to an April 10 article in the New York Times, United overbooked a Louisville, Ky. bound flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport before making sure there were enough seats for a stand-by crew of another flight leaving the next morning.
Passengers were offered $400 and a night in a hotel if they agreed to change planes and get on another Louisville bound flight the next day. No one agreed, so the offer was bumped to $800. Still no takers, so United officials then informed passengers that seats would be removed from the plane at random, as chosen by a computer.
One passenger, David Dao, got his seat selected, but tried to explain that he was a doctor who had patients to see in Louisville the next morning. He refused to leave, security got called, things escalated and turned violent. Security threw Dao’s head into another seat and Dao was dragged from the plane with a bloody face and a concussion.
The series of videos emerging from the incident are as frightening as they are egregious, and showcase a side of humanity I never want to see again. United later issued the tone-deaf-iest of tone-deaf responses to the incident.
The statement read, “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.”
Never mind the fact that United didn’t have priority boarding for its own employees who were working another flight in the morning, how can they apologize for the overbook situation, but not for that man’s bloodied-up face? After clean up crew had to “tidy-up” the plane – presumably to remove the blood stains and any evidence of malfeasance – Dao tried to re-board the aircraft after security lost him. He got removed from the plane a second time and the flight finally left nearly two hours late. It would have probably been faster to take a bus at that point.
From there, the public relations nightmare unfolded as social media erupted, poor statements were released and United’s stock price collapsed, costing the company over a billion dollars, according to an April 11 article on fortune.com.
I’ve made passing reference to my disdain for United Airlines in a previous “Tirade,” but that was on a personal level. They lost my luggage, gave me the runaround for nearly four months, claimed they found it only to lose it again en route to its final destination and, finally, gave me a check for less than the value of what was lost in the suitcase.
Annoying? Yes. Violent and bloody? No! United, I’ve been relatively nice to you ever since you lost my luggage. In fact, I even flew another one of your planes coming back from a conference not that long ago. But, this time, you’ve gone too far.
Several news agencies including the Courier Journal, reported that Dao’s past was a checkered one, with charges against him including exchanging prescription drugs for sex and illegally obtaining other prescription drugs. He lost his medical license, only to re-obtain it, which shows he is on the mend. Even if he weren’t, the fact remains that no one from security bothered to bring up his past dealings with prescription drugs because they were too busy bashing his skull and breaking his teeth.
Dao was assaulted, United made no effort whatsoever to calm tensions and frankly brought this on themselves because they overbooked the plane. His past had nothing to do with him being assaulted and humiliated.
And to United, I hope Dao gets himself a good lawyer and sues your “friendly skies” for enough money to buy a new Boeing 737 every year for the rest of his life.
Just a quick couple of updates to leave you with about this pretty horrific story: 1) The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that three of the officers involved in the incident have been put on administrative leave. 2) Despite Dao’s origins being Vietnamese, China has been publicly outraged at this incident, and it has strained relations between the company and China, this according to CNBC. 3) This incident will no doubt begin the conversation of the airline practice of overbooking and what regulations there need to be to avoid further incidents. And lastly, 4) According to TMZ, David Dao – doctor, airline folk hero and man with a checkered past – also won nearly $240,000 on the professional poker stage. That has virtually nothing to do with the overall story, but I just thought it was a fun little fact. Certainly more fun than felony drug charges.