By Michael Battista
By now, most of the world has heard about last week’s United Airlines Flight 3411 fiasco in which a passenger was forcibly removed from his seat by Chicago Department of Aviation security officers because the flight was overbooked.
After no passengers volunteered to leave their seat in exchange for $800 in vouchers, including one for a hotel room, the plane’s crew then turned to a computer, which randomly selected four passengers using a variety of factors.
Dr. David Dao, who’s from Elizabethtown, Ky., refused to give up his seat after being picked. His removal by extreme force, including having his head slammed into an armrest, was captured on video by multiple passengers and went viral over the next few days.
United Airlines is now going through one of the biggest public relations disasters I’ve ever seen an air travel company go through. Stock prices are falling, backlashes are breaking out online and more stories critical of the airline are all fueling this fire.
Companies need to learn that passengers aren’t just names filling up seats or buying products, they are actual people.
“For a long time, airlines, United in particular, have bullied us,” said Thomas A. Demetrio, Dao’s lawyer during a press conference on April 13. “Are we going to just continue to be treated like cattle?”
No video evidence shows Dao resisting or being violent with the officers, so I can’t fathom a single reason why the amount of force used on him was applied. Demetrio also claimed his client suffered a “serious broken nose, injury to the sinuses,” a concussion and may require reconstructive surgery.
It’s fairly obvious Dao sustained a head injury, not only from the blood pouring from his face and splattered on the plane, but the fact that he ran back onto the flight somehow and began yelling “I need to go home” before collapsing.
Worse than that is the actual disregard for Dao that came from within the company itself in the incident’s aftermath. United’s CEO Oscar Munoz sent an email out to employees a day after the incident, claiming his staff “followed established procedures” and Dao was being “disruptive and belligerent,” according to CNBC.
In a way, I can respect Munoz standing up for his employees. Too many times I have seen employers throw employees under the bus for either doing their job or for being in a lose-lose situation. To be fair, no United employee did anything wrong during the altercation — it was police that escalated the situation and injured Dao.
But claiming Dao was being belligerent for not wanting to give up his seat is incredibly dumb. The video shows Dao trying to explain that as a doctor, he needed to get back to Louisville.
While no one deserves to be treated the way Dao was, it is still important to realize that Dao wasn’t fully in the right. An airline company has the authority to pull passengers from their plane, and Dao really should have followed instructions.
Airlines overbook flights because it’s smart and cost effective. It allows planes to factor out passengers who miss flights for whatever reason and keep planes full. A YouTube video from Wendover Productions explains in more detail why airlines overbook.
It and also says Chicago O’Hare is one of United Airline’s hubs, meaning flight connections happen there regularly.
“A large percentage of the passengers taking a flight from Chicago connect from another flight and, since one-quarter of U.S. domestic flights arrive late, many people miss connections,” the video explains.
The flight in question needed to make room for employees traveling to Louisville in order to work a flight out of that area. United should put their employees over customers if they want smooth service. A passenger usually can handle being delayed and find another flight, while an employee needs to be on the flight they are scheduled to work.
So, in the end, both sides are wrong, but United and the Chicago officers are the one who are expected to be more professional. They are expected to respect and care for the people who do business with them everyday.
United also could have made an exception to their computer’s choice, or possibly booked him on another flight with another company in order to get him home or to work quicker, as well. If he truly did have to leave and wasn’t obeying the company’s orders, then yes, he can be forced off.
Still, any force that gives a man that many injuries without any obvious resistance is going way too far, and ample punishment in the form of a lawsuit should be taken up.
Students share opinions around campus
“Did United handle the overbooking situation fairly?”
“The video looked terrible, but the worst thing was overbooking the plane in the first place.”
“No, he rightfully had a spot on the plane. There could’ve been a less forceful way to go about it.”