I’m Sorry: My Initial Reaction To The United Situation Was Wrong

Filed Under: United

By now we’ve all seen the horrible footage of a man being dragged off a United flight while bleeding, because the airline decided that four employees needed to be on the flight (I’d argue he was refused transport rather than denied boarding, given that he had already boarded). We’ve seen the embarrassing way that United’s CEO responded to the situation, though he has since changed his tune on that (too little, too late). We’ve seen United’s market cap be “re-accommodated” by about a billion dollars as well.

I was wrong about this situation initially, and am sorry

While I know most people are probably over the story at this point, I want to publicly apologize for something. I owe the guy involved in this situation an apology. I doubt he’ll ever read it, but I initially reacted to the situation incorrectly. I’ve become so desensitized to seeing people treated poorly by police and airline staff, and I dismissed the situation at first, which was wrong of me.

My perspective on the situation began to change very quickly, but that doesn’t excuse how dismissive I was at first. We all evolve over time, and I’m no different.

When I first wrote about this story yesterday, I sort of suggested that this guy did it to himself. That was wrong of me. Perhaps more accurately, I suspected the inevitable conclusion would be that he’d be dragged off the plane by the police. While that’s basically what happened, there’s no way this kind of behavior should be excused.

Yes, it’s true that he wouldn’t have been injured if he voluntarily got off the plane. But that’s a horrible point to make. He also wouldn’t have been hurt if United were competent, or if the police weren’t unnecessarily brutal. That’s the core of the issue here, and that’s why this story is getting so much traction — it’s largely reflective of the general state of our country.

Why was I so quick to jump to conclusions? Probably for two reasons:

  • We see a lot of people being removed from planes nowadays, to the point that we’re desensitized to it
  • Since 9/11, some (a small minority, in the grand scheme of things) airline employees are on such power trips to the point that we’ve become accustomed to them calling the police if someone doesn’t listen (it’s one thing to do that in a case where someone poses a threat to a flight, but that’s often not the case)

So I got this wrong, and I apologize to the guy for my initial reaction. I’ve become so desensitized to police involvement on planes that my reaction was disconnected from the reality of the situation, which was a company calling the cops on their customer, and then him being brutally removed from the plane.

There’s a lot of blame to go around here

Let me say that there’s a lot of blame to go around here. I think the blame falls roughly equally on the shoulders of United and the police, but in very different ways:

  • It’s beyond pathetic that United wasn’t capable of fixing this situation without getting the police involved; this was a unique situation (four employees showed up after the plane was boarded, allegedly), so the fact that they couldn’t get passengers to volunteer or handle this situation without calling the cops reflects the sad state of affairs at the airline, and perhaps the airline industry as a whole. The worst part? Their response after the fact only made things worse, and shows that this mindset isn’t just limited to a few employees.
  • The way the police removed this passenger from the plane was despicable and unnecessary. Too bad Kendall Jenner wasn’t there to give them the cops a Pepsi — this whole thing could have been avoided. At the same time, this would have never happened if United just handled the situation competently to begin with.

While I won’t go so far as to blame the victim in this situation, I think it’s only fair to say that if he had complied with instructions from United employees and the police, he might not have sustained those injuries. But if he had complied then he wouldn’t have caused this global outrage, which is fantastic, as it shines the spotlight on the sad state of affairs of airlines in the US, and for once, might actually be a catalyst for change.

I’m happy all of this happened

What has happened here is great. No, not the incident itself, which is sad to watch, but rather the impact this will have. Call me naive, but I truly think things will change after this. At least it will get the needle moving in the right direction. This is the most widely exposed incident like this that we’ve ever seen. And this is the second massive incident that United has had in two weeks.

Will this outrage actually cause fewer bookings on United? I don’t know, I sort of doubt it. However, you can bet United’s management team is sweating after how their stock performed today.

Why do I think this might actually cause change?

  • Airline employees might think twice before calling the cops on customers, given that so many people have smartphones nowadays, and therefore the ability to record things
  • Airlines might actually look at their customer unfriendly policies and realize that it’s time to change them
  • Both the airline management and frontline employees are likely to realize that calling the cops can end very poorly for them, and will take steps to avoid this in the future
  • This is very likely to cause airport police departments to examine how they deal with “problem” passengers

United has learned a massive lesson from this. Is there a lot of social media hype, noise, etc.? Absolutely. But in this case I truly think it’ll be a catalyst for positive change.

Again, above all else, I apologize for my initial response to the situation.

This has been a quickly-moving story with myriad updates. The full coverage of the United incident from the One Mile at a Time team is as follows:

Crazy Video: Passenger Forcibly Dragged Off United Flight
What United Really Screwed Up With Their Latest Viral Incident
The Horrible Video I Hadn’t Seen Of The Guy Being Dragged Off A United Flight...
Why United’s Incident Is A Much Bigger Deal Than You May Think
Pathetic: United’s CEO Makes The Denied Boarding Fiasco Even Worse
What Are Your Rights If You Get Bumped From A Flight?
United’s Removal Of Passengers May Not Have Been Legal
The Root Cause Of United’s Denied Boarding Fiasco
Wow: Emirates Throws Major (But Fair) Shade At United In New Video
FINALLY: United’s CEO Issues A Real Apology For What Happened
I’m Sorry: My Initial Reaction To The United Situation Was Wrong
Fascinating: Good Morning America Interviews United’s CEO
United Is Refunding The Fares Of All Passengers On Flight 3411
  1. Maybe you shouldn’t write an article every hour about the latest incidents until you have time to see the whole picture?
    Just a thought.

  2. It takes a great person to recognize his strengths and his weaknesses. Well done, Ben.

    If only United was a fraction as sincere.

  3. I don’t want to be a cynic about this, but both you and Gary make ~ 10 posts each about this subject since Sunday, going back and forth, inciting large number of comments each time. Another benefit of this whole fiasco is that you guys made a ton of ad revenue from the excessive amount of post about this subject.

    As a blogger you of course have a right to make money and generating high traffic is to your favor, but the excessive amount of noise to signal ratio in these posts really drags down the quality of your blog. IMHO Gary already crossed the line with the number of inane, low quality posts he makes daily. You might not want to fall into that trap as well, sacrificing long term quality over short term financial gain. As a long time reader I’d hate to see it come to that.

  4. I think Munoz’s latest 3/4 apology might be the most we will get out of the situation unless the story continues to have legs and roils the stock price. The bigger question will be if any real change comes of this from an internal management issue. This was more than an “oversold” situation because it wasn’t an “oversold” situation but rather a situation where United management felt they needed to place some crew on a place that was already full. United management actively and directly caused this situation by choosing to make room on this plane for crew (however necessary they might have perceived it to be operationally) it was not life or death. No safety concerns were involved and no one had an emergency. United chose to escalate this situation to the point where a passenger, who had every right and expectation to be there where they were seated, reacted in a way that caused this outcome. Regardless of all of the legal speak that has been bandied about in the comments, the fact remains that there was no compelling reason why United should have forced a passenger off a plane to accommodate crew. Yes, the potential existed that another flight somewhere else could have been delayed and that certainly would have inconvenienced those passengers, but that was in the future and could have been dealt with. This is all on United they caused it, they escalated it, and they did not resolve it appropriately. Unfortunately, the only way real change occurs at most airlines is when stories like this blow up. Due to the various factors that are involved in airline ticketing and travel, there is no real way for consumers to apply market forces to show displeasure. Thus we have videos like this. BTW, I wonder did the crew ever make it to that other flight? Did that other flight end up getting off the ground? It would be ironic if United ended up getting screwed on both ends with this considering they did this to stop one potential problem and caused another (much larger one).

  5. I am not sure if anything substantial will change. The UA management may just let this one blow over (I really really hope it doesn’t) and by the end of the Q2, their results will likely be back to “normal”. Plus, nothing in the US airline industry happens unless Delta does something and I bet Delta will try and sit this one out. All this means is a public apology (which has happened finally from UA) and possibly some out-of-court settlement. I really hope I am wrong…

  6. @james calm down Lucky made an honest apology. Accept it with grace and hope others follow his example.

  7. @James. Yep. Good point.
    Ben, I love your blog, but I don’t think there is a need to post every aviation video, or comment about every situation.

  8. Ben,

    While I agree with most of your reasoning in this post, I will say that it’s not just the post-9/11 power trip/oversensitivity on the part of airlines, but I also think there is a movement in this nation that we don’t need to comply with anything. United employees failed to deescalate this situation which resulted in the police being called, but at some point we need to acknowledge that some compliance in needed to maintain order in a civilized society.

    Whether United employee overreacted by calling the police, but what about the issue of how the police removed this passenger. Chicago is one of the biggest airports in the world and the police should be better trained on how to remove a uncooperative passenger. Airplanes are some of the most cramped environments and it should require the same special considerations to remove a passenger as it requires to embark a passenger with special needs (i.e. special equipment like wheelchairs).

    Yes, this will shine a light on unfriendly airline policies, but the real change needs to be legislated. A Passenger Bill of Rights, better consumer-centric regulations are the only way to change how consumers are treated by airlines. As a consumer group, we have effectively traded fair and equitable treatment for low prices and as long as airline load-factors remain high, negative PR will not be a catalyst for change.

  9. Ben, you have always been a responsible and reasonable writer and blogger, which is why I follow you and enjoy reading your posts. I don’t feel you owe anyone an apology. Most bloggers, reporters, TV Anchors and even the CEO of United misjudged this matter from the beginning. But I appreciate your apology and you have accurately reported the facts ever since and you have provided us with your insight as a very frequent traveler and a travel expert. And ever since you seem to be rather sympathetic towards the victim here as does a majority of people who seem to be quite overtaken with this incident. Unlike some other travel reporters and bloggers that seem to jump at every opportunity to shield the airline industry and attack the victim as somehow deserving of this treatment. I think your actions continue to show just how reasonable and responsible you are and I will continue to enjoy all of your posts and advice in the future and support you as a person! Thank you!

  10. A potential correction, Ben. You state “(four employees showed up after the plane was boarded, allegedly)” but eyewitness accounts in the media report that they were already seeking volunteers prior to boarding — so they knew about the problem before they boarded the plane, but boarded all the passengers anyway. That seems like the biggest mistake they made.

    From the Times: “On Sunday, Mr. Bridges said that when he arrived at the gate about 20 minutes before boarding, United had announced that the flight was overbooked; the airline was offering $400 vouchers to anyone who would give up their seat, Mr. Bridges said.”

  11. I think you’re apologizing for the same reason the chicken shit CEO of united apologized, you’re losing revenue in the form of sponsors and subscribers . It’s all about the money you were right the first time, you’re wrong the second time. I will not follow you any longer because you have no backbone. If you don’t follow the rules you’ll be fine, but it’s clear once we learned about his history he’s not used to followingthe rules,he does whatever the hell he wants all this time he didn’t get his way !

  12. I do think in situations like this where the story is constantly unfolding, you should limit your contributing writers from posting. It creates confusion, changes from your stream of consciousness to theirs, and only adds to the noise.

  13. Multiple posts = more clicks = more $
    Who really cares about some guy who can’t follow directions and was in it from the beginning for a lawsuit?

  14. One other point I would like to make about those complaining of too many posts: All of the major news outlets have been updating their reports on this issue repeatedly over the past couple of days, sometimes hourly, because this is an evolving story that has gripped millions of people internationally and has taken millions of people by surprise including reporters, anchors, news casters, bloggers, commentators, industry executives, politicians, financial analysts, political and financial news pundits, and many, many others. I don’t think either Ben nor Gary nor any of the other bloggers from The Boarding Area have made too many posts in regards to this incident. This is one of the most major incidents regarding travel in a long time and has the potential to not only change United Airlines forever, but change the travel industry for ever. This is news folks and for some, pretty damn important news. Ben, Gary, Brian, and the others report on issues involving the travel industry. They are doing their job and I for one appreciate their reporting, their opinions and their insight!

  15. A user experience pro recently gave a name to the treatment airlines give their customers: hate selling.

    So, it’s not surprising that a company that lacks empathy for its customers gets caught in a situation like this. Overselling a flight is just a symptom of that.

    Ironically, it’s clear that airlines can do better, and a lot of Lucky’s travel reports show that if you pay the points or the $$, you can be treated well when traveling. It’s a shame that airlines think that for the rest of us the bottom line is more important than convenience and good customer service.

  16. Good apology!

    If only I could believe United CEO meant it…..

    United should remove any rules/training it has that pressures staff to limit financial offers. Had they gone north of $1K I’m sure they’d have gotten volunteers.

    For that matter, the $1,350 limit should be raised substantially. If an airline needs to get crew on a commuter flight repositioned to fly a 777 that might be worth $2K a seat to them, and why should there be a cap?


  17. All you travel bloggers defending United until it was no longer profitable to do so — when public opinion was clearly not on your or United’s side. You should really take a break from writing, Lucky.

  18. Seems like you are one of the group of bloggers that constantly race to be *first* to report rather than take the time to fully research the story, review the facts and information to hand, and present a well considered point of view. Notably TPG has published much the same apology…but FWIW of course he beat you to it on this one.

  19. This is a great follow-up, Ben. Thank you for posting it.

    The solution to this particular situation (paying customers needing to get bumped to make room for airline employees) is really just simple CLR – Common sense, Logic, and Reason. If airline employees need to get on a fully booked flight, then the airline should first go to Plan A, which is to ask for volunteers to take a later flight. If initially there are no volunteers, then the airline should keep upping the voucher/cash payment in an effort to get the required number of volunteers to come forward. If there still aren’t enough volunteers, then airline should go to Plan B, which would be to find another way to get their employees where they need to go (i.e., charter a private jet, put them on another available airline, etc.)

    Yes, I know that would cost the airlines money, but they are the ones that intentionally overbook flights, so they should be the ones to suffer the consequences if a situation arises. The airlines have to understand that most people who are flying are doing so based on plans they have made and they may not always have the flexibility to voluntarily take a later flight.

    Bottom line: the airline should take the hit – not the passengers.

  20. Suggested future stories about the incident:

    – Three days later, where are they now? The doctor, the policeman, and the CEO
    – New Analysis: What happen when you view the video in slow motion and in reverse?
    – Why you should sign up for the ___ card because of the United fiasco
    – I was wrong about being wrong: Now I kinda blame the aging doctor

  21. Man, was it disappointing to read this article. I thought you were going to apologize to United for blasting them for simply following their procedures. United didn’t beat this guy up, and he delayed a plane full of people for over three hours because he was a jerk, falsely claimed that he needed to be at the hospital the next day (tried to assert “doctor privilege”), claimed that he was targeted for bumping because of his race, and then forced a physical confrontation with police.

    United didn’t do anything wrong, as far as the facts are currently understood.

    I just quit following you on Twitter, and I’m now completely done with you and this website.

  22. @igor:
    “So, it’s not surprising that a company that lacks empathy for its customers gets caught in a situation like this. Overselling a flight is just a symptom of that. ”

    Ding ding ding ding ding – we have a winner!

    Nicely summarized igor. Spot on and couldn’t agree more. In a way, UA will take the punches for the entire industry based on how they managed this (and should, frankly), but this event should be a systemic wake up call to the entire industry that needs to put paying passengers first, and rethink their logistics planning to insure crews are in the right spot.

  23. The simple fact is that had UA increased its monetary offer to the customers for voluntarilyh getting off the plane, none of this would have happened. Imagine had they offered $1600 per person. My guess is that they would have had so many takers they would have to flip a few coins to select which customers would be able to take the offer. And that would have been a lot cheaper and less aggravating than what is happening now.

  24. This apology is just an effort to protect the OMAAT brand. You should have considered the implications of your poorly reasoned and overly presumptive posts yesterday. Again, have you at all examined the idea of staffing an editor/counterweight to your opinions prior to publishing anything in an effort to not only keep you from looking stupid, but to keep your brand intact too?

  25. United followed procedure. I have been asked twice by AA to get off the plane just like this guy. I never made the news. I know federal law dictates to follow the directives of crew. I challenge all of you next time you fly stay on board don’t move. When the local police, FBI, US marshals or anyone else shows up let us know how that worked out for you. Let us know when you are standing in front of a Federal magistrate judge explaining “Hey I can do whatever I want on the plane”

  26. I respect you for this post. Others have posted that he’s insane referencing articles (that he has issues). And, that’s just digging a deeper hole because we are missing the point.

    Airlines treat passengers poorly. Period. Period. Period.

    Some FA’s are now nothing short of Nazi Storm Troopers. And they get away with it b/c of 9/11. And the airlines back them because of 9/11. Meanwhile, they over sell planes, they make the seats smaller, they devalue the “loyalty programs” and on and on.

    I used to agree that the gulf airlines had it too good and the gulf governments had to be supporting them b/c how else could they turn a profit?

    By good customer service maybe? By providing strong soft and hard products? By not having cops come on board planes almost weekly?

    No, I don’t want to fly with a terrorist.

    But, I don’t want FA’s acting like Hitler either.

  27. “While I won’t go so far as to blame the victim in this situation, I think it’s only fair to say that if he had complied with instructions from United employees and the police, he might not have sustained those injuries. ”

    In other words, if the passenger were to shut up and subserviently follow the “instructions” from the almighty power-hungry and brainless UA employees and airport security, he would not have suffered this brutality and humiliation. Try again Lucky, you still don’t get it! If you want to apologize, make it short and sincere. And stop looking for excuses and explanation. BIG FAIL!

  28. Thank God I live in NYC and NOT the left coast. You should read the NY POST investigation of this clown. He made the situation ABNORMAL.

  29. The passenger did it to himself. Why has there not been the same outrage exhibited when copious others have been hauled of aircraft in the U.S. by police? Why? This incident was brought on by a self-entitled immigrant who has zero respect for rules and laws in America. Period. The other three passengers who had to leave did not such drama queen antics, no screaming – and this is a supposed doctor and ‘man’. More like a typical arrogant petulant spoilt man child. I hope the Chicago Aviation Police taught him a lesson about respect for laws/rules in the United States. Sadly, out of control PC will side with him, and social justice warriors have already saddled up. Too many people viewed a video(s) and based on that alone made up their minds. No critical thinking at all.

  30. Good post Ben. We don’t need peace officers for customer service squabbles and contractual disputes. But in those instances where law enforcement does have to get involved for valid public safety reasons, why not empty the cabin first?

  31. Like your follow up Lucky!

    Mr Munoz and other senior mgn need to realize the power of social media, instant cell phone videos etc. before issuing any statements.

    Too bad the technology was not around during Gerard Finneran situation on the United flight…

  32. Oh here comes the apology tour ..

    The semantics of this was an IBD or refusal to transport is pretty much just fodder as far as the blogosphere and the social justice warriors of twitter are concern.

    Yes, there are opportunities for improved procedures and policies as recovery from this.

    The bottom line is they wanted him off the plane and he refused to do so. This required some use of force. He wasn’t punched, he wasn’t kicked, he wasn’t tazed, he wasn’t beaten with a baton.

    He was yanked out of a seat and he fell over splitting his lip on the arm rest across the aisle. It was an unfortunate injury but it’s hardly police brutality. Words have meaning , resorting to histonics doesn’t lend credibility to this ‘apology’.

    According to TMZ , the good doctor only just his license back with restrictions applied because of illegally selling prescriptions and trading prescriptions for sex. It tells me, this isn’t a principled man taking a stand. This is someone who doesn’t like to be told no, and thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

  33. @igor: Paying points or paying $ won’t get you better treatment from the US3 carriers. You’re still stuck with the same apathetic, self-centered union airline employees and power-hungry TSAholes the rest of us do.

    Status can help, but Ben’s posted plenty of tales of woe, and he not only has status, but media status as well.

  34. You’re apologizing for trying to see both sides of the situation instead of just blinding following the rabid mob?

    The guy could’ve just left and sued. No bleeding involved. No crazed snowflakes only considering one side of the story freaking out. He did not have to be dragged off. That was his choice. United probably was not acting in accordance with the contract-though arguably he might’ve been trespassing at that point nonetheless-but the guy was not acting in a reasonable and responsible manner either.

  35. Your applogy is as sincere as Munoz’ and a day too late. Your apologizing for the same reasons as him.

  36. I always wait for the whole story before I side with anything.

    You Ben, I noticed that you jump in conclusions really fast. This is something you do over and over and over. Why dont you just post a story and leave your opinions out of it and see what happen. Often you learn more by listening to other people while they are debating it out. Its really interesting reading comments from people all over the world with different point of views.

    Go fly somewhere and review something. Vacation time is over. Back to work.

  37. @Lucky it’s not the “state of our country,” rather, United at its finest. We’ve long held that UA should be avoided at all costs. This only further proves our point. No reason or justification to politicize it.

  38. Probably realised that public opinion mattered far more than his pals at united. Either way just self protect.

  39. I’m going to have to agree with @James and @Ben (not lucky). I’ve been a long time reader and after all of the posts about this I’m kind of over the blog. You should stick to points and miles and stop coming out with ridiculous posts every hour to get click rates up.

    I honestly only clicked on the article because I thought you were copying TPG who came out with the same post this morning.

  40. I think Ben is totally sincere here and that he never wanted to capitalize on a situation like this or other situations but rather share his thoughts to his readers in a sincere and educational way.

    But Ben to prove your detractors wrong you might want to consider donating the income for the last couple days to a charity. Just my thought

  41. I’m glad you changed your perception of the passenger (there are reports the passenger, a doctor, broke ethics law in Louiseville, but that’s besides the point – he bought a ticket, had a seat number and was seated). The video has been viewed over 120 million times in China and China is an important market for United.
    But the negative PR might not hurt United as much as some would like. Their stock only declined by 1%, indicating investors don’t vote with Twitter. Also, United dominates the market in several cities like Newark (over 50% of the flights are United) since the merger with Continental. In these cities, there are no other airlines besides United when you need to get from point A to B. I personally have 260,000 miles on UA Mileage Plus (I’m Platinum this year). I guess I’ll use my UA miles on Star Alliance airlines and/or get into their lounges, both of which are better than United’s.

  42. Some people are more (politically) correct than others. Period.
    Just one simple question – if we swap the race/ethnicity of the policy officer who beat the old man in that video with that old man, will you make the same judgement?

  43. “I think it’s only fair to say that if he had complied with instructions from United employees and the police, he might not have sustained those injuries”

    Might not? So you think there’s a possibility that if he agreed to leave the plane voluntarily they would still have dragged him out using force?

    As someone who hasn’t seen the video, I’m struggling to see this from the perspective of a customer being a “victim”. Again, I’ve not seen the video (bad internet) and am willing to be corrected, but from what I can gather this was effectively an admin error (too many people, not enough seats) so someone HAD to go. The passenger was selected to go yet refused, so had to be forcibly removed. I don’t struggle to believe for a second that the police used excessive force – their rules of engagement are even more severe than the military’s, but unless United employs the officers that was hardly their fault… Blame United for the situation sure, but how the violence is their fault I have no idea – it’s the passengers and the police.

  44. Several observations (nicer word than rant) about a couple of themes I noticed running through the 49 comments above.
    First several comments claim that the passenger was wrong and United was right; Munoz’s second apology explicitly accepts that United mistreated the passenger; seems that makes that claim moot and irrelevant at this point.
    Secondly quite a few comments that Lucky’s post are just about generating clicks. How many of you who feel that way were forced to click the link. if you truly feel that way, stop complaining and save your precious clicks for some other blog.


  45. @Alian – “But Ben to prove your detractors wrong you might want to consider donating the income for the last couple days to a charity. Just my thought”

    LOL thanks for the laugh

  46. @Lucky – You’re great, and reading your blog is one of the highlights of my day. But enough of this story. Let’s get back to the trip reports!

  47. @Lucky. Kudos to you for writing this article. I always enjoy reading your contributions. But why did you have to highlight and link to Nick’s article? As many commenters had pointed out, he brings his political views into everything and despises everyone who thinks differently than he does.

  48. I feel I know Ben a little bit, and those of you who don’t seem to understand how the world works (Mike, Phil, Cassandra), will probably continue to write snarky blog comments without ever really getting the “why” of life. I wish you well, my fellow travelers, as you must battle not only the real life foes, but also the bits and bobs of your imagined enemies. Best to you, my moronic friends!

    (I know there’s no Cassandra, she’s a Russian agitator!)

  49. I disagree with those critical of this post. Lucky has never pretended to be a journalist. One of the reasons I like the blog is because Lucky talks about a first flush of discovery. Sometimes it’s like a stream of consciousness. That’s what makes it personal and relatable. Sometimes one makes mistakes and learns from them – that’s human (and mature). Those being critical here are not accurate in their take on what it is the blog is trying to do.

  50. Ben, it takes a real mensch to own up to his mistake. Further, I wouldn’t beat yourself up too much as you are spot-on 90% of the time. Keep up the great bloggin’.

  51. Personally I don’t think you needed to apologize. You are who you are and that was your initial reaction. No one is perfect. Plus, I don’t even remember the last time you flew in economy class so not sure if you can relate to the guy. 😉 j/k
    It takes a lot to own up to your own mistakes and I commend you for it. Keep on blogging and I know you’re a humble guy, but you definitely have influence in the flying community.
    I do hope changes will indeed be made by United and am curious to see what those changes are in the April 30th report.

  52. Will this blow over for United? Probably.

    Remember that horrific incident when Delta had police drag a woman off the plane at Detroit four months ago (also captured on video)? No? Then I’m guessing Delta didn’t lose too much business.

    How about the person dragged off a United flight last year in Shanghai? Or the person dragged off a BA flight last year? Or the person dragged off a U.S. Airways flight a few years ago? Or the person dragged off an EasyJet flight? Or the person dragged off a RyanAir flight? Not ringing a bell? At the risk of being insensitive, the difference this time was that the customer was visibly injured. And his credibility will be called into question very soon.

    Ben is right that the biggest concern is how a belligerent patient was handled by police. It may be true that he created a situation where there was no way to remove him from his seat except by force, but airlines need to have thought through how to handle a situation where the person is belligerent but not a threat to fellow passengers. (That said, from a police officer’s standpoint, a belligerent person IS a threat. The person taken off the BA flight actually bit his neighbor’s arm before he was removed.)

    No easy solutions here. Most of the people forcibly removed from planes are not due to overbooking, but because of some bad behavior on their part. Airlines could have a no-overbooking policy, or a “fool-proof” list of volunteers to given up their seats before the flight, but that wouldn’t have addressed this situation, nor most of those described above. And the airlines would compensate, of course, by increasing ticket prices to account for the calculated loss of revenue due to late cancellations.

    P.S. The flight was not operated by United, but by Republic Air, which also handles regional flights for Delta and American out of Chicago. Blame United all you want, but there might not have been much the company could have done about this at the time. That doesn’t excuse the CEO’s tone-deaf response. The story is how United handles this now.

  53. For all those said the passenger was wrong and should have complied, please read this article. It tells you UA cites wrong rule for illegally deboarding passenger. http://lawnewz.com/high-profile/united-cites-wrong-rule-for-illegally-de-boarding-passenger/. Therefore the said passenger has every right to stay in the seat he paid and UA was incorrect to try to remove him. We should all get educated on our rights so next time if something like this happened to any of us, we know our rights and should stand our ground.

    Lucky, thanks for the apology. I do think you are sincere unlike Munoz which obviously is worrying that Congress may get involved and take away selling same seats on same leg more than once option (not to mention drop in stock price). Personally I think airlines should not be able to resell the same seat over again on same leg. So what if a customer does not show up? Quite a few seats do not allow changes and if someone buy those none change seats, which many of us do, then we are out of the money period. no recourse. And for those who managed to change their flights, they get a hefty change fee plus price difference (usually higher) for the new seats. Airlines are making money left and right surely they can swallow cost of few empty seats which they most likely did not loose a dime on.

    I thought the legging-gate was lame so I didn’t bother to comment on that. But this incident, which is a lot more substantive, will hopefully make everyone’s travel experience slightly better. For that, I’m grateful to the doctor who stood his ground and grateful to the people who posted the incident on social media.

  54. Lucky, I read your blog every day and enjoy it. I applaud you for the apology – few people seem to have the integrity these days to do so when they were wrong.
    I do think that the larger your following is as a blogger or on social media, the more responsibility you have to apply good journalism practices: Make sure you have the facts, verify the information you see, get some insights from different sources – and then use all your extensive knowledge of and experience with the travel industry to provide the insightful opinions you have provided so many times on this blog.
    In the rush to “be first” the quality can suffer – and contribute to the social media & news problem rather than improving it!

  55. Besides the brutality of the assault on the poor United customer, I believe the other reason for the massive widespread outrage is due to many many years of pent up frustration of the state of travel that travelers are subjected to in post 9/11.

    Airline employees, police n TSA staff with their newfound overreaching power, is learning how they could flaunt it and get away easily. They no longer have any regards to passengers. These folks that are supposedly looking after safety, are not looking that safe themselves ; if you rub them off in any tiny manner, they could land u in big trouble, and you will hv little recourse.

    And it was because the above was allowed to fester unchecked for years, we have this situation today – using sledgehammer to resolve minor issues and blowing things up big timr till it became a global outcry.

    It was years in the making and finally something for everyone to vent their fury.

    Kudos for Lucky to apologise and i hope Lucky will write to influence change so that passengers get more respect when they travel.

  56. I checked into OMAAT to get your take on the situation as it broke because you’re thoughtful and smart. Not because I expected you to be the divine source of all knowledge and judgment. I’m an adult and chose to read various perspectives as I formed and evolved my own. The rabid critics aren’t being force-fed your blog the second that you post something, and you don’t owe anyone an apology for doing your job…reporting on travel with your own vantage point and lens.

    The fact that you reflected throughout this story as it developed and as you considered alternative points of view and other deep analyses (including Nick’s), leading up to this post, reinforced my respect for the care with which you approach OMAAT. I read pretty much every post and like probably most of your readers, have posted a comment maybe once or twice ever. Even in the best of circumstances, 15% of people are always unhappy and congenitally angry. Don’t ignore the signal in the noise…just because we’re not complaining about every semicolon or pointing out your failure to be perfectly infallible doesn’t mean that the vast majority of us don’t continue to value your analysis, math and logic skills, humility, creativity, and moral compass. I didn’t share your initial opinion on this United incident, but I sought it out and disagreeing with you helped me think about it more clearly.

  57. To all the people criticizing Lucky about the numerous posts about this incident, come on. This has become a national news story that is still getting coverage in general media, not just aviation/travel focused media. It’s absurd to expect OMAAT or any aviation focused blog not to have multiple posts about this situation as it developed.

    Also kudos to Lucky for acknowledging the flaws in his initial reaction to the situation. I mostly agreed with that initial post, aside from going so far to say that someone who refuses to comply with unwarranted crew instructions deserves to be brutalized by the police. Also, in this post, he focused in on exactly what the issue was, that UA policies and the post-9/11 regime where flight crews can abolish due process rights when its convenient are the main problems here. If UA gave more leniency to its gate agents, and especially if they weren’t so pressured to board a flight that was overbooked on the off-chance that situation would resolve itself and the flight would have an on-time departure (I don’t buy that whole we needed those seats after the flight was boarded excuse for a second) they wouldn’t be here right now.

    Also, I have to say, I was surprised to see how many passengers get IDB’d each year, because, despite flying a lot, I have never seen a situation where that was clearly happening. That’s likely because most gate agents recognize that if that situation occurs its best to handle it discreetly. This situation is emblematic of the horrific combination of corporate policy incentivizing employees not to figure things out, combined with the fact that those employees know they can invoke police power to fix whatever situation they might have to deal with. I don’t want to get rid of overbooking, it keeps costs down and also often makes me a little money. I do want to get rid of corporate policies that constrain employees in tough situations and the background knowledge airline employees have that they can use police to cover their butts.

  58. Basically you wusses out and gave into the masses.

    This guy previously gave illigal prescriptions to drug addicts in exchange for sex. For all we know, he was looking for a confrontation here.

    The black police officer (are you racist too?) overreacted and should have called for medical assistance after knocking the passenger unconscious.

    But all could have been avoided if the passenger headed a legal call for him to deboard. His wife did, and he was going to leave her alone in Chicago? Maybe, considering he cheated on her before.

    Yes, he could have avoided this, and yes, you are a wuss for giving in to the dumb masses with their pitchforks. For shame.

  59. Disappointed in your response Ben. Your initial post summarised the situation best. The passenger did not comply with instructions and suffered the consequences of his action. Open and shut case. This was a textbook instance of interference with a crew that was escalated to and finally resolved by law enforcement. Everything else is the result of social media activism and you seem to have bought into the alternative narrative and public pressure.

  60. And the answer is, the hyperventilating notwithstanding, this incident will very quickly (like next week) become a very tiny footnote in the annals of civil aviation history.

  61. @kevinh

    No Kevin the article doesn’t say that at all, all it does is offer one man’s legal opinion..and the thing with opinions is they can vary. Until or unless this specific matter is adjudicated in a civil action , pro passenger or pro United commentary on if United was justified in forcing the customer off of the plane is just circular debate and nothing is absolute other than when you are instructed to get off a plane…you should get off the plane.

    It maybe unreasonable , unfair , inappropriate for them to do so and if that is the case in the end, hopefully the person will be vindicated .but in the moment…the airlines/crew are the ones in the position of authority .

    I have never heard of anyone beating a parking/traffic ticket by arguing or debating the facts with the LEO along the side of the rode. The driver signs their ticket and gets their day in court.

  62. @DCS

    Remember a couple of weeks ago when there was all the furor over a 12 year old boy who was filmed by his mother while a TSA agent preformed a UPD ….I wonder how many people flew between now and then…

  63. @Sean M: Whoa, you forgot what happened first:

    #1) United screwed up and boarded everyone on the flight before looking at the non-rev list.
    #2) United refused to offer enough compensation to get people to VDB.
    #3) United then decides to yank “random” people from the flight. We are not told if they followed the DOT-approved procedure of giving written notice/reason to each pax booted from the flight.
    #4) United violated their own policies (and possibly DOT rules) about yanking a paid, already-boarded pax to to make room for their own deadheads on-board.

    THEN, and only then did this escalate. United screwed up from the very beginning and continued doing so throughout the entire process and now United’s PR department seems to be even more screwed up than the airline.

    Every single one of the aforementioned items was an opportunity for United to have avoided this. Just like most things in aviation, there’s no single failure which causes an air crash, rather it takes a series of cascading failures to bring down a modern airliner.

    Take a look at what happened to Delta this past week with their weather-induced meltdown. Were people bumped? Yes. Was DL yanking pax off the aircraft involuntarily? No. They were handing out cash like drunken high school kids. There’s a story on Forbes where a family made out with $11k in VDB cash this weekend. FWIW, Delta moves their pilots via ground limo occasionally. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

    Just because something is policy or law doesn’t make it right. It was once legal to own slaves in the USA and it’s currently still legal to have oral sex with animals in Florida — I hope most of us will agree that those are morally wrong, even if “complying” with the law and officials.

  64. I think it takes a real adult to admit when they are wrong so I applaud you for that. Sadly some other bloggers really are seeking to minimize United’s responsibility for this mess which is just pathetic.

  65. @AlexS – With all due respect, you admit yourself that you have no idea what processes United did or didn’t follow. I hold no views on that aspect and as far as my views on the overall situation stand, that information is irrelevant. If an authorised agent of the airline instructs a passenger to disembark from an aircraft, the passenger must comply with that instruction, whether they believe the instruction is fair, discriminatory or anything else. If the instruction was invalid to begin with, the passenger can and should seek civil compensation and damages from the airline after the fact.

  66. The white man apologises, everything is okay.

    There is only one solution to this problem: Regulation.

    If politicians had the political will to change actual things that affect lives of millions of people everyday instead of bickering about a law dictating which bathroom to use or how women should take care of their bodies… Amer-kah ‘d be great aguhn.

  67. Bah, the guy had it coming. If you refuse to leave (after many, many attempts from the crew), eventually the police will arrive. In any country. And eventually they will carry you out, and if you resist, injury may happen.

    Ok, so Continental did an error of letting too many board, but thats it. Once they had to call the police, it was out of their hands.

    Ben, your appology is just to follow public opinion. And public opinion is based on the guy being a sweet and adorable man. He isnt, he is an unruly passenger that needed guidence on where the limit goes.

  68. @ Mark: I am sorry, this is wrong. First such an incident would never have hapoend with a EU airline or airport. Second, it was not the police but security and third, if the airline does not follow the law and their own rules every passenger has the right to resist. The only unruly part here came from United.

    By the way, here is another example of First Class service of the “friendly skies”:

  69. If i understand it correctly, the people who forced him out were police officers and not United employees. Therefore, I am woundering why the shitstorm is targeting United and not the police.

  70. First the pointsguy then you. I guess you recognized that you didn’t make a lot of friends with your statements…

  71. United definitely in the wrong. You don’t board then ask people to get off. But, be honest about why until you get enough people off, even if an agent walks up and down the aisle.
    But…United owns the plane. They ask you to get off, you get off – you don’t fight it.

  72. Once seated, i ain’t getting off tje plane, without money anyway. I will be sure to film the interaction…

  73. @Sean M: You’re missing my point. United started this mess.

    IF United hadn’t made a series of errors, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today and it’d be another day of lackluster, passenger-hating service from United that we’ve all come to expect.

    Whether the passenger was unreasonable or not is a whole separate issue.

  74. The rush to judgement by blogs and on social media is a huge society issue as a result of 24/7/365 news and information being pushed out. No longer does anyone wait for facts and report the truth. That’s journalism 101. Everyone is in such a rush to be first to post and comment on incidents that we lose the truth.

    If the leggings incident didn’t teach us this, then hopefully this issue will.

    Totally unfortunate that this gentleman had to be physically removed from the plane. There needs to be a better system in place before the plane is loaded for all of the airlines so this doesn’t have to happen again.

  75. @Sean M

    The guy didn’t want to leave the plane because he had an unresolved customer service concern that United wasn’t inadequately responding to. Anyone in that situation understands that this is the airline’s plane and they can ask you to leave whenever they want, but what about the feeling that hey this is wrong, I have a ticket, how do I know when I get off the plane you will give me a resolution that fits my needs? It is clear that while being seated he has more leverage than once he gets off the plane… United needed to just tell him that they will do anything in their power to get him home today including a one way car rental or whatever.

    You can’t just make someone a trespasser when convenient for you and call the cops. It may be legal but it is not right.

    Imagine this: You have been invited to a person’s party, arranged a scheduled ride both ways, and have brought food and a bottle of wine and the party is starting out really well and you are looking forward to the evening and then suddenly you are told to leave because they realized they have capacity issues and they then call the cops to throw you out. If you are annoyed about the situation and stand your ground it is not because you don’t have respect for the property rights of the homeowner or that it is their home but that the sudden change in circumstances leaves you with no plans and a sense of disrespect that needs to be addressed.

    Not everyone is a savvy flier who knows how to put things in perspective.

  76. Lucky, i generally agree with you on most issues and this is another one. I do think the police were too rough though I understand that if the man refuses to follow police instructions, they can’t just give up. There has to be law and order and respect for legitimate legal authority even when we don’t like it. I also agree that perhaps this will cause the airlines to rethink the entire practice of overbooking/bumping passengers.

    Where I quibble with you is how much blame to assign to Dr. Dao. No, it was not fair that he was bumped, but those are the rules, and he DID make the situation far worse than it had to be. I have had to scoop a child having a temper tantrum and carry him from a store. That’s basically what Dr. Dao did, to law enforcement nonetheless, and that is not something we can brush under the rug in considering this incident overall. United caused it, he made it worse, IMO.

  77. @ Earthling — Not that it should matter, but have you seen the retractions today? The media reports were about a different individual with a similar name.

  78. “You can’t just make someone a trespasser when convenient for you and call the cops. It may be legal but it is not right.”

    Is it legal? I don’t think that is clear right now.

  79. “Take a look at what happened to Delta this past week with their weather-induced meltdown. Were people bumped? Yes. Was DL yanking pax off the aircraft involuntarily? No. They were handing out cash like drunken high school kids. There’s a story on Forbes where a family made out with $11k in VDB cash this weekend. FWIW, Delta moves their pilots via ground limo occasionally. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. ”

    I bet right now Delta are thinking that was money well spent compared to how much the Chicago fiasco has cost United.. And you can be sure that the issues of overbooking and unboarding will be on the board agenda of all the big American airlines over the next month.

  80. @Tiffany

    Where are these retractions? Which mainstream news groups have reported there was an error I have only seen a blog speculate that it was a United covert smear campaign.

  81. @ Martina @ Dan Allen — As I understand it, there are reports that it’s the wrong David Dao. Apparently people can’t process that there might be two Vietnamese doctors in America with that name, but it seems that might be the case? I don’t really know one way or the other at this point. You can find many reports of this by Googling, but I’m not sure what you would count as “mainstream,” and everything is still developing, so who knows. Here’s a link to a Reddit post, if that’s helpful as a starting point: https://www.reddit.com/r/aznidentity/comments/64t6nc/smear_campaign_against_dr_david_dao_by_members_of

    We’ll see, but I still don’t think the history of the gentleman, positive or negative, should have any bearing here.

  82. Somehow in all of this, CNN has put together a rather decent, if not comprehensive article on the events as is known thus far:

    A few interesting quotes from the story:
    In the meantime, the CEO vowed “this can never, will never, happen again on a United Airlines flight.”
    “We are not going to put a law enforcement official to … remove a booked, paid, seated passenger,” Munoz told “Good Morning America.” “We can’t do that.”

    Munoz said he has unsuccessfully tried to reach the passenger to apologize directly. He said Dao is not at fault.
    “He can’t be. He was a paying passenger sitting on our seat in our aircraft, and no one should be treated like that. Period.”

    Him and his wife, they volunteered initially,” Anspach said. “But once they found out that the next flight wasn’t until (Monday) at 2:30 p.m., he said, ‘I can’t do that. I gotta be at work.’ So he sat back down.”
    The harder the officers tried to get the man to leave, the harder the man insisted he stay.
    “He was very emphatic: ‘I can’t be late. I’m a doctor. I’ve got to be there tomorrow,’ ” Anspach recalled.

  83. @ Dan allen — That may be the case — like I said I don’t know either yet. But I also don’t know why it’s relevant either way though. Would we all feel like this situation was handled appropriately if the passenger was one of our mothers, an Eagle Scout, a Congressman, a disabled child, etc.? It just doesn’t matter.

  84. To me, United had the right to remove the passenger from the flight. Full stop.

    In this case, it was because of an oversell situation. No different if it happened at check-in, at the gate, or on the airplane.

    The passenger refused to leave the aircraft.

    Guess what is going to happen next time United needs to have someone leave the aircraft for whatever reason (e.g., they haven’t showered for a month)? They now no all they have to do is say, “No.”

    I still place the blame on the passenger.

  85. No, he did do this to himself. Whatever happened to obeying a lawful order of the police. Right wrong or indifferent, the Police were enforcing the federal statute which enables airline personnel to determine who will be allowed on an aircraft. He should have complied and handled it outside the aircraft. Period. I’m glad we have law enforcement personnel who will do their job, and keep a fool from imposing his grandstanding will on my right to travel without interference or delay caused by others.

  86. But thats the point. If it was our mom, eagle scout, , boyfriend, or other civilized person there would not have been an incident. THIS Guyis a carnival freak show.

  87. Ben, must disagree with you on this. Bottom line is IF he had complied with the request to leave, nothing further would have happened, BUT he repeatedly refused. He got what he deserved in my opinion.

  88. @Tiffany..

    No, I don’t consider a post on Reddit to be mainstream media. The link you provided is exactly what I mentioned was the only thing out there…a blog post that suggested this was nothing more than a smear campaign directed by United. That is not a retraction. That’s not even speculation..it’s a conspiracy theory.

    At this point, we know the doctor has layered up..yet not one major news organization has printed a ‘retraction’. No mention of a letter sent by the doctor’s attorney denying that his client is the one who lost his license and therefor they are demanding a retraction.

    And yes, his past is relevant as it speaks to his character , if this man is being held up as some monument to justice and the next Rosa Parks , numerous felonies and trading prescriptions for sex isn’t very appealing.

    The fact wife reported her husband because of his increasing erratic behavior to medical authorities, and that he was the subject of many complaints by colleagues and patients also sheds light into one of the many things that went wrong here.

    Yes, it’s absolutely reasonable to be livid. frustrated, upset ect. about getting bumped from a flight .
    Yes, it’s absolutely reasonable to begrudgingly exit the airplane.

    But it’s not reasonable to dig your heels into the ground and challenge officers to drag you off.
    It’s also not reasonable to storm the aircraft afterward screaming “Kill Me, Kill me – I have to go home”.

    Which brings me to and issue that find both interesting and concerning , how did he manage to get back on the airplane.

    All the feigning outrage from the internet masses , are largely the same people that was screaming that the unlucky TSA agent who has to pat down a 12 year old boy was a pedophile and a sicko – yet how many millions of people still went to the airport and through security because they had flights to catch.

    Never mind, morons like like John Cho who get on their twitter accounts and blame Trump for this.

  89. I’m disappointed in this about-face and while I understand the outrage on social media, people in the know like Lucky should know better. When a crew member or a pilot tells you to get off the plane, you have to do it. It’s the law to obey instructions of cabin crew, and there are good reasons for that. Everybody has a story why they need to be on the flight, and everybody who travels a lot, including me, has stories of when they were not allowed to fly, or dealt with impossible behavior from cabin crew, even though they really had to get somewhere. Regardless, you must do as they say while you are on the airplane, because we simply can’t have people arguing and getting into altercations on airplanes. If you don’t like that, then you should look into getting a private jet.

    Of course it’s outrageous that airlines overbook flights at all, and that’s something that should be changed by stricter regulation. Clearly United does not have good procedures to deal with this situation, no argument there. For example United could have simply booked him on a direct flight with another airline that evening (which they only do upon request by the way if you insist. I’ve gotten rebooked by UA on AA). And that’s why once this passenger was off the plane, that would have been a great time to make a fuss and ask for compensation, and then sue the airline, for any damages suffered (work missed, alternate flights bought etc)
    As to the beating of the passenger, that’s awful, but the fault lies with the police. True, United called the police, but they have the authority to do so since the passenger refused to leave when instructed. Surely it would have been possible to get the passenger off without roughing him up. It’s a sad reality these days that calling the police can sometimes make everybody less safe, because of how brutal and poorly trained so many officers are.

    However, when the police tell you to leave an area or come with them, and you don’t do it, you can get arrested. It’s your responsibility to keep a cool head, do as instructed and then raise a stink afterwards if you were treated unfairly.

  90. Lucky, Very nicely said. It truly seems from the heart. Also, you were (for better or worse) doing just what many of the 24/7 news sites/channels do, which is report stories with limited available facts. You quickly changed your tune as more details came in and that is to be admired. So is your apology. I also agree with your final analysis of the situation. Thank you.

    I do want to add one thing, which has not been mentioned much above, or in many news stories, and that is not only the damage to the United brand, but to the US brand, and, in particular in China. United has helped make the practices of the US police and corporations look as bad as in some third world countries. It may well hurt United’s business in China, which is a major expansion area, but it will also not make America look good. There was even an article on this on the Foreign Policy website. http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/11/chinese-blame-america-for-united-airlines/

    Of course, the negative implications against the US may not be warranted, but it is very obvious from looking at the worldwide media that it is not good publicity. We used to refer (and for some countries still do) to the major carrier as the flag carrier (in many ways PanAm was that for the US and I still remember Flight 1 around the world), but the major carriers still do represent America, and when they abuse their power with the force of the state, it reflects poorly on the US (rightly or wrongly). Let’s put it this way the over 300 million (and counting) Chinese who viewed this on Weibo or WeChat, and hundreds of millions, if not billions, of others throughout the world who read, saw online or heard about it were not left with a more favorable impression of America after this. That is sad.

  91. @Tim

    Yes, very classy of Ben to apologize while in another blog post he questions and snarks at the sincerity of apology issued United’s CEO .

  92. 1. I fly some and have never seen anyone removed. Not looking forward to the first time.
    2. The guy should have complied, but didn’t deserve that treatment. But now, as per usual, they’ve gone after his reputation.
    3. I would never be a blogger. Some of your followers are a$$holes!

  93. Apology accepted.

    Next time United should just cancel the flight. That would make Dao the antagonist and such an action would most likely spur someone to finally step up and say, “Just give me the damn voucher so everyone else can go home.” Otherwise they can all go to a Marriott and sleep in the same bed for all I care.

  94. I for one appreciate your sincere apology in this age of apologies written by lawyers, non apology apologies, F U apologies and outright no apologies.

    So thank you. I guarantee every commenter here at one point or another reacted too quickly and needed to apologize for it. Thats just human nature.

  95. @Joe

    “I guarantee every commenter here at one point or another reacted too quickly and needed to apologize for it. Thats just human nature.”

    Sure…but a change of heart based on what ..new facts coming to light or that no one likes to stand alone in unpopular opinion- and that an unpopular opinion can have financial reprisal

    What changed from day 1 to day 2- the semantics on if it was an IVB issue or a refusal to transport?

    The crux of the issue remain the same…getting bumped sucks. It really really sucks..
    A) it’s okay to be upset by it and want compensation.

    B) If Flight crew tell you to get off a plane- get off the plane even if you don’t think it’s warranted or justified. If turns out that it wasn’t warranted or justified ..see A) again.

    C) If you refuse to comply, expect to be forcefully removed…other than the CEO’s latest statement in that regard is rather ambiguous.

  96. @ Dan Allen — And I totally get your point, I do. But I still reject the notion that this was the best (or even most appropriate) way to handle the situation, or that the background of the passenger is at all relevant to how he was treated.

    If the unlucky winner of the computer-generated off-boarding list was a Congressman, you and I both know they would have demured, and the airline would likely have found an alternative. If the passenger were an elderly woman traveling alone (my mom isn’t elderly, but the challenges she has traveling now already have me considering what the future will look like) — able to manage but not 100% clear on the nuances of air travel and thus unwilling to move from her seat until she got ahold of a trusted family member to explain, would she have also been forcibly removed? What about if we were talking about a young man with high-functioning autism? Again, capable of traveling on their own, but where the schedule and patterns have likely been rehearsed and practiced hundreds of times in order for him to make the journey (first we go to security, then we find our gate, then we wait until our zone is called, then we show our ticket, then we get on the plane, then we find our seat, then we put on our seatbelt, then, then, then). If that routine is disrupted, it might take more time to process or figure out what to do. There could be some confusion, especially if no one else was getting off the plane. Should that person be violently removed from the aircraft?

    Folks can keep saying that reasonable people would have disembarked, and that’s likely true for most. But it is also reasonable to expect an airline to utilize all the resources at their disposal versus summoning physical force to remove a non-threatening person from an aircraft due to their operational incompetence. Doesn’t matter who the passenger is.

  97. all united had to do was up the ante and offer higher compensation. Even it it went to $ 1200 or $ 1500. or even throw in a free Hawaii trip. At some point, some people would have stepped in to give up their seats. Remember this was so that 4 Unites staff cld be positioned in Lousiville, to operate the morning flight. The legal and PR expenses this saga will cost them now, way way way exceeds any offers that would have been acceptable to 4 volunteers. United really screwed up here big time. There’s no shortage of lousy US airlines. I for one, will avoid United like the plague if i can help it.

  98. @Phil D,

    There were no members of law enforcement involved on the plane that night. Dao was removed by an employee of a private security contractor (Global Elete Group). They are not members of any law enforcement agency, are not allowed to be armed, and have no arrest authority. There is even some question about whether what limited authority they do have actually extended to boarding an aircraft. Here’s a couple of job postings for this position;



    Apparently Global Elete staffs quite a few major airports around the country.

  99. Late to the party but why not first report such in incidents & leave an opinion until the situation is clarified? That way you avoid an apology that teeters on the border of a #SORRYNOTSORRY tweet

  100. Real good you realized how wrong you were initially and how rotten is the airline industry and the Chicago police department. Another sign of a decline that seems unstoppable. Even other passengers should have prevented this outrage by confronting the unacceptable behaviour of a notorious police force, instead of witnessing sheeplike such outrageous abuse.

  101. What a great website to discover and yes-kudos to the journalist for saying he made a mistake initially and then explaining why.
    I’ve always said that if politicians or journalists were allowed to say “I made a mistake and I’ve changed my mind and this is why..” instead of being crucified and being forced to dig their heels in. we would all be a lot better off.

  102. I don’t get it–the negative comments against you. If readers don’t like you or your blog, why do they keep coming back for more? If I didn’t like something (TV show, blog, book, music, etc.,), then I wouldn’t repeatedly subject myself to it. I’m not talking about respectful disagreement. I’m talking about being very nasty. Honestly!

  103. @brteacher, you’re the jerk.
    This poor guy who’s obviously starting to get on in years just got physically dragged off the plane, painfully (not to mention the embarrassment factor). And you don’t care at all. I despise that attitude, and I detest United. I hate them, I loathe them for these actions.
    Lucky, keep up the good work, we accept your apology! *Air fist-bump*

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