We’ve all now seen the video of 69 year old Dr David Dao being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight, right? How could we not? Normally I’m shocked the first time I see things like this, then each following time less so. With this, however, the shock factor does not diminish on a second or third viewing. I am not usually a person who talks about suing, but this case is the exception.
So what went wrong? I find it ironic that this issue was not flagged up much earlier. We all know airlines oversell their seats, of course they do. It’s not uncommon to be on a plane and look around you to find some empty seats. Hotels do the same thing.
But in the case of United Airlines, surely when everyone checked in at the airport, the airline should have been aware of the problem. Were they expecting four people would mysteriously get lost between Security and the gate? Too long in their cups in the airport pub perhaps?
The airline then got a second chance to address the issue when at the gate, the United Airlines staff scanned all the passenger boarding passes before allowing them on board. Let’s be honest; getting everyone boarded takes ages. If there are steps at the front and rear of the plane, there’s still the pillock who thinks climbing onto the front of the plane when their boarding pass clearly says ‘Row 29’ is not going to speed up this process! Neither for that matter is the businessman who decides folding his suit jacket just so, while everyone stands impatiently waiting to get past him in the aisle, is not going to win any fans.
So having got everyone on board, it seems United Airlines had a “oh yeah” moment. At that point they must have thought their luck was in when their offer of compensation was taken up by three passengers who were willing to depart the plane. Then it all went rather horribly wrong. I don’t know what the criteria for choosing who was going to be the fourth person was, but I can imagine Security going through the aisles deciding. Does anyone naively think they didn’t decide on the person they reckoned would cause them the least trouble? I am hoping the fact that Dr Dao was Taiwanese and older in years, was not their thinking for selecting him, ie. ‘the Taiwanese are quiet, contained people less likely to have an outburst. He will go quietly without causing a fuss.’ The fact he was a doctor makes what happened next even worse.
We saw the videos which just about everyone on the flight was recording from their mobiles. Dr Dao was forcibly manhandled from his seat, hit his head badly on the arm rest, and then dragged by his arms to the back of the plane. His scream on the way had no effect other than to rattle the other passengers. In what world did the security guard think this was ok, or even acceptable behaviour? Dr Dao wasn’t rude, he just said he had patients the next day and was not moving.
I think however, I am just as shocked by United Airlines Chief Executive Oscar Munoz, who tried to justify this shocking behaviour at first. I saw one report which said Mr Munoz believed Dr Dao to be drunk. He wasn’t drunk, he was concussed from being knocked into the arm rest! It’s a wonder he didn’t lose teeth as well when you saw the blood pouring from his mouth! There is only ever one reason for treating someone like that, and that is if you have a terrorist on board. That is the only situation when behaving in this way is acceptable.
After this story went viral, people began to call for a boycott of United Airlines flights and the company shares nose-dived as a result of all of the negative publicity. Interestingly, Mr Munoz was suddenly in a more consolatory frame of mind. Apparently badly damaging a paying customer was no big deal, but when it hit the company’s profit line, then he was willing to get in front of the cameras and offer his apology. After the way the security guard behaved, I think Mr Munoz was lucky the guard did not kill Dr Dao of a brain haemorage. The shock could have even brought on a stroke or heart attack, not unheard of in a man of 69 years old.
So now Dr Dao is in the perfect position to sue United Airlines, and who would be surprised if he did? People successfully sue airlines for far more trivial matters. Dr Dao is apparently still being treated for the assault, but let’s be honest, he will never fly United Airlines again, in fact he may well decide he cannot fly again, such was the trauma he endured. The way he was treated was shameful and now the whole world has seen it. No amount of compensation can erase that brutish behaviour for him. We all know how serious any head injury can be. I just hope Dr Dao recovers.
Negative PR will now wreck United Airlines’s image. With so many airlines also offering the routes they sell, it was crazy for Mr Munoz to not have responded better to his awful situation. The competition is not just from British Airways and Virgin, now smaller carriers like Norwegian Airlines are able to offer low price, good value flights. I think many people are already aware other airlines are cheaper, now this gives them something else to think about when choosing which airline to give their money to.