F(l)ight Club Leaves United Customers Divided
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United Airlines has been scrambling this past week to attempt to recover from what is turning out to be one of the most hotly talked about events of 2017—the forcible eviction of Dr. David Dao, 69, from his flight from Chicago to Louisville. After the plane was declared to be oversold, an airline representative announced that four volunteers would need to exit the flight to make room for United employees needed in Louisville. When the financial incentives to deboard weren’t enough, volunteers were randomly selected — or so said the airline Chaos ensued as Dr. Dao was dragged off the plane.
Once on the flight, according to United’s own rules, there wasn’t any grounds for them to ask any passenger to leave the flight for overbooking. If the passenger was improperly dressed, or being disruptive in any way, the airline is well within its rights to ask a passenger to get off. Passengers agree to these rules when they purchase a ticket, but in the case of Dr. Dao, by allowing him to board the plane, the airline relinquished the right to force him off, which makes the whole incident a sticky situation.
If I’d been forced off a plane like that, face bashed in and all, only to find out the airline wasn’t allowed to do that, there would be a hell of a court case coming their way. The excessive force used in getting the poor man off the plane was way out of line.
What’s more frustrating is the fundamental disrespect. In the days that followed, reporters uncovered Dr. Dao’s criminal past, that the guy had a run-in with the law a few years back, as if that was justification for beating up a doctor who’s approaching 70 years old.
Others argue that he didn’t have to get involved in the scuffle, he could have gone quietly. And while that probably would have been the reaction of many, there’s still the fact that as a customer he not only had a right to his seat, but also, in my oh-so-radical opinion, to not get beaten up. Once it became clear that he wouldn’t give up his seat, (citing that he had patients to see in Louisville and couldn’t be delayed) United officials should have upped the incentives, or chosen someone else. Of every passenger on the flight, I’m sure one of them could have been coaxed out of their seat for just a few hundred dollars more; chump change compared to what United is currently losing due to bad PR and the future costs of the legal battle that’s brewing.
What’s maybe the strangest part of it all was that just 10 minutes later, the doctor was allowed back on the plane and returned to his seat, obviously rattled. So it’s clear that removing him from the flight wasn’t as important as the airline security made it seem.
I’ll be staying away from United for any future flights — if they can dig themselves out of this mess, that is. Unless they start advertising an authentic Fight Club experience, I’m not sure how they’ll recover.