The hapless passenger might have used bad judgment but United Airlines was horrid in its violent action; we need better, safer police procedures…

April 13, 2017

I’m not a frequent flier but for the past three years I have taken vacations via the airways and plan to take another one this year. I now have a heads up on which airline NOT to use — United Airlines.

And of course I am referring to that horrific video of a passenger being dragged off a plane and bloodied and injured in the process (including a broken nose and loss of two teeth) for failing to give up his seat for United employees. A story said he will be getting some “reconstructive surgery”.

The victim is Dr. David Dao, 69, originally of Vietnam, but living in the U.S. for decades. He was trying to take a flight from Chicago to Louisville in order to get back to his home.

So anyone reading this has likely seen the video that went viral on social media.

And of course there is always more to the story — some of it true and some not and often we never get the full story or never even try.

Sometimes I think videos with their limited-in-time view and tunnel vision are unfair and inaccurate even if they are a live shot of an incident. But in this case I don’t think one needs to know more, that is none of us general observers.

Airlines routinely as a business practice over-book their flights to try to ensure they have a full (and profitable) load and when they wind up short of seats bump passengers off. In this case the airline apparently needed to move some of its crew members and bumped paying passengers off with some type of incentives — free flying miles, whatever.

But the incentive it finally offered Dr. Dao, who refused to leave on his own, was violence.

The airline was way wrong in how it approached the matter. But maybe so was the passenger. I can certainly almost feel his frustration myself. But I kind of see it like that whole Black Lives Matter thing (and I don’t mean to make light of that). On the one hand, you have over-zealous police (or worse I know) and on the other hand, you have someone with the poor judgment to challenge police (airport police in this case). I mean if the victim is in the right, better to play it cool and fight it later. Stay alive and/or uninjured and live to fight another day.

And yet, even if the airline was within its rights it is incredible it would have such poor judgment or such a poor attitude as to commit such an affront to public decency and customer relations.

There just had to be a better way to handle things, even if it would take time. A calm negotiation by airline officials (they would not have needed to call police probably), it would seem, would have worked far better. The reports I read indicate that the airline had upped the ante in inducing others on the flight to give up their seats. So pay this guy more and save face, save the ultra-bad publicity of manhandling and seriously injuring a paying passenger and the falling stock prices (that resulted) and the untold loss of future potential customers who see that the skies of United are not at all friendly.

In one story, an expert on such matters said that among the mistakes the airline made were that it should have bumped the customers out of their seats before they got on the plane and that by calling in the airport police, a third party over which it ceded all control, let the whole thing get out of hand.

I was not there and did not see exactly how it went down even though I watched the video or videos. But one passenger said that while the uniformed police were calm and polite at first another man in plain clothes but with a badge came in and simply told the passenger to get off and then grabbed him — not at all diplomatic.

And then there was a story that contained some hint of character assassination of the victim, that he allegedly had been in trouble with authorities in the past. Well first of all that may not be true and second of all I don’t think it pertains here. As far as I know he was a paying customer and had not done anything to warrant being removed from the flight. Instead the airline decided it was more convenient for it to yank him off so it could get some crew members to where they needed to be.

Apparently this process of bumping passengers for the airline’s convenience is not unusual and most fliers are aware of it. The man would have used better judgment to comply as other passengers did for his own sake.

But the violence inflicted on an airline passenger by United is unforgivable and unacceptable.

The CEO of United initially refused to apologize and in fact lauded his people for acting correctly. But under pressure he relented and offered what some called nothing more than a forced apology after the public outcry.

Yeah, I won’t be flying United.


Maybe in using the Black Lives Matter thing I was conflating one problem with another but I just meant two wrongs don’t make a right. It is generally in one’s best interest to comply with lawful authority and hash the rights and wrongs out later (realizing in racial incidents that has not always been possible). There have been some accusations of race in the United incident because the victim was Asian. But a lawyer he has hired said he did not see a race aspect here.

….And more. I thought about self-censoring myself and deleting the reference to Black Lives Matter because just after posting this I saw another viral video of a white police officer in Sacramento earlier this week accosting a black man for jaywalking. I watched the video, and as a I stated earlier, in videos you usually just see a limited vision in time and space as to what went down. The way it was presented it seemed a cop admonished a black guy for jaywalking and then for some unknown reason pushed the black man to the ground and began beating him. I think, I only think mind you, what basically happened is that the officer seeing the guy jaywalking in traffic saw the danger he posed to himself and others. And then the black guy might have made some comment (but I did not hear or see) and then the officer felt challenged and ordered the man down on the ground. Would you expect to be told to lie down on the ground for jaywalking? It’s too much for me to sort out but I am perplexed why all this is happening. In the meantime, when a cop orders you to do something I think the best judgment at the time is to comply. But we need to straighten all this out. I’ll confuse the issue more. A follow-up story said the victim in the incident I just mentioned had similar encounters with police elsewhere. Still, we need to get this all worked out. So anyway, I left the reference to Black Lives Matter in. I think all of our lives are threatened when lawful authority becomes the adversary to the citizenry as a whole, no matter what our color.