In The Year 2017, Thanks To Social Media, United Gets Crucified For Being Right

In The Year 2017, Thanks To Social Media, United Gets Crucified For Being Right

We’ve all seen the video countless times, right? Jackbooted thugs pulling a poor doctor out of his seat on a United flight from Chicago to Louisville, bloodying his face along the way, just because United needed to get some pilots to a flight in the Bluegrass. The resulting social media uproar, much of it presumably conducted by people who only take one flight a year (and that’s on Allegiant or Spirit—final destination: Las Vegas), ended up costing United 4 percent of its company value, or a whopping $770 million. Ouch. Warren Buffett personally lost $52M as a result of the decline. (This is the same market which values Tesla as being worth more than Ford.)

Of course, it’s completely obvious to anybody with half a brain who was in the wrong here—and it’s not United.

To give you some context, let me tell you a little about my history as a commercial airlines passenger. Since 2010, I’ve held Platinum status with Delta every year, and either Gold or Platinum with American. This means I’ve been on at least 120 commercial flights a year for going on eight years. This year, I’m on pace to fly well over 150 times. It’s true that I do not fly United unless absolutely necessary, because I think they’re the worst of the major airlines when it comes to customer service. (Of course, when I started flying, the major airline players included two more names than they do today, with US Airways having merged with American and Continental having been swallowed up by the aforementioned United.)

In fact, the only time I flew United in recent memory was a last-row flight from Houston to Newark a few years back, the final insult of my weekend in which I attempted to race Lemons for the first time. Their flight attendants have a way of making you feel like they’re doing you a favor by pouring you a plastic cup of tepid water, and their hubs are some of my least favorite airports in the US (O’Hare, Newark, Denver, Houston-Bush). They’re almost always inexplicably overpriced on all of my routes. Plus, they only fly to O’Hare and Bush out of my home airport, which is pretty inconvenient for me since much of my travel is to the southeastern US.

But as much as I dislike United, they’re absolutely right to have bumped Dr. David Dao from his seat, and he was absolutely wrong to have resisted. Any airline ticket you buy as a passenger comes with the fine print that you may be asked to give up your seat in an oversold situation. Airlines oversell nearly every single flight because the vast majority of the time, there are a large number of customers who miss connections or change their plans the day of the flight. If they didn’t oversell, they’d end up with a lot of empty seats, and they’d have to charge more per ticket. 99% of the time, overselling a flight harms nobody and reduces the price of tickets for everybody.

But United did what every airline does—they offered a pretty hefty subsidy for anybody willing to take a morning flight, including $800 and a night in a hotel, which is double what they offer most of the time. If I had been on that flight, I would have jumped up so quickly to take that money that I would have hit my head on the overhead luggage compartment. The last three years, I’ve paid to take my kids to Disney World with credits that Delta has given me. In fact, I got $1600 in credits in one day once by continuing to allow myself to get bumped to the next flight—I had originally been scheduled to take the 7:05 flight to Atlanta, but didn’t leave until the 3:30 PM. By my count, that’s $200 an hour, tax-free. Not bad.

Miraculously, it was absolutely critical that everybody on that flight get from Chicago to Louisville—which, by the way, is about a five-hour drive—and nobody took the credit. I would have not only taken the credit, I would have asked for a refund on my flight and I would have walked over to National Car Rental and taken a one-way rental for about $100. I’ve done this many times in the past, as well.

So United had no chance but to bump passengers, because they had to get a flight crew to Louisville. (I suppose that they, too, could have driven five hours, but I am not sure when their flight out of SDF was scheduled to leave.) Imagine how pissed the 150+ people in Louisville would have been to have their flight canceled because they didn’t have a crew, and how much United would have had to compensate them? United had no choice but to handle it the way they did.

No, the jerk here is Dao, who refused to abide by the terms of his contract with the airline and refused to deplane when asked. I know that everybody thinks that airlines are supposed to be perfect and depart and arrive exactly on time with every single flight, but frequent fliers have come to accept that this just isn’t the case. Because he was selected to be bumped by the airline, we can gather that Dr. Dao has no frequent flier status with United—they don’t bump their FFs. So while it’s understandable that he doesn’t necessarily have a great amount of experience with oversold situations, he should have deplaned and then lodged his complaint with United until he received satisfaction.

This sort of thing continues to embolden idiots like these two, who tried to sit in higher priced seats and then refused to move, betting on the fact that United wouldn’t want to risk another PR scandal. They bet wrong. Again, I’ve tried to move into unsold Economy Plus seats in the past and was told I couldn’t. It happens. I stayed in my seat.

Unfortunately, in this day and age, people think that just because they record an incident, that puts them in the right. Dao did not adhere to the terms of his contract, and yet people are making him out to be a victim. That’s wrong.



  1. Yeah, and while the cops were talking to him, it has been reported (not widely, of course) that he was on the phone with someone talking about a lawsuit against United. This was before he was dragged off.

  2. I agree legally right. However bad idea customer service wise. Also bad idea in general they should have kept upping the buyout some one would have bit. Also moving crew should not take priority over a passenger again mostly for PR and customer service reasons. A canceled 150 person flight would go unnoticed forcing someone off a plane will not go unnoticed. So I would say in the grand scheme of things United was a jerk (and continue to not understand PR at all) as well as the passenger. See multiple interviews with Airline heads around the world for confirmation.

    1. It would have gone unnoticed, but compensating 150 people is a lot more costly than compensating 4. Only Dao’s refusal to deplane made it a disaster.

  3. It was United that did not abide by the terms of the contract. The fine print says that passengers may be “denied boarding”. Dao was allowed to board and take his seat. Therefore United didn’t have a contractual right to ask Dao to give up his seat.

    United’s Contract of Carriage is available here:

    Section 25 covers “Denied Boarding” for passengers, including for oversale situations. It states that passengers may be denied boarding – that is, not allowed to board the airplane – under certain conditions and outlines the process and procedures that the airline will follow in those cases. However, because the airline allowed Dao to board, these provisions did not apply to him any longer.

    Note: The “Refusal of Transport” section (21) does not apply as Dao’s situation does not meet any of the stated triggering conditions.

    1. That strikes me as super-fine print that wouldn’t hold up. I don’t think that walking down the jetway means you’re immune from being asked to be bumped.

      1. I do wonder if that super-fine print reading is like the Oxford comma story from last month – since the airline is the author of the contract, it must be interpreted in favor of the customer who did not draft it? And that sort of challenge is why they changed their policy?

        That or they decided that they were no longer interested in engaging in a public relations Pickett’s Charge as in the first two messages from their CEO.

      2. Actually I don’t agree at all. The purpose of contracts is to be explicit. I’ve not seen that wording before, but it seems to be quite clear, and quite in Dao’s favor.

        Now, once Dao started to create a scene, I imagine that suddenly changes things. At that point, I’m sure he’s leaving the plane no matter what, and United and the police were well within their rights from that point forward.

      3. “Fine print” is a non-legal term that I used for purposes of this discussion. Lawyers simply call it “the contract.” And it is certainly not a stretch to read “deny boarding” quite literally in interpreting the contract. “Deny” implies that the action must be proactive on United’s part – it has to take action to prevent the passenger from taking advantage of what he would otherwise be entitled to under the contract. “Boarding” is the critical inflection point that must be “denied.”

        Once a passenger has boarded, United is obligated to “transport” the passenger unless one of the “Refusal of Transport” conditions is met. Arguably your best argument there would be that the passenger’s attitude and failure to comply with directives of the crew posed a “safety” hazard (see section 21(H))and therefore necessitated his removal from the plane. But again, since it was United that instigated the interaction with an improper request/demand that the passenger “de-board” himself, that argument isn’t likely to hold up to scrutiny.

      4. I too, enjoy licking the boots of my betters. I bet you think driving is a “privilege” too.

      5. “Super fine print”? Boarding is a verb. It describes an activity, namely, getting on board, as in stepping onto a vessel. United should have been counting the number of people ‘boarding’ and kept the necessary four seats open. If Dao was to observe the actual fine print on the ticket, United should too.

        The real idiocy is that United could have kept upping the offer until the requisite number of people accepted it. At some point, what economists call the ‘market clearing price’, someone would have accepted the offer, and there’d be a peaceful resolution. By trying to save a few hundred bucks, they managed to lose hundreds of billions. Not everyone has a flexible schedule. This guy is an MD, and had patients to treat the next day. By increasing the offer, they’d have found someone who had less pressing matters in Kentucky, and could afford to take an extra day.

        The business model of airlines today is essentially that of an auction. One goes online, and agrees to a price, based on a range of factors. Untied needed to apply the same logic to ‘buy back’ the seat.

  4. If you want to get into technicalities. Flight wasn’t actually oversold, it was merely full. He wasn’t denied boarding, he had already seated, like everyone else on that plane. They had no contractual basis to refuse him transport. So it looks like United breached first, if anybody breached the contact of carriage, and then sent in hired goons to forcibly remove Dr. Dao. So fcuk United.

    Here’s United contract of carriage, since we’re so sure Dr. Dao is in the wrong, please identify which provision he breached:

    More reading:

    I used to be a long time Continental elite flier (admittedly not always platinum) but I’ve generally given my business to Southwest since the merger, because it’s a really crappy airline to fly these days. Heck even Spirit was ok the few times I flew them, they nickel and dime you for everything but they’re upfront about it and don’t have any pretense of being a “full service” airline.

    1. It’s not “technicalities” nor is it “fine print that won’t hold up” as Bark says, it is literally the contract. I don’t know what the heck kind of pro-corporate nonsense you have to be pimping to be on United’s side here. In a reasonable world there is no excuse for bumping customers to transport employees anyway.

  5. ” United had no choice but to handle it the way they did” ??


    With all due respect, there is almost never a situation where a business has no choice or options. I can think of 10 different ways off the top of my head how this could have been handled without incident.

    Let me be clear that I do not hold Dao blameless, but the spectacle of dragging the man off the plane by his arms was repulsive to watch. To me, the very clear message is that the needs of the service provider come before the needs of the customers and United is willing exercise physical force maintain that policy. The shocking thing to the general public, whether or not they understand it, is that is brutal truth of the matter. Many of us who fly every month (I only fly about 15% the amount that you do), have understood for a long time that in the airline “service” industry, the customer can be taken almost completely for granted. What other options do you really have if the destination and time scale do allow other modes of transportation. This breeds a culture of contempt for customers, when as you noted there is often not any competition considering airports or routes. For many travelers there is usually little choice. Yes, there are different “classes” of customers depending on how often you fly and your tolerance for fare prices. But should there be different classes of customer respect depending on how much money you spend with and airline?

    I enjoy reading about your job and travels and I have noted your preference for Kimpton Hotels. Why do you like Kimpton so much? What would you do if they came knocking at your door and ask you to vacate your room due to the hotel being 100% booked and some Kimpton employees are waiting in the lobby to enjoy your bed and shower?

    United has a policy, or rulebook if you will. When you give an employee a rulebook you are relieving them of the responsibility of exercise judgement. With a rulebook you don’t have to think.

    1. Yeah I think this is the issue I have as well. They crossed a line you don’t cross in customer service. I fly about 20-30 times a year and I have been bumped before but this went a lot further in to no mans land.

    2. It’s not really an apple-to-apples comparison. But, I have been bumped from hotels before, as has everybody who’s traveled for a living has. It’s no big deal—you grab your bags and go to another hotel. It’s arguably less of an inconvenience than being bumped from a flight.

      1. After you’ve checked into the room?

        I must be getting senile with age or maybe just losing patience with with modern norms. What I want most as a customer is not different from any other relationship, I want to feel important and respected. Of all the services and transactions I engage in a year, the airlines are at the very bottom in this area. I feel like a hostage until I am out of the jetway. I much prefer driving to flying if at all possible.

        BTW, Just last week I had to get one of my employees into an overbooked Marriott, and I was successful. Not by being a complete jackass and raving about my member status, etc., but by using some skills learned from my Southern aunts, uncles and grand parents. I thank God I was raised by people who understood how to convey respect and courtesy.

        The message of the United Airline story is huge and it’s bitch slapping people upside the head. It isn’t about legal fine print or if the passenger was cooperative or not, or who was technically in the right or wrong. It is at the very root about the fundamental dynamic of the service provider and customer relationship in the airline industry (and many other service industries). The service provider has nearly all the power in the relationship and this has bred contempt for the customer. It also highlights the fact that airlines are oligopolies and lack the disciplinary force of a real competitive marketplace.

        I can tell you this. If it were me in that seat and I HAD to get home, they would have carried me or someone else off that plane in a body bag. I think United Airline got lucky picking on a weak 69 year old.

      2. Bark, is it *really* that difficult to admit that you’re wrong?

        I’ll state it again: Dr. Dao was already seated. Contractually he’s kept his end of the bargain. Also, unlike you, he’s a doctor and HAD to be home on time for scheduled patient appointments. When he realized that NO other flight would get him home in time he had to remain on the plane. You lack the empathy to see it from his perspective and you’ve weighed in on the subject without knowing all the facts. You’re just leveraging Dao’s brutalization to increase web views of your writing as no other good can come of your viewpoint on this imbroglio.

        Do you feel some perverse satisfaction that this man had teeth knocked out and his nose broken for standing up for his right to get what he’s paid for? Are you the kind of corporate sycophant who’d fire an employee for detaching his payload rather than freezing in the cab of his truck? Just wondering, as otherwise I entirely fail to understand where viewpoints like yours come from.

  6. Thank you. I no longer watch TV because of this crap, and I’m about two weeks away from never opening Internet “news” sites again!

  7. I agree. I do not fly often, but when I do it’s usually for work, and I have to be at my destination when scheduled. Still, I would leave the plane if the airline asks me to do so, and make sure they compensate me well for it.

    In the age of social media, perhaps United should have had the captain make a public announcement that the flight will not depart the gate until the passenger in seat such-and-such deplanes, and then let the mob rule. As it does on social media.

    In the interest of full disclosure no one is asking for, I’ve never flown Allegiant or Spirit. And I’ve only been to Vegas once, against my wishes. I hope never to go back.

  8. I agree with everything you’ve said. United was right. However, they are learning a valuable lesson about *the current year*–namely, that if you are an asshole, everyone will pile one when you get bad press.

  9. Were I to apportion blame, I’d give 10% to United. They could have offered more money. Were they legally required to? Perhaps not. But part of business is managing public perception, and I’m quite certain they would have found volunteers quickly had they continued to increase the offer. Delta achieved a PR coup with their decision to authorize boarding agent to offer up to $10,000.

    20% goes to the police. They did the right thing by removing Dao. From what I can tell they were a bit ham-fisted in their approach to removing him.

    The rest goes to Dao. For not leaving when required. For trying to play the race card when it was totally in applicable. For trying to play the doctor card, as if that gives him some special rights. And then for kicking and screaming all the way down the aisle.

  10. Except in the age of video, any show of force can be used against you. Hence the huge loss in United’s value. I know what your saying but honestly I remember sitting in customer service meetings at the Fortune 100 where I used to work where they talked about exactly this sort of thing where long term costs are higher then short term costs. In fact as I recall they used an example of an airline damaging a guitar where the owner of the guitar had a video of the bag being dropped on the tarmac. The video got play on I believe a myspace link at the time which ended up costing the airline big in the public opinion arena, when they denied the claim.

  11. To all the whiners – it was the Chicago security not United that moved him. He was selected at random and refused to move. He should have been forcibly removed. It is reported he then ran back onto the plane. He deserved this
    His flailing us what caused the injuries.

    1. I’ll bet you 10k at 1:1 odds that he wasn’t selected ‘at random’. Let me know if you want to take up this bet.

  12. “If they didn’t oversell, they’d end up with a lot of empty seats, and they’d have to charge more per ticket. 99% of the time, overselling a flight harms nobody and reduces the price of tickets for everybody.”

    Only in a world where the TSA ensured that people were using a ticket assigned to them. If there were a secondary market for airline tickets (i.e like a concert or a sporting event), airlines could sell the plane to capacity and get the value of a full plane ( through ticket prices in the primary market)/

    Besides, the plane wasn’t oversold. It was sold to capacity and then United decided they wanted to put 4 employees on the plane. This situation would play out the same way if United didn’t overbook and was confronted with a full plane and employees who needed to be on it.

    “But United did what every airline does—they offered a pretty hefty subsidy for anybody willing to take a morning flight, including $800 and a night in a hotel, which is double what they offer most of the time”

    Noted but it apparently wasn’t enough. I bid $1000 on a Porsche 911 GT3 on Ebay yesterday (which is nearly doubly my usual bid of $500). But miraculously the Porsche dealer didn’t bite. It doesn’t matter how much you offer to the extent that all the offers are ‘not enough’.

    If the gate agent knew how to operate an auction and were authorized to do so, no one would wouldn’t have had to forcibly remove any passenger. Say what you want about the price but it wasn’t ‘market clearing’. There’s apparently a video of a customer offering to deplane for $1600 and the manager scoffs at them. Now, a $1600 check is not a fun thing to write but I’m sure it’d be preferable to this outcome.

    “No, the jerk here is Dao, who refused to abide by the terms of his contract with the airline and refused to deplane when asked.”

    But his contract doesn’t say he has to give up a seat he’s sitting in to someone United thinks is more important – and I’m not one to talk about regulating corporations but airlines are critical enough and consolidated enough that I’d nominate them as candidates for more consumer protection rules.

    Beyond that, this is a failure of the system. It shouldn’t be cheaper for United to call in rule/law enforcement than for them to deal with this themselves. And police officers are legally compelled to do very few things – why didn’t any one of them say “no, you deal with it.” ?

    But maybe we won’t see eye to eye on this. I don’t fly, I don’t travel, and I think I’ve been on 4 flights in the last decade (NWA and Delta) – three of which were less than discretionary and one of which was for work. I don’t see the airlines from the inside, I just see a system that sucks so much that I’d be loathe to put any money into it.

    Maybe you’re right, maybe Dao and any other passenger should just comply with airlines’ orders and adjudicate the orders afterward.

    But we both know, he was going to get off the plane one way or another the moment that United called the authorities.
    And frankly, if I were in the same situation and I saw the incompetence of the United staff, I’d roll the dice that they invite something dumb and forceful. You get a much more sympathetic jury when a doctor testifies about your injuries than not and create much more liability when you can document harm.

    Just as it’s a feature (not a bug) that’s it’s cheaper to call the police than resolve it by yourself, it’s a feature that getting beat up over something inevitable is more lucrative than avoiding the butt kicking.

  13. When United Airlines beats my ass, I’m gonna buy a Chiron and an Aventador S with the lawsuit money.

  14. $800 yielded 3 volunteers, so they should have bid higher to get one more.

    Re “deny boarding”, the door had not yet closed, so the flight had not truly commenced.

    Re Dr. Dao: he had his license suspended / revoked for prescription hanky panky as well as hiring a male patient, then sexually harassing him & offering to addict him to prescription drugs.

    Re security: they possibly could have removed him less sloppily.

    Plenty of blame to go around in this case.

    1. Unless you are suggesting that United conducted a full background check on every passenger on board the airplane and then selected Dao because he was the most unsavory, then his personal details are completely irrelevant to the story here. This could happen to anyone. Which is another way of saying: United could do this to you without thinking twice.

    2. Dr. Dao’s past has zero relevance here. It’s not in any way germane. I don’t understand this new American pastime of victim-shaming …

      Let me help you understand, give you a lil’ kick in your empathy-pants. Picture this:

      Nitpicker (you) a law-abiding and tax-paying citizen fcuk’ed up in his youth, perhaps busted shoplifting or got a camp counselor pregnant or knocked out a kid with Down’s on a dare … whatever. Then, years later a cop mistakenly arrests & beats you because you look like the unabomber or fit the description of a pederast or etc. Knowing you’re innocent, how would you feel about your past now being used to justify the cop’s actions? Are you still all for it? If so please tell me why so I can better understand your mentality because as it stands, I completely don’t.

    3. The story claiming Dr Dao had his license suspended, hanky panky prescriptions, sexual harassment have long been proven to be a case of mistaken identity and retracted with apology. The Dr Dao in question (the United passenger) is a licensed and practicing medical doctor in good standing.

    4. “Crucified Man Had Prior Run-In With Authorities”

      Born (possibly out of wedlock?) in a stable, this jobless thirty-something of Middle Eastern origin had had previous run-ins with local authorities for disturbing the peace, and had become increasingly associated with the members of a fringe religious group. He spent the majority of his time in the company of sex workers and criminals.

      He had had prior run-ins with local authorities — most notably, an incident of vandalism in a community center when he wrecked the tables of several licensed money-lenders and bird-sellers. He had used violent language, too, claiming that he could destroy a gathering place and rebuild it.

  15. I’m still on Dao’s side.

    I don’t care about the “business realities” of the airline industry needing to forcibly bump people from the plane any more than I care about the “business realities” of an ag company needing to hire busloads of undocumented workers or the “business realities” of an electronics manufacturer needing to make all their sh*t in China.

  16. So many wrong ‘facts’ in this story.

    I’ll let an ‘expert’ explain it too you:

    But to summarize, and with some of my comments.

    1) he wasn’t denied boarding. He was given a seat, and allowed to board the plane, and sit in the seat.
    2) he and his passengers weren’t offered 800 dollars. It was an 800 dollar voucher for united.
    Vouchers expire, have various other rules favoring the airline, etc etc. In other words no where near the cash value.
    3) Dao didn’t create the problem united did. They needed to get 4 people somewhere last minute, with zero plans to do so. They let everyone board the plane. The did not increase their offers to find ‘volunteers’. They didn’t have a crew in place.

    Dao is guilty of standing up for himself and not being a push over. He lost in the fact that he got injured. Hopefully United losses more, and maybe starts treating its customers with respect, instead of shitting on them.

  17. Sounds to me – from all I’ve heard – that Dao had every chance to get off the plane and grieve his case later on…

    …but instead he chose to DISOBEY AUTHORITIES and battle it out with the cops.

    I have been having a great time posting memes on my Facebook about him getting his ass kicked and I didn’t really come to a final realization till just now.

    People need to realize…stop trying to fight the cops.

    Take your case to court.

    If you fight the cops, their job is to neutralize you – up to and including killing you if necessary.

    He could have just as easily got off, grieved his case, sued and not ended up munching carpet.

    It’s Dao’s fault.

    I hope his lawsuit falls through the floor and he doesn’t get a single dime.

    Shred his lawsuit in front of him.

    1. You have a much more compelling case against the cops if they batter/injure you. Otherwise you will be laughed out of court.

    2. If your point is that fighting the cops will get you beat up, that’s true, but effectively irrelevant.

      Yeah, If he had just gotten up, he wouldn’t have gotten his ass kicked. It would have simply sucked for him, and any lost wages or inconvenience would likely not be worth a lawsuit; it would just be a shitty day.

      The outsized, punk-ass reaction from an agent of the state (who should not have been there in the first place, because the call was to remove a passenger who, in hindsight, was clearly and unequivocally within his contractual right to stay put,) is the primary reason he has a reason to sue. So I’m not sure why any of you think he should have basically kowtowed and given up this payday to gracefully facilitate Delta’s mishandling of the situation.

    3. And in what legal capacity did the Authorities have? Simply put, this is not as simple as removing someone who is protesting from private property, or bouncing someone unruly out of a bar. IF the man had left on his own and still protested verbally when the authorities had shown up and tried to sue, he probably wouldn’t have gotten a dime. Now he at least has a chance.

      While I understand the entire business aspect of all this, and I understand that it took United to get the Police involved, fundamentally, the system is broken in such a way that businesses can just be “Indian Givers”. For most businesses, this can’t happen because they’d lose customers. Monopolies, utilities, and transportation are whole other thing. They can be “Indian Gives” all day long and not bat an eye because there is zero consumer protection.

    4. Thanks BTSR. Let’s all take this to heart: don’t stand up for what’s right because the cops will give you a beatdown and BTSR will spend the day posting memes about you on Faceballs. This is also what he would’ve told MLK in Selma or Rosa Parks: just don’t do it. File a lawsuit, yo. We can all learn so much from him.

  18. Bark, This man was 69 years old. He was dragged by his arms. After being hit in the face (based on blood streaming from his face). This is how people are treated in China or Saudi Arabia. We are better than that. WE DON’T NEED TO TREAT OUR FATHERS AND MOTHERS LIKE THEY STOLE SOMETHING.

    I am old enough to have flown Pan Am and TWA. And Delta when Delta was a southeastern air line worthy of its name pre-bankruptcy and merger with Western. Today’s airlines are nothing compared to their proud past. Perhaps it is because of price competition. Service has deteriorated. Now we have to check ourselves in. Now we have to pay extra for luggage. Many times they don’t even assign us seats. Yet we are ok with all of that.

    I find it illuminating on the same site where your brother talks about quality of service and American made products, you defend treatment of customers in a third world way by an American airline. I guess it is a race to the bottom. When you compare United to Spirit. But somewhere, somehow, a part of me hurts. I expected more of a Baruth than guerrilla third world treatment of a customer than what United did. I expected class.

    1. You don’t HAVE to do any of that. You can pay a full-fare, first class seat, and let them do all of it for you. The consumer has dictated that he/she expects to be given a flight from ORD to MCO for less than the cost of the regular fuel it would cost you to drive yourself. Of course there are going to be concessions.

      The world you grew up in doesn’t exist anymore. In real world dollars, it costs about 1/10 to fly what it used to in your Pan Am glory days. And yet you expect a steak dinner with real silverware? Get real.

      “Class” is not refusing to deplane and struggling with law enforcement.

      1. Bark, I don’t want dinners served on china with silverware. Where I think there is room for a full service airline to do, is not charge for extra bags, provide assign seating to everyone, make it such that when/if you have to call their reservation number it is not a two hour wait (this past weekend it happened to me with Delta – and yes I know they had some weather related delays system wide, but two hours in spring?), checkin via real people (in addition to machines). And not overselling.

        Too often we have succumbed to fallacy of company profits and revenues driving everything. Yet people value service when they see it and feel it. I live in Atlanta. There are two grocery chains that dominate. Kroger and Publix. Kroger is a good solid grocery chain, but their service has always been and continues to be not in the same class as their competitor. Kroger has self-serv checkin, and at most 2-3 cash registers operated by people are open out of 10-12 cash registers. Compare that to Publix, their main competitor in Atlanta market. A company that is normally one of highest service rated in the country. Every time I get in a line if there are two people ahead of me they jump and open an additional service lane. When I go to Deli and buy turkey I don’t like to buy the last 1/3 pound of a opened turkey package. Kroger people always give me a hard time and don’t want to open a new one. Publix doesn’t argue. They jump on it. Not only that, they don’t hire all foreign staff (many Krogers here do), they have a cross section of people that speak good and are well trained. Kroger people change often. Publix staff remains the same (for most part).

        Service matters. Profits are not just generated by penny pinching. More revenue and higher profits can be generated by good service. Something many American companies have forgotten. I can tell you tales about how service for place I work at has deteriorated as we outsource, but a story for another day. The airline business in America is ripe for someone to go old school and then you see how people (business people such as yourself in particular) will flock to it in a hurry.

  19. The flight was not oversold. United Airlines wanted a customer with a confirmed reserved space who had already boarded the plane to give up that seat for one of their employees, i.e. someone without a confirmed reserved space.

    Even if the flight had been overbooked, making someone with a confirmed reserved space give up that seat for an unconfirmed passenger appears to violate federal law (14 CFR 250.2a).

    They also violated their own Contract of Carriage.

    Dr. Dao reportedly had a concussion and lost a couple of teeth. With the public’s awareness about concussions raised by sports injuries, I’m sure his lawyer will present that to a jury as a permanent closed head injury. The loss of his two front teeth is a permanently disfiguring injury.

    United is so, so screwed. The only question I have is the over/under on how much United has already offered as a settlement.

  20. I learned a valuable lesson when I was 16 and first got my driver’s license: NEVER argue with a cop. Never. You will get your ass beaten. If the doctor came from occupied, pre-war Vietnam, then he would know this already (except that, in a Third World country, the cops would put a bullet in your head, instead of beating you down). My take on it: the doctor was thinking, “Screw these guys! I am a DOCTOR! I don’t have to follow the same rules as the peasants! I am above the rules!” I say this, because my dad was a doctor, and my dad had the same, condescending attitude that I assume Dr Dao most likely carries about with him. Oh, and Dr Dao claims being kicked off the plane was more harrowing than his experiences in Nam: hard to believe, unless he spent the whole war in a Saigon brothel.

    1. So you dislike doctors for feeling as though they should get special rules/consideration but you’re okay with police using their special powers to beat up people who are less than compliant and respectful of special police privileges?

        1. If Dr. Dao is in private practice, then the money he stood to lose by cancelling a morning’s (or more likely a day’s) worth of appointments is a lot more than a crappy $800 flight voucher.

          1. Drama Queen. Louisville is a five hour drive from Chicago. He wouldn’t have missed a thing.

          2. Drama queen? That drive wouldn’t be daunting to either of us, but it might be to a 69 year old guy. (You might not want an exhausted doc doing a procedure on your kid, either, but that’s another conversation.)

            As others have pointed out, United would have been within their rights not to board Dr. Dao. Once he was seated in the aircraft, it was a different story.

        2. The LEOs were told by the United crew leader that Dr Dao was a disruptive passenger, was disobeying rules, and needed to be forcefully removed.

          The LEOs are responsible to A) confirm that Dr Dao is and was a disruptive passenger. All evidence points to the contrary – that he was respectful but firm in his refusal to de-plane. He was not impaired, he was not out of control, and this is all backed by cell phone video leading up to the incident. And B) confirm that Dr Dao was disobeying the rules/law. A close gander at the “fine print”, as has been discussed above, shows that it is United that violated their own terms of carriage.

          At that point, the LEOs walk away. Let me restate that. Walk. Away. “Sorry, we can’t help you. This passenger is neither disruptive nor breaking any United or airport rules nor is he breaking the law. Ball is in your court now, United crew leader. We’re gonna go back inside and get some coffee.”

          In the real world, this happens all the time. Cops show up on scene after being sent by dispatch. Property/business owner makes claims against a customer/tenant. LEOs interview bystanders, witnesses, talk to both parties and closely observe the accused. If everything comes back/turns out kosher, the LEOs walk away and leave it to the property/business owner to sort out his/her own affairs.

          The Chicago Airport cops did not interview witnesses (in fact, many were trying to explain to the police what was going on and the police flat-out ignored Dr Dao’s fellow passengers), did not consult the rules/law, and went full hands-on with a legally seated, non-disruptive, elderly, physician. They are completely at fault, and were recorded on multiple cellphones. Everything one is taught in the academy and during the hiring probation period and reiterated during ongoing career training proves this out. These particular cops do indeed come off as corporate paid goons, Hank. And the city of Chicago is going to shell out a large settlement because of their actions.

  21. Sorry, Bark. In this case your information is wrong.

    – The flight was not oversold.
    – If it had been, United is allowed to deny boarding for any reason. This does NOT apply to boarded passengers.
    – United’s old policies say flight crews can only bump passengers on unboarded aircraft.
    – there was another flight still scheduled to leave.

    The Inited staff on the ground did not follow their own policy. This has been reiterated to them.

    A newspaper like Forbes might be a little left of your politics, but here’s a good summary:

    1. +1

      I would add that the personnel at United still had headroom to offer larger voucher’s to get that last seat on the plane that they needed. Unfortunately, they didn’t increase their offer from $800 and instead went a different route.

  22. There’s a simple solution to this problem – when purchasing a ticket, have each passenger decide on a price they will accept for being bumped. The airline then knows the cost of bumping a passenger and can plan accordingly. If everyone wants $1,000,000, then don’t overbook! If someone will deplane for $50, go ahead and overbook! If the airline industry is fearful of people gaming the system, put an upper limit of perhaps $10,000 on the amount.

    Alternatively, a blind reverse auction could be conducted on the plane as needed, but I suspect that would take too much time.

  23. While United sucks in this case… And is not right neither is this guy…

    They probably can kick a passenger off for almost any reason, comes in handy when someone is intoxicated or harassing other passengers. He initially, along with the three others selected, agreed to take the compensation and get re-booked, but sat back down and threw a tantrum. The cabin crew, carrying out an an order from someone above them may have worked to allow him to stay and find someone else to take the offer if he had not flipped out.

    On the other hand. The Chicago Airport officers should have had the skills and training to be able to remove the man without using excessive force.

  24. My wife works for the USPS and deals with belligerent customers every day. But in the interest of customer service she has to just smile and take the abuse because, no matter how wrong they actually are, the customer is always right. And it’s pretty much the same in every other service industry.

    But the airlines don’t abide by this tenet because they know they don’t have to. They have the TSA and Homeland Security to hide behind. All they have to do is claim a passenger has done something they don’t like and, under the auspices of security or safety, they get their way enforced by the government. Most people know all this and are essentially terrified into submission. This gives the airlines carte blanche to act like arrogant, unaccountable jerks and to treat customers like a burden rather than the reason for their very existence. The customer is NEVER right, regardless of whether they actually are or not.

    I believe United acted in an entirely typical manner in this case and deserves every bit of the scorn and ridicule they’ve been subjected to. Dao probably should have complied with the demand to leave but it never should have gotten to that point in the first place.

  25. When the cost of being “right” is $770 million and counting, you’re wrong. Are you familiar with the term Pyrrhic victory?

    I also find United to be by far the Worst of the big 3. Delta, American, United in that order, and American is terrible so that doesn’t say much about United…The only thing worse is flying one of the budget airlines, which aren’t all that bad, but made worse by the trash customer base, doing their generally trashy things, like leaving garbage all over the plane, bringing massively oversized bags and taking up all the overhead big space, not knowing how to board, or in some instances, even trying to steal my seat!

    I would love for overhead bins to be just big enough to fit the size limit, and to be ASSIGNED to a seat. Of course, I would also love for boarding to be done by window seat, middle seat, isle seat, too, but that’s not happening anytime soon…

    Oh, and I think I’m banned from TTAC for telling yet another one of the so-called B&B a-holes who insulted me to suck my cock…good riddance.

  26. I don’t fly very much (because I hate confined spaces and I’d just rather drive given the option) but even I know that getting bumped is a possibility.

    I suppose I understand that a 69-year-old doctor might have patients to see, but doctors cancel appointments all the time. It’s a thing that happens. As far as I know, these were just routine appointments. If he was performing life saving surgery the next day, maybe he should have a left a day earlier. I don’t know, that’s just me. I usually anticipate the unexpected with travel.

    The thing is that there had to be ample build up to this event. The passengers were notified multiple times that there was a situation that might involving bumping someone. I’m sure that they were informed multiple times about the terms of their contract. It’s not like they just dragged Dao off without any peremptory warnings.

    None of the employees (flight attendants, cops, gate agents) wanted to do this. None of them are paid enough to make this kind of drama worthwhile. They had to be dreading it, and they wouldn’t have dragged him off the plane unless they absolutely thought that was their only option.

    Dao could have just walked off the plane cooperatively and raised a ruckus about it on social media anyway and probably gotten some kind of extra compensation from the airline if he’d been persistent enough. He pretty much let himself get dragged off that airplane. The man was telling people to “just kill me” so I suspect he had other issues too.

  27. Ҥ 121.580 Prohibition on interference with crewmembers.
    No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated under this part.”

    When the crew says leave the plane, you leave the plane. Contract notwithstanding, you don’t get to be on the plane just because you got ON the plane. You can duke it out with the airline on a business level later. It doesn’t matter what their reasons are; IT’S THEIR FUCKING AIRPLANE.

    Got it?

    1. Now your in the legally grey area. By buying a ticket you agreed to their contract terms and they agreed to fly you somewhere. In this case the contract seems to imply that once boarded you were good to fly. Now yelling or swearing at the employee sure that may get you kicked off. But the initial disagreement would not, it’s them not living up to their stated contract.

      Basically at some point you cross a line and they can kick you off. But not giving up your seat once boarded would not seem to fall into this classification, unless your an ass about it.

    2. A) Their duty is not to deplane a legally seated, boarded customer,
      B) Unless the plane is on fire, or unable to fly for mechanical reasons, or the weather forecast is so bad the plane will not be allowed to take off for a very long period of time.
      C) And no, it is not their plane. It’s the property of the corporation, which the crew members are paid to represent, and are expected to use good judgment and restraint,
      D) Not cause their employer to lose millions in plummeting stock prices, erode already thin consumer goodwill toward the brand, and put the United Airlines CEO in the center of a PR shitstorm.

      I know all the above is lost on the vast majority of employees in this 14A, Citizens United world we now find ourselves in, but every now and then, it’s up to employees at all levels to appreciate the optics rather than the rulebook when it comes to how they treat customers or interact with the public. I get that working in airline service sucks worse than the average job, and comes with loads of consumer callousness, ignorance and abuse. However, all of this could have been averted for several hundred dollars more in compensation and a free steak dinner. DirtRoads, I don’t know if you work in corporate management, but if you do, I hope you come around and instill this sentiment within your team: “Never pass up the opportunity to be a hero for the company. I’ll never question your judgment when your goal is to put the customer first.”

      You know, an employee going out of their way and showing extra care and kindness also makes the news sometimes, generating goodwill toward the brand and an opportunity for the PR team (and CEO) to positively leverage. Oh, what Oscar Munoz would give to have the problem of employee over-generosity rather than the one he’s facing today.

  28. Bark, now that all the facts are in and you understand Dr. Dao:

    * had every legal contractural right to remain in his seat once seated and …
    * that he wasn’t a disruptive passenger and …
    * the character assassination he experienced was not germane …
    * there were no other flights that would get him (a doctor) home in time for his appointments …

    Are you willing to do that thing staunch conservatives NEVER do: admit you were wrong? When I drop the ball or fundamentally misunderstand something I’m willing to admit it. I’ve noticed that most conservatives believe admitting fault = being weak. To me, that in and of itself is weakness personified.

    So how about it? Has your viewpoint evolved with the facts – or are your opinions immediately scribed into stone upon their initial creation?

    1. Honestly, I haven’t kept up with the story. If what you say is true, I think there’s a case to be made for his behavior. I still wouldn’t have done what he did and refused to get off the plane, but I can see why he did.

      1. Noted. I’m a hell-raiser as I don’t ever take it lying down, a true Shawshank Redemption brawl will happen before I get jolly-roger’ed. Those nay-sayers here whining “he should’ve gotten off … and sued” must think that our legal system is a level playing field.

        Fun fact: it isn’t!

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