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United Airlines

I am assuming more information will come out but this most recent incident does not look good for United Airways.

Assuming the initial reports are true this behavior by the airlines is abhorrent.

United Airlines Goon Squad

Posted by
8954 posts

It was the airport police who dragged the guy off the plane, the airline just wanted him escorted off .

Either way it won't effect their bottom line at all. Vast majority travelers care only about the airfare and noting else. If the price is right people will fly with anyone.

Posted by
6750 posts

It may be abhorrent but (absent of more information) there is no evidence that it's representative, either of United Airlines or all airlines. Do you have any data about how often this has happened historically? Without it, it's impossible to draw broad conclusions because this is a single sample. I would be very careful in drawing assumptions from an extreme incident...it's very easy to do this, but not defensible. I'm surprised that not one person took $800 in compensation...I would assume that someone would find this offer attractive. If there are 4 people who cannot be tempted financially to get on another flight, that does not mean there are 4 seats available for them...it's up to the airline to broker a deal where it will get the 4 volunteers, otherwise picking at random is the only fair way of doing things because no bias is involved. Of course, those 4 people need to be compensated and made whole.

In the grand scheme of things, this incident is pure "noise"...there are thousands of folks who fly every day with no incident. But that would make for a really boring report, wouldn't it? This will undoubtedly make for bad PR though, no argument there.

Posted by
8954 posts

The whole incident could have been avoided if they had denied boarding to the bumped passenger before they let him on the plane; he was already in his seat.

Posted by
6750 posts

I agree, they should have selected who gets bumped before letting anyone board the plane. This would still not change the possibility that whoever is chosen would likely be upset and cause a scene at the gate instead of on the plane. But any sociological research study shows that once you give someone something, taking it away makes them much more upset because they've developed some attachment to it...so it would be better for them not to have been seated first. I can imagine it's more embarrassing to be asked off the plane once you're already on.

If it was me, I'd take the $800 and rebook on a later flight. A flight between St. Louis and Chicago is only a 1 hour flight! I would say that $800 is more than fair compensation. $800 dollars is what I'd pay to fly 10+ hours to Europe.

Posted by
6074 posts

Given the situation that they were facing, what would have been a better alternative for the pilot and crew to do? I'm not sure what was abhorrent about their behavior.

Posted by
5657 posts

Bottom line is that because of one person the flight was delayed two hours.

Amazing that $800 didn't motivate four people to volunteer. I was on one flight where the passenger next to me figuratively hit the ceiling when he leaped up to volunteer for the bump. As he departed, he remarked that this was the third flight that he took the bump incentive that day. (If I recall correctly the flights were full because of a labor action at a competing airline.

Posted by
12601 posts

Well I learned something new during the course of reading about this debacle (a link inside the USA Today story). It's a few years old but by Christopher Elliot:

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/flights/2014/04/07/flight-overbooked-compensation/7414701/

I'd never head of Airhelp, and it looks like it could be a useful tool to file away the next time we're significantly delayed/ cancelled for nebulous reasons. All depends on the fine print, I'm sure.

https://www.airhelp.com/en/

Anyone ever used it?

Posted by
6750 posts

United chose to CAP the money at $800 and then force paying passengers off the flight by using some random means. That right there is asinine.

The fact that the selection was totally random (via computer generated number) is exactly why it's not asinine. It ensures a fair process where there is no human bias whatsoever. It's like picking a number out of a glass jar...how can you argue with that on fairness grounds? No passenger has a greater chance of getting "selected". Are you suggesting that they kept raising the payout until infinity? This is a one hour flight worth about $200 and they offered four times that amount. I have a hunch they have a top offer and that's it - otherwise a precedent would be set and you could expect people gaming the system to extract as much compensation as possible. Every business has a right to set a "maximum" and stick to it. One adult decided to act like a child and refused to leave...that reflects badly on that person as well. Yet all the criticism seems directed at the airline when it's well known that bumping does occur.

I have seen really bad behavior on all sides when traveling, including angry passengers who don't seem to exhibit much maturity when they are told news they don't like (whether it's the plane being delayed or getting bumped). I've actually seen grown adults cry and throw hissy fits at the gate, which is embarrassing for everyone around.

Posted by
533 posts

According to Google Maps, the drive from Chicago to Louisville is 4 1/2 hours. Seems like the common sense solution would have been to take part of the $800 bribe and use it to pay for a driver (for either the United employees or the doctor). That way everyone would have gotten to where they were going that evening (and not too much later than they actually did, given the 1-hour flight and the 2-hour delay the incident caused).

Posted by
6750 posts

How is using an unbiased, selection process using a random number generator "asinine"? The guy was only "kicked off" because he blatantly refused to leave like a mature adult. According to the article, an airline personnel explained the process for selecting the "bumpees" beforehand to everyone on board. He could have easily negotiated with the airline behind the scenes instead of throwing a scene himself by refusing to leave his seat. The airline was not going to "draw" another selection on his account because that would definitely not ensure fairness. So he was essentially holding up the plane and they got security to do something about it. Perhaps not every airline operates like Delta, and there is no evidence that Delta doesn't have a stipulated amount either that it will not exceed...perhaps that's easy to miss if one sees folks accepting an offer.

I would have gotten out of that seat and negotiated calmly with the airline for compensation. Simple as that. I'm not sure what a $1,200 Delta offer means out of context...every offer is very context specific and relative to all sort of factors (length of flight, average price, etc.). If the argument is that a passenger should only give up their seat if their maximum compensation demands are met, then I respectfully disagree with that argument. Unfortunately, most people don't read the small print legalese that they agree to with respect to bumping when they buy a ticket...nowhere does it say they have a right to compensation of their choosing. The airline is in the driver's seat because it's their "terms of carriage" after all. All airline contracts are essentially one-sided but there's still a variety of ways to negotiate a decent agreement. When you have to be escorted out, you're virtually destroying what's left of your leverage.

Posted by
18022 posts

Given the situation that they were facing, what would have been a
better alternative for the pilot and crew to do?

According to our vaunted free market theory, which never seems to apply unless it is to a business's advantage, they should have increase their offer until someone voluntarily gave up their seat.

According to this news article, the airline's Conditions of Carriage, which they will probably try to use as a legal defense, addresses passengers not being allowed to board oversold flights, but says nothing about removing passengers who had already boarded.

The United Contract of Carriage lays out specific policies for
passengers who are not allowed to board overbooked flights but doesn’t
cite policy for removing passengers who are already seated on such
flights.

This case is particularly grievous in that the flight was not overbooked; United wanted to free up four seats to fly a crew to Louisville. The airline claims that the selection of the person to be removed was "random", but I'll bet the four airline employees weren't included in the random selection.

Airlines are just begging to be regulated. I say give them what they want.

Posted by
2780 posts

They should have figured out that they needed the four seats for staff BEFORE boarding the passengers and filling the plane. And generally, if people are going to be involuntarily denied boarding, it should be the last ones to check in. And only after offering sufficient enticement to volunteer to leave.

But once they decided to use this procedure, the passenger who did not want to go could lawfully be forceably removed for failing to obey an order by a crew member. Whether that was a good move on United's part is another issue.

Posted by
6750 posts

It's worth reading Rule 25, 4a) where it lays out the compensation...it beats speculation. I took a quick glance and it looks like the absolute ceiling is $1,350 USD...would have to read more carefully about the $675 amount, which is also mentioned frequently. Whatever the case, a very cursory glance suggests the range is between $675 - $1,350 at the upper end.
https://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract-of-carriage.aspx#sec25

Posted by
2780 posts

So they did not follow Rule 25 Sec. 2 B in determining who got bumped.

Posted by
18022 posts

I looked up Chicago to Louisville on Expedia, there are some non-stop flights on other airlines as well as a whole host of connecting flights. United could probably have booked their employees on another airline instead of inconveniencing a paying customer.

Posted by
5657 posts

This case is particularly grievous in that the flight was not overbooked; United wanted to free up four seats to fly a crew to Louisville.

I suspect that if the four crew members didn't get to Louisville on time, another flight or flights would have been delayed. As it was, they were apparently delayed by the two hours it took to disembark the draftee. I've been on flights sitting at the gate waiting for missing crew to make the flight.

Freeing up space for the four crew members explains the situation. The usual case is the last four would not have been allowed on board avoiding the situation reported.

Posted by
6750 posts

There are so many conflicting accounts of the alleged "facts" of this case depending on the newspaper, who knows what to think. Whenever a youtube video and a person screaming is involved, that will overtake any reasoned analysis about what happened here. I honestly don't know what actually happened because there are conflicts in the narrative. Obviously the optics are bad and piling on is inevitable. I'll await the results of the investigation..if there is one. Litigating this over the internet is fraught with all sorts of biases and information gaps, so I'm "out". This looks like it is going to be a PR nightmare for United no matter what.

Posted by
1178 posts

United made multiple mistakes creating their own crisis:

  • They could have handled it at the gate, but didn't.
  • They could have upped the compensaton to $1200 but didn't
  • They could have offered to fly some passengers on other airlines instead of having them wait until 3 PM the next day for another flight.

In short, United had plenty of options that they chose NOT to utilize.

This hits the nerve on people's big fears. That even when they have a seat and have boarded they can still be removed from a flight. In short, the passenger can do everything right and still suffer loss because the airline messed up.

Posted by
6750 posts

people's big fears?

I don't know about anyone else, but I don't give this issue any thought. People spend their energy worrying about the small possibility they "might" be removed from a flight? Really? This is an easily handled problem but, in this case, it just wasn't handled delicately.

Posted by
31303 posts

This story has been all over the news today and it's certainly not good PR for United. When I first saw this story, the phrase "bad planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" came to mind.

This situation could have been avoided with better planning and more flexible tactics on the part of United. They also could have raised the compensation to the allowable limit. The Doctor reportedly told them that he had to attend patients and be at work the next day, and thus couldn't tolerate a delay. Given the circumstances, United could have chosen to randomly bump another passenger. United likely also knew that their four employees would need transportation, so that should have been worked out long before all passengers were boarded on that flight and sitting in their seats. This situation seems to have been badly handled by incompetent and overbearing employees.

Thankfully I will probably never have the fly on United.

Posted by
6750 posts

Given the circumstances, United could have chosen to randomly bump another passenger.

How is that "random" when someone is allowed to "opt out" due to some social status or their valuation of their time? I have no idea whether the guy was really a doctor or just plays one on tv - and the airline also did not verify this to my knowledge. Something tells me that it's odd for a doctor to be forcibly pulled off a plane while screaming...most doctors know how to keep their emotions in check. I would strongly object to a system where someone says the selection is truly random but then allows someone to be exempt from the rules. There are some exceptions I hope most people would agree with like selecting a child who is a dependent or an elderly or disabled person who would be demonstrably adversely affected, but other than those types of categories, the selection should be truly random and free of bias and negotiation.

Posted by
1178 posts

Yes Agnes, it is a fear. If I'm flying on multiple legs I'm always nervous that something will happen to keep me from the next leg. This is especially true for the outbound flight. I do what I can to avoid problems - take non-stops where possible, have plenty of time between flights, fly early in the day, check in early, etc.
I can't mitigate the airlines random acts. I can't mitigate the airlines failure to exercise all options before bumping others. United didn't bother to work the problem out with the customers. Instead they took a "My way or the highway" attitude.

Posted by
1737 posts

I just read an article that discussed getting bumped. Your chances of getting bumped increase if:

  • You paid a discount price for a cheap seat.
  • You were one of the last to check in.
  • You are not a member of the airline's loyalty program.

I fly frequently for business. Since I fly Economy Comfort or higher and I'm a Delta Silver Medallion member, I think my chance of getting bumped is pretty low.

They also suggested that if you volunteer that you haggle aggressively.

As someone pointed out, the flight was not overbooked, they needed to shuttle their crew somewhere else. You'd think that airlines would have a reciprocity system and they could have taken another flight, even with another airlines. Too bad the passengers didn't know that, I'm thinking they could twist United's arm pretty hard if it meant one of their jets couldn't fly because of lack of crew.

Posted by
5689 posts

Agree that United could/should have worked this out BEFORE anyone was boarded -- but probably many others on the flight had reasons to get home which they felt were important. Teachers who had students to teach the next day; parents whose sitters were scheduled to leave; job applicants going to a final interview. There's no information on how the other three bumped passengers reacted.

Posted by
31303 posts

Despite this incident, United stock has apparently increased 1% today - go figure!

Posted by
638 posts

I'm with you on everyone one of your posts Agnes. Everyone that is on that flight has a reason to be there, be it a doctor, a teacher or someone just returning from a vacation. Ones position in life shouldn't let them opt out of the random selection process, and I'll be honest, playing the "I have patients to attend to" card doesn't fly, they got by without him for however long he was in Chicago or wherever he was coming from. Last I heard there are other doctors in Louisville, it's not Cicely Alaska where Dr. Fleishman is the only doctor in town. About the only place I can see this being a problem is if a child is selected, now that just wouldn't work.

Posted by
6750 posts

Thanks for that Northern Exposure throwback, Barry, I loved that show! Good ol' Dr. Fleishman.

Posted by
638 posts

Yes, your welcome, that show was a special treat, Cicely was a magical place and the characters so unique. It jumped the shark though when Dr. Fleishman left and they brought in the new doctor. Whenever I see Rob Morrow on anything now days I still see Dr. Fleishman.

Posted by
6750 posts

that show was a special treat, Cicely was a magical place and the characters so unique.

They don't make 'em like that anymore..sigh

Posted by
7996 posts

I totally agree with Cindy and Ken. This was handled outrageously badly by United. Absolute incompetence on so many levels. Reported on PBS just now, the security guy that literally dragged the passenger on the ground out of the plane, has been put on leave, and United acknowleged he did not handle the situation well.

United already has a very bad reputation and this incident just adds to it.

Posted by
1160 posts

I am astounded that people believes in a random choice by a computer. If you believe a computer you didn't program with your very hands does random things, I have my property rights to Colosseum to sell you.

Posted by
825 posts

My flight next month is on United. Hope all goes well. Aarrggh! And I even paid for these way back after I booked RS tour in August or September.

Posted by
6750 posts

I am astounded that people believes in a random choice by a computer.

Are you joking or serious? It's called a random number generator...even Excel can do it for you in less than 30 seconds. It's called the RAND or RAND BETWEEN function. See youtube video below and give it a shot.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_b3iSEbvtA

PS. I have a flight on United next month and this story doesn't make any dent in my plans.

Posted by
2317 posts

It bothers me that the targeted passenger was 69 years old, per the evening news reports. That's getting into the "elderly" zone - even though I personally am a youthful 68!

Posted by
6750 posts

Interesting factoid from the NYT article...
"But involuntarily bumping passengers is rare. In 2016, United involuntarily denied boarding to 3,765 people, or 0.00004 percent of its more than 86 million passengers on oversold flights, according to the Transportation Department. An additional 62,895 people voluntarily gave up their seats."

This is why I don't give news like this outsized importance. There will be millions of comments everywhere for a freak event even though it's an extreme outlier in many ways, both in probability of occurrence and the handling of the situation. I still can't figure out why the man didn't get up and leave voluntarily. It seems like the other three people bumped did just that (hence they're not newsworthy and there's no report on them)...so why did he dig his heels in, while they didn't?

Posted by
4524 posts

The video is disturbing. It will certainly make those inclined to see airlines as big bad corporations in an even worse light. But from all I've read and heard, United did nothing wrong and the passenger was completely in the wrong.

The facts as I know them:
United needed to get a crew to that destination. Failure to do so delays or cancels that other flight (and all those people become very unhappy).

To make room for the crew, United offered vouchers. No one volunteered. So they upped the price (pretty standard procedure). Still no one volunteered. An $800 voucher is EXTREMELY generous for a short domestic flight. Extremely.

When still no one volunteered, they announced that people would be randomly bumped. Still no takers. So they had their computer generate 4 names (they try to avoid families and children).

The other 3, as unhappy as I'm sure they were, left the plane.

This man refused to deplane. If Untied had accommodated him and picked someone else, that person would have been very unhappy. What if he/she had refused, seeing that the previous man got to stay just by refusing to deplane?

There was a further delay while this man refused to deplane. In that time, no one else volunteered to be bumped.

Police were called to remove him from the plane. Airline crews have absolute discretion to have someone removed from a plane.

Even with police, the man refused to deplane. Even with the police about to arrest him, no one else volunteered to be bumped.

The man resisted arrest and had to be dragged off. Doesn't make for a pretty sight. I'd ask though, what else should they have done after all their previous efforts? Certainly at that point there is NO WAY he would be allowed to fly. He had to be removed from the plane.

Even when the man is being dragged off the plane and people were crying out, NO ONE volunteered to be bumped in his place.

I understand the crew that boarded were verbally harassed. How is what happened their fault? Even if the situation by the airline or active crew was not handled well, these people were completely innocent and had to suffer harassment. What does that say about those passengers?

Posted by
6750 posts

Agree with Douglas and Kaeleku (well mostly because he agrees with me first ...just kidding). I would also add that video footage cannot be totally trusted as the complete set of evidence because you still don't see the entire context, only when things get super heated (because that's when cameras start rolling). When you watch at that point, you can draw some really questionable conclusions that may or may not represent the whole truth. For example, you can see that the man had a bloody nose/mouth...and that he was screaming. You can make all sorts of assumptions about that depending on your biases...did the cop rough him up? Yup, that sounds like what a cop is capable of, right? Or is it simply that the plane seats are so damn tight, that you can't remove someone forcibly without causing some damage? Or did the man literally slam his head against some hard object in protest? Was he screaming in pain or was it out of anger and desire to call attention to his grievance? Who the heck knows, I cannot presume one way or another...the video cannot answer this question completely. I would want to know...how many times was this man given an option to deplane? How many times did he refuse? What characteristics made him different from the 3 people who got up from their seats when asked? If other people saw that this was causing an incredible pain or commotion, why didn't they step forward and volunteer? All it would take was ONE PERSON on that plane to say..."you know what...spare this guy, I'll take the $800 and go in his place".

I wonder if by tomorrow, this guy will be treated as the next Rosa Parks.

Posted by
7996 posts

Why didn't United plan ahead?
Why did they seat people then ask for people to give up seats?
Were these 4 crew members a last minute surprise after people were seated?
I still say United handled this outrageously badly.
And as for United's involuntary #s... what are Virgin Atlantic's?

Posted by
6750 posts

Sorry, data is aggregated (not reported by each individual airline) but I'm sure you can comb DOT datasets to find it for any airline. The numbers are small. But then again, this is not a numbers argument, it's an argument that's grabbed people's emotions, and that's how it will be adjudicated in the internet sphere.

https://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_64.html

I haven't looked at this yet, but maybe there's some nuggets here too:
https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/2016FebruaryATCR_0.pdf

Posted by
1178 posts

The issue isn't the bumping. It never was.
The issue is United going into strong arm mode from the get go. There is also an issue of United not abiding to its contract of carriage in regard to the bumping.

Posted by
18022 posts

No, Agnes. A "random number generator" does not generate random numbers. The generator has to start with a "seed" number, be it the date and time, or the last number generated, but for a speciific seed number, the random number generated will always be the same number. It's not truly random.

As for the number in question, the person bumped, it is really not random because some people are not included, such as children traveling unattended, or the four United employees the airline wanted to fly, and the "random" number is apparently biased toward those who spent the least on their ticket.

Posted by
10048 posts

Passengers are never chosen "at random" to be bumped. The airlines look for certain criteria--how much was paid for the ticket, frequent flier status, when you checked in. All airlines basically use the same formula.

This article might help.

United's response wasn't good but the internet response was: United Tweets

And, it seems one of the police officers is being investigated for excess force.

Posted by
18022 posts

It's sad. Think of all of the millions of dollars that United spends on advertising to create good will, and here, for a few thousands dollars, maximum, they've thrown it all away.

Posted by
31303 posts

" For example, you can see that the man had a bloody nose/mouth...and that he was screaming."

Some of the reports that I read today said that the passenger smacked his head on a seat rest or something during the altercation, which was the cause of the bloody face.

I suspect that United will be dealing with a lawsuit in the not-too-distant future. I also heard one report that indicated that one of the police officers involved in "forcibly deplaning" the individual has been "suspended", and that the U.S. DOT is investigating this incident.

On a related note, the Canadian government will reportedly be introducing legislation sometime this spring for a Passenger Bill of Rights (something that's been promised for awhile). This article provides a few details on how over-booking is handled here - http://globalnews.ca/news/3368663/rights-overbooked-airline-flight/ .

Jimmy Kimmel had a great segment on this.....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwPdWEdbgxY

As someone said on one website I read, all United had to do was keep increasing the compensation amount, regardless of the limit. At some point, a stampede of willing volunteers would occur and the problem would be solved.

Posted by
533 posts

I wish that people (not just here) wouldn't keep blindly repeating the claim that the flight was "overbooked." The flight was fully booked - in that there was one paying passenger for each seat - until United decided that they wanted to underbook it to make room for the United employees.

I think that's what makes the whole thing seem so obnoxious to me: United's announcing that the people who are already on the plane are less important than the ones not yet on the plane. That's probably also why the passenger felt empowered to refuse to be bumped on the grounds that he's a doctor and has patients to treat the next day. If the reason the United employees were in such a hurry to get to Louisville was relevant to the calculation of who gets bumped, then (he reasoned) his reason should be relevant too.

I also don't understand the mentality that there was nothing wrong with what happened because it only happened once. The fact that it happened at all, when it didn't need to (United should have gotten its act together and secured seats for the employees before the passengers boarded - so that nobody needed to know that they were being bumped in favor of one of United's own - and if they couldn't do that, they should have sent the employees to Louisville on another airline or another mode of transportation), combined with United's tone-deaf initial response, sends the strong message that United doesn't give a fig about its customers. You've paid for your ticket, but they still owe you nothing - not courtesy, not peace of mind, not even physical safety. You're not important, your reasons for traveling are not important, and if you dare to presume otherwise, you'll end up with a bloody nose, and you'll deserve it.

Posted by
2262 posts

If that now dirty word, REGULATION, were allowed, this could be easily solved for the future. It's really very simple. The airlines know how many seats the plane holds and how many seats they have sold - and when. As soon as they have sold the number of seats on the plane, require that every ticket sold after that point comes with the provision that this seat is not guaranteed as the plane is already at capacity, and will only be allowed to board if there are no-shows. If the airline wishes to reserve several seats for possible internal use, then those seats come off the capacity. And the passenger knows when he buys his ticket that he is already buying into a full plane and won't fly if someone else does not show up. If this is bad for the airline business because they can't oversell the plane and keep the profits from cancelled seats, then this can also be sweetened in that anyone who bought an oversold ticket and does not get to fly did so at their own option and is only entitled to a refund or an alternative flight at that point, and thus the airlines are saved the compensation issue. No random numbers, no "whose life is more important", no let's see who paid what for their ticket. You buy an available seat, it's yours.

Posted by
6750 posts

Khbuzzard,
That's an excellent post, very well-articulated and compelling.

As for regulation of overbooking or even pricing transparency when booking, I wouldn't count on it here in the US. The airlines have politicians in their pockets, and our Congress and President have no interest in regulating them further.
http://thehill.com/policy/transportation/322214-trump-admin-halts-comment-period-on-airfare-transparency-proposals
https://insideflyer.com/2017/03/trump-administration-moves-block-airline-price-transparency/

Posted by
1160 posts

Under UE rules, if a passenger gets out of a plane after boarding, his/her luggage must be retrieved and unloaded from the plane. The plane can't leave if it has more luggage than passengers - if it takes an hour to find a piece of luggage, well, you take an hour.
(I learned this the hard way when a member of my travel group became so terrified of flying to flee the airport before boarding but after checking his luggage!)

Removing people already seated at their place makes me think the airline is prone to security hazards.

Posted by
506 posts

If they were offering an $800 travel voucher plus overnight accommodations and food. Sold! When they get above $500; the wife and I start listening!

Ed

Posted by
533 posts

Ed: But there are plenty of people who wouldn't, especially since it was a Sunday evening flight and the next available flight wasn't until Monday afternoon. Most of them probably had to work the next day, and some of them may even have had jobs where they could be fired for an unplanned absence. If the plane was small enough (and it looks like it may have been), I could easily imagine that every single person on it wanted to get where they were going more than they wanted an $800 voucher.

For cases like this - where the delay until the next flight is long but the distance is relatively short - they really ought to offer at least a rental car voucher in lieu of the hotel and the next-day flight, for passengers who would prefer that option.

Posted by
10048 posts

Unfortunately, most here don't see how airlines operate. People are not treated equally.

Let's say Person A buys a ticket six months in advance for $50. They fly once a year and don't belong to the airline's FF program. Person B flies on the airline every week. He is a top level FF. He is willing to pay $300 for the same ticket last minute.

The plane is now oversold. Who do you think is going to get bumped? The airline is in business to make money. Who do you think they want to be upset with them....Person A or B?

Overselling is done all the time and not just at airlines. Hotels do it. Rental Car companies do it.

As for crew, that could have been a last minute move. Crews are moved around all the time last minute. I had a flight delayed once because there were no pilots. The pilots who were supposed to be on my flight were delayed due to bad weather. So, they pulled a crew off another later flight to fly mine. But to have the passengers board and then realize they need to accomodate crew is rare.

In this case, the airline decided it would rather get four passengers upset than have to cancel an entire flight. (The flight that crew was flying to take.)

Unfortunately, in this situation, they had a passenger who wouldn't cooperate. Technically, the airline has the right to refuse anyone. If the Captain decided he doesn't want you on his flight, you are off. No arguments. No lawsuits. He has complete power over his aircraft and who flies in it.

The airline has the same power. They can deny you taking the flight as long as they go by the rules. And the rules for bumping are clear and available to anyone who buys a ticket.

In this case they needed the seats. In other reasons, the plane may be overweight and they have to unload some human cargo. And those people paying the least and are less loyal to the airline are the first to go.

United could have handled this differently by getting the passenger on another flight that day on another airline. However, they chose not to do that. Legal but not logical.

Posted by
6750 posts

Sorry, but the "net" is not a court system where bad incidents like these are properly litigated. "Proof" on the net is a pretty loose term with a low bar of standards, if any. Just because someone claims something on an internet forum doesn't make it true. I prefer sworn testimony myself; somebody needs to look at all the evidence from multiple sources. Has it even been confirmed anywhere that the guy is in fact a doctor?

Posted by
533 posts

The thing is, it's not a matter of upsetting person A versus person B. It's person B versus everyone on the internet. Because there are a lot of us out there who identify with person A - who don't fly every week and who shop around for good deals on airfare, and who find it unsettling to know that the airlines have no qualms about treating us as "less than" because of it. If they value our business so little, they shouldn't be selling us tickets at those prices to begin with.

I think any airline whose procedures rely on being able to kick off passengers who've already boarded the plane, and who haven't done anything wrong up to that point, is asking for something like this to happen sooner or later. Because sooner or later, somebody's going to refuse to leave and have to be removed by force, and a physical altercation in a small crowded space stands a very good chance of getting out of hand.

Just because it's "technically allowed" doesn't mean it's a smart thing to do.

Posted by
6074 posts

Frank II makes very good points. If the Captain says get off, you get off. If the police say come with me, you go with them. Arguing makes good video, but doesn't mean the loudest argument wins. Airlines' primary goal is to make money to stay in business and pay the shareowners, not to make every customer happy.

Posted by
4524 posts

Frank II has a lot of very good points. In some ways, this was a no-win for United once this guy refused to leave the plane.

If they don't get the flight crew to Louisville, another plane is delayed or cancelled. That's a lot of people that also need to get somewhere on time.

Once they man refused a directive from the crew, he COULD NOT be allowed to remain on board. Many people do not realize that failure to follow a flight crew's direction is grounds for being removed. It happens rarely but usually when it does, there is a public stink (unless the person is intoxicated and then the sympathy shifts). Regular readers of travel columns will know many nasty flight removal stories for things that seem rather benign in hindsight. It's not good PR.

If this man were allowed to remain, United would have had to choose someone else to remove. That person would have raised a stink. Three other people left as requested, upset, but without the drama. Why did this man resist?

There is no good way to remove someone from a tight airplane that refuses to physically cooperate.

From what I know, United knew they had an issue with 4 seats before boarding and had started asking for volunteers. But without any takers, they boarded the plane. That was a mistake as it is a lot harder to get volunteers once you are seated and gets people more upset to be involuntarily bumped.

The officers apparently did not follow procedure. I'm not sure what the proper procedure was for someone refusing to deplane on a crew's orders. But it's worth noting that the nasty video is a result of the officer's forcefully removing him, not United's fault for asking him to deplane. I doubt the attendants asked the cops to rough him up a bit as they removed him.

Apparently, somehow the man got back on the plane AFTER this video. He then wandered all the way to the rear and had to once again be escorted by police (that time without indecent). Makes me wonder if there is more to the story about the man.

Posted by
3469 posts

There was nothing random about the choice of who was removed from the plane. United, and every other airline in the world, will bump the person who paid the least amount for their ticket first (unless it is a child traveling as part of a family group).

By asking for volunteers and offering a certain dollar amount in vouchers, they can get away with a low cost for those who accepted the offer vs. having to pay actual cash money often in excess of the ticket price to those that are chosen to be bumped. A voucher really doesn't cost the airline anything given the restrictions on using them and the fact that a high percentage go unused due to the difficulty in using them.

It is strange that no one on the plane accepted the offer to give up their seat. There always seem to be many passengers who are more than willing to on the oversold flights I have been on.

But, as others here have mentioned, when you are told to leave the plane, you leave the plane. Now this doctor is facing criminal charge and got nothing for being dragged off the plane. United looks bad, but this will all be forgotten in a couple weeks.

Posted by
1178 posts

I think the biggest problem I'm having with people's arguments is the black and white thinking. Some think that the only choices United had was forcibly removing the passenger or not having crew in KY the next day. This is known as a logical fallacy.
United had plenty of alternate choices that they did NOT exercise. That's the crux of the matter. They created the situation by not handling it well in the first place. Then they went nuclear in their response. They escalated a situation instead of working it out in a logical manner.

Posted by
4950 posts

Douglas makes the excellent point that life on an airplane is not a Democracy. It's a throwback to the English Navy, and the omnipotent Captain of a ship. That's why Congressional REGULATION is important. And why the privileges Members of Congress receive in travel (and elsewhere) make them insensitive to the real lives of their constituents.

In another context, businesses are not as subject to the Bill of Rights as is a government agency. If a company wants to prohibit tee shirts in their dining room, they can do it. If a Captain decides that someone who looks ... er .... Muslim should be removed from a plane, he doesn't have to worry about "equal rights."

Posted by
10048 posts

First, the man claims to be a doctor. No proof.

Next, no sane person is going to wander back on to the plane after being removed. I have to wonder if he was in full use of his faculties or could he be impaired in some way.

If an airline makes an offer to anyone who wants to take a later flight that is up to you. However, if you are forcibly bumped and they cannot get you to your destination within one hour then you are owed compensation.

They will usually offer you a voucher. You do not have to accept. You can insist on cash. They want you to take the voucher but you can stand firm. If you want cash, they have to give you cash.

And your original ticket will be transferred to your new flight. They still have to get you there.

Does anyone really think with our current government we're going to see airline regulation anytime soon?

Posted by
533 posts

To Cindy H's point about other options: By my reading of the flight schedules, there are nine direct flights a day from O'Hare to Louisville (excluding the ridiculously expensive charter flights) - five on United and four on American. There were two more flights on Sunday evening scheduled to leave after the flight in question, and four on Monday before the 3:00 PM flight on which the bumped passengers were rebooked.

All those flights were probably full or overbooked too, which is why they defaulted to the 3:00 PM flight as the "first available." But when they couldn't find any takers to be bumped to the 3:00 PM flight (which, again, does not surprise me at all - that's a nearly 24-hour delay on a barely 1-hour flight), they could have tried offering the bumped passengers a seat on a late-night or early-morning flight and then asked for volunteers from those flights to be bumped to one later on Monday.

Or, again, they could have sprung for a taxi, limo, or rental car. Chicago and Louisville are not an infinite distance apart, and there are ways to get people from one to the other besides flying.

Posted by
2780 posts

He is indeed a doctor, according to this:

http://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/local/2017/04/11/david-dao-passenger-removed-united-flight-doctor-troubled-past/100318320/

As is his wife. Both pulmonologists. His license to practice was suspended subsequent to drug violations, but was recently reinstated, "with conditions.". Wonder how this incident will play with those responsible for supervising his compliance?

None of this should be relevant to whether he should have been denied a seat on the plane. The algorhythm used to determine that cannot discriminate among professions, or reasons to fly. It does place lowest priority on certain classes,,such as children, disabled people, etc. But among the adult passengers,the selection criteria are clearly definable, such as price paid for the ticket, status with the airline, check-in time, and other things---all within the passenger's control so thisis not discrimination in the legal sense.

Posted by
2349 posts

United could have finessed this so that the other passengers became angry at the one guy who was the obstacle to their destination. It seems they were not very diplomatic when demanding "volunteers" who would like to be "re-accommodated" so they did not have the pax on their side.

Certainly we should all have a plan in place in case this happens to us. How much would we hold out for? Make sure that you get cash, not vouchers, and that your hotel is paid for as well. I suppose stating to staff/law enforcement that you will vacate your seat but that you need to see a supervisor immediately would be a good idea. Better than a broken nose.

But we're not always thinking clearly. If it's the last leg of a long journey, or if you'd been denied boarding once or twice earlier in the day, you may just be inclined to sit tight. Maybe I have to do payroll the next day. Should I brag to my employees that while their paychecks were delayed and they incurred overdraft fees, I got $800?

Posted by
6750 posts

How much would we hold out for?

I would read the rules of carriage of the airline you're flying and use that as a guide, since they spell out explicitly how much the airline is willing to offer. I'm not sure if it's a true ceiling and whether other factors are used to determine the offer.

Posted by
26058 posts

Why don't people take a train for such a short journey?

Don't elderly people have any rights over there?

Would you want your grandfather or father treated that way?

And then for the boss of the airline to make a special broadcast to staff praising them for doing such a great job, in the face of such a monumental cock up!

Posted by
4524 posts

All those flights were probably full or overbooked too, which is why they defaulted to the 3:00 PM flight as the "first available." But when they couldn't find any takers to be bumped to the 3:00 PM flight (which, again, does not surprise me at all - that's a nearly 24-hour delay on a barely 1-hour flight), they could have tried offering the bumped passengers a seat on a late-night or early-morning flight and then asked for volunteers from those flights to be bumped to one later on Monday.

These are all things that get worked out once you've been bumped. I'm not the most experienced with it, but I have taken voluntary vouchers before (there were, by the way, no restrictions other than expiration dates, they worked like a gift card). Airlines have lots of ways and options of getting you to your destination. You'll be late, but chances are those bumped would have been in Louisville by next morning (I think this was United's last flight of the day). And chances are those earlier flights the next day would have empty seats to accommodate them. Or worst case scenario, take the $800 and rent a car for $150 and drive 5 hours home.

Posted by
6750 posts

Nigel,
The train would take 6 times as long as the flight (almost 6 hours) and that doesn't even factor in potential delays. The US does not have a true high-speed train system anywhere, and there are many gaps in coverage all over the country. The most reliable trains are on the East Coast (Boston-NYC-Washington DC corridor) and, even here, they leave much to be desired. They are not even competitive using cost as a sole factor. Without either cost or time savings, the trip between St. Louis and Chicago isn't all that attractive by train (or bus, which would be cheap but take as long - if not longer - than a car).

As far as his age, is upper 60s/low 70s considered "elderly"? That's my parents age (I don't consider them elderly). No, I wouldn't want my parents treated that way...but then again, I wouldn't want them to resist when being asked to leave either, only to come running back inside the plane afterward (does that strike anyone else as really odd?). Whether or not it was fair of the airline to ask him to leave, the choice to resist and be dragged out screaming could have been avoided altogether. A bad combination of factors and choices (on all sides) made that happen.

Posted by
3469 posts

Nigel,

People don't take trains in the US mainly because there aren't any.

I envy the UK residents because of the fantastic train service there. I ride it every chance I get when I am in the UK. Unfortunately, other than the East Coast area in the US, trains are rare or non existent in the US. Last time I rode a train, from Chicago IL to Dallas TX, it took 3 days longer than scheduled because the passenger trains have to pull over and wait when freight goes by. I don't think that route exists anymore.

Posted by
2780 posts

It was Louisville, not St. Louis, and the train journey is 7-8 hours. Actually I think Nigel, with his extensive knowledge of trains and some experience living in the US, was kidding.

His criticism of United CEO's attitude is spot on. I see Munoz has now offered an apology to Dr. Dao.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/united-ceo-under-fire-for-crisis-response-says-passenger-was-belligerent-1491921299

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/business/united-airline-passenger-overbooked-flights.html?_r=0

Meanwhile United stock price is falling. . . .

Posted by
8293 posts

Agnes , yes, I am sorry to advise you that upper 60's early 70's is considered elderly, in Canada, at any rate. Not doddering, but elderly. Yeah, I know, if one's parents are elderly then the the bloom of youth is off one's own cheeks. Alas.

Posted by
533 posts

These are all things that get worked out once you've been bumped. I'm not the most experienced with it, but I have taken voluntary vouchers before (there were, by the way, no restrictions other than expiration dates, they worked like a gift card). Airlines have lots of ways and options of getting you to your destination. You'll be late, but chances are those bumped would have been in Louisville by next morning (I think this was United's last flight of the day). And chances are those earlier flights the next day would have empty seats to accommodate them. Or worst case scenario, take the $800 and rent a car for $150 and drive 5 hours home.

It was not United's last flight of the day (unless the schedule for this past Sunday is different from the other Sundays I checked, which all show a 9:00 PM flight arriving at 11:22).

I've never been bumped voluntarily or involuntarily, but when I've heard them make the call for volunteers, they've always said "And we'll seat you on the next available flight, which is XYZ." It's my understanding that in this story, XYZ was "3:00 PM tomorrow." If there was actually an option for getting the bumped passengers on an earlier flight, they should have explained that.

And you can't rent a car with an airline voucher, I don't believe. To give the passengers that option, they should have offered cash (others in this thread have said that you can negotiate for cash compensation, but not everybody knows that) or a rental-car voucher.

Posted by
6750 posts

People don't take trains in the US mainly because there aren't any.

There IS a train network (Amtrak) but you have to look at it to see all the coverage gaps, especially rural areas. Where trains actually run (and they do run in many places outside the East Coast corridor), they are slow by international standards. And expensive, unless you buy your ticket way in advance. No such thing as true high-speed, not even on Amtrak's Acela (which shares its tracks with freight trains). The long-distance buses are cheap and fill some gaps, but they are affected by traffic just like cars. The urban patterns in much of the US don't support the dense train networks you see in Europe. California has been trying to build a high-speed train system from southern to northern California for decades now.

Posted by
533 posts

The closest train station to Louisville, Kentucky is in Cincinnati, Ohio - around 100 miles away. The train from Chicago to Cincinnati runs three times a week - meaning that if Dr. Dao had waited for the next train after being bumped from his flight, he'd be waiting there still. If the train is on time, he'd arrive in Cincinnati at 3:17 tomorrow morning. (On the plus side, you can buy a ticket for only $50.)

I love riding Amtrak is a leisurely way to see the country. But as a practical means of getting around, outside of certain areas like the Northeast, it doesn't work.

Posted by
6857 posts

I hope this will scare people or they will stop traveling with United and cause their fares to go down so I can go on vacation somewhere abroad.

Posted by
31303 posts

According to one news source this morning, United stock is down 1 billion dollars! That's a sizable bit of cash!

The United CEO just doesn't seem to get it. Sending out an E-mail to his employees with lavish praise for how they handled this situation is NOT the right move.

Posted by
10048 posts

United's stock is not down a billion dollars. It's down a little over 1% which is about 250 million. A 1% move is not a big deal.

How much you get in compensation is set by law. (AT least the minimums):

If the airline gets you to your destination within one hour of the original time, it owes you nothing.

If it's 1-2 hours (1-4 internationally) they must pay you 200% of the one way fare up to $675.

If over 4 hours or they don't make alternate arrangements, they must pay you 400% of the one way fare or up to $1350. If it's overnight they are also supposed to give you vouchers for hotel and food.

This is for involuntary bumping. However most people don't know this and never ask for it. And if they do, the first thing offered are flight vouchers. They will tell you that's all you get. Wrong. You can insist on cash. (Not actually cash but a check.)

And your original ticket is still valid for flight.

And all of this will blow over in a few days. Remember "United hates Guitars" and "Passenger not allowed on in leggings?"

Posted by
10048 posts

And don't expect any improvement from Amtrak. The current budget under debate cuts out all funding for them. The money is needed for the wall.

Posted by
2780 posts

United stock price drop---it depends on when you look. According to NPR it was down as much as 6% at one point today. That is where Ken's $1 billion came from ( rounded up). But then it recovered somewhat.

Posted by
31303 posts

The $1 billion was a figure quoted first thing this morning. As Sasha mentioned, it's recovered somewhat now. Apparently the stock price rebounded after the CEO issued an apology. The late news tonight says that although the stock prices rebounded, it's still a $500 million loss.

The United CEO has now apologized for the "horrific" passenger removal of the passenger. He seems to have changed his tune since yesterday. One of the Twitter posts was rather humorous - "Not enough seating, time for a beating". I'll be anxiously waiting to see the next installment of this saga on the late night talk shows.

I suspect that Frank II is absolutely right, and this will drop off the radar in a week or two and social networking sites will move on to a newer scandal.

Posted by
1178 posts

I think people are getting confused about compensations

There is IDB compensation that is a maximum of $1300 (more or less) plus you get either another flight or the refund of the unused portion of your ticket. Passenger can demand cash immediately. Be aware that airline math is not 1/2 the cost of your round trip ticket. IDB Is when you are denied boarding against your will.

The other is the volunteer compensation to avoid the IDB. There are no rules or limits on that. I believe United capped their volunteer compensation to a free hotel plus $800 in vouchers (not cash). They had the ability to go higher on vouchers, offer cash, (could have been used for a rental car) etc. They chose NOT to go in that direction. They could have sweetened the offer for volunteers by offering more money.

Posted by
1878 posts

It's pretty ridiculous that United did not figure this out before the man was seated in the plane. Once you have boarded, you should be guaranteed to be on the flight. They should also have deplaned everyone before dealing with the conflict, and waited until real law enforcement could be involved.

That said, if someone in authority (which on a plane this means captain, crew, security) tells you to get of the plane, you get off the plane.

I don't normally side with a big corporation over an individual, not remotely.

The PR optics on this are horrible though. This blowback is partly the result of the fact that airlines generally treat people poorly.

Posted by
21249 posts

....United stock is down 1 billion dollars! That's a sizable bit of cash!.......

That means absolutely nothing. United does not have one less dollar in it's revenue stream, checking account, etc. It does mean that a whole bunch of stock holders ranging from pension funds to IRAs, to individuals, maybe the balance sheet of United if United holds any of their own stocks are down a bit. But stock values vary all the time. Double the price of crude oil and then watch the stock price fall. And for those who like United as a stock, this just represents a great buying opportunity.

Posted by
31303 posts

"That means absolutely nothing. United does not have one less dollar in it's revenue stream, checking account, etc."

While that may be true, I would think the shareholders would be somewhat concerned to see their investment going down in value. As you mentioned, I'm sure those in the market to buy United stock will be happy.

Posted by
607 posts

The passenger's occupation/background is irrelevant. It is not like we have "previously-suspended-medical-doctor", "retired university professor", "website editor" or 'unemployed" tattooed on our foreheads. It should not make any difference as to how this passenger should be treated. The only visible factor may be his ethnicity, and that opens up another whole can of worms.

There is at least one video showing what happened before Dr. Dao was manhandled. He was definitely calm in his dealing with the officer. He was on his cellphone, possibly talking with a lawyer. He was firm that he would not leave, but displayed no violence.

The videos then show that he was dragged out sideways from his seat and appears to hit his head on an arm rest. The original statement by the United president that the passenger fell and hit himself or the above speculation that he purposely hit his head does not accord with the video.

And once the man was down, why not lift him up and walk him out. If he could not stand because he was injured, then bring in a gurney. Why drag him out like a carcass? Did ethnicity have something to do with it? Would an old white male be treated the same way?

Was he impaired, as alleged above? I would say maybe yes, but only after he struck his head. Before he was manhandled, the video showed that he was lucid. After he hit his head, he was bleeding from the mouth and dripping blood on the plane. The last video shows him walking back on the plane and standing in the back clutching the curtain and mumbling that he wanted to go home over and over. He certainly had a very dazed and confused look at this point. If he was a pro-hockey player, they would have put him in the quiet room and exercised the concussion protocol. He is currently still receiving treatment in the hospital.

The UAL stock price dropped almost $3 on Tuesday morning when the news broke. This and social media tells you what a lot of people think about UAL. I hope Dr. Dao gets a big bag of money from United to compensate him. The stock price fluctuation and any future settlement will not bankrupt UAL. In the end, it all comes out of the pockets of future passengers.

Posted by
12551 posts

I'm sorry, what did I miss today.

All I heard about was the police having to forceably remove a trespasser? Was there something I missed? Did United employees beat someone up?

Posted by
18022 posts

The money is needed for the wall.

You mean the wall he promised we wouldn't pay for because he was going to make Mexico pay for it?

Posted by
506 posts

Someone suggested Southwest change their ad slogan:
Southwest Ad

I wonder how Saturday Night Live and Southpark are going to deal with this incident?

Ed

Posted by
6750 posts

James,
What you missed was this "alternative fact" (channeling Kellyanne here): three people voluntarily left a United (or subsidiary) plane when requested for some amount of compensation. You won't hear their stories because...well, it's just too mundane and boring.

Posted by
10048 posts

United is now saying the flight was not overbook but full. They needed the four seats for crewmembers who had to work a morning flight.

They also said that every passenger on that flight would be compensated by receiving what they paid for the flight. And, they will never have another passenger dragged off a plane.

Posted by
12551 posts

Thanks Agnes. About 3 years ago I had a Lufthansa ticket (code share) for a UA flight - first flight of a 3 leg trip. I was in economy and don't belong to any of their clubs. From the moment I purchased the ticket I could not get a seat assignment. At the airport I discovered it was overbooked and I wasn't getting a seat unless someone gave theirs up. The UA offer only went to about $400 and there were no takers. One kid looked a bit interested and I finally talked him into to taking the UA money if I would add $200 to it. I don't often fly UA any longer. Discovered that Delta has one of the lowest overbooking records and the quality is all around better.

Posted by
6750 posts

James, everyone has their favorite airlines. Mine would be Southwest for domestic travel because their fares are intelligible, their staff seems happy and even cheeky, most people seem to enjoy their flights, and they don't (largely) segregate their customers into haves and have nots (which I think is making airlines a powder keg for a proxy war on inequality and all sorts of petty injustices levied by corporations). I've never had a problem with United and am scheduled to fly them next month. Look at the bumping stats - they're still tiny (way less than 1%). No boycott of them will work since they're something like 60% market share in major cities like Houston and Chicago....good 'ol airline consolidation. Delta has been notorious for lack of transparency regarding reward points. They pulled their award charts off their website a few years ago (a move that was roundly criticized) and their practices are very opaque, so I figure they don't need my loyalty. No airline does really since they've mostly become a commodity (minus some European airlines, Turkish Air, Southwest, Alaska, and JetBlue).

Posted by
12551 posts

Agnes, I've been flying Southwest since the days of the hot pants and white boots. Always a favorite but I would have to purchase 2 tickets to use them to get to my jump off city for Europe and it would add a few hundred extra to the cost of the trip.

The deal with the airlines probably has as much to do with the which market you are in as anything else. UA is very convenient for me as the first leg to Europe, but the last 3 times the first leg was delayed more than 2 hours. I found a work around by booking a first leg that arrived 4+ hours earlier than the departure time of the second leg. That way if the first and the second flight was canceled I could still make the connection on the third flight. Has something to do with where my point of origin is located in the larger scheme of their scheduling. I will say that the UA staff were pretty wonderful in all occasions. Also with UA the connection in Europe is most often Lufthansa and I sort of like their hard seats.

Delta has been more reliable for my particular connections, but I pay a little extra and one of the connections on the way over is less desirable (Chucky D). So there are all sorts of trade offs. But, no, I am not boycotting UA; "I don't often fly UA any longer". Just gambling elsewhere when convenient. Its the part of the free market system I like.

Posted by
1277 posts

I'm not sure which is the fake news but thought I'd share this: "Fake news is circulating smearing the doctor who was brutally dragged from a United Airlines flight. Read this and speak up against this pro-United propaganda: "Wrong! Wrong!! The Vietnamese name "David Dao" is very common and the Daily Mail did not do their research. The doctor on the plane is named David Thanh Duc Dao, MD. He has 4 children (all doctors) and his wife, also a doctor, owns a clinic south of Louisville. He has no criminal past of any kind.
The OTHER man with a criminal past, who lives 60 miles from Louisville, is named David Anh Duy Dao. Similar name but different person.
United has been running a smear campaign against Dr. Dao to ward off bad press and potential lawsuits. They misidentified him as a criminal, and the Daily Mail reported the misidentification without vetting the story."

Edit: Thank you, Sasha, for posting the Snopes link which says this information isn't true.

Posted by
18022 posts

I can see it now. Airlines will start adding another extra cost item to the tickets called "bump-free status". For an extra charge, say $50, you won't be subject to bumping.

Posted by
902 posts

I absolutely hate to be taking a position that appears to defend a large corporation. I still would practice throw away ticketing without any guilt. BUT, I still think that the dear doctor needs to take some responsibility for the physical damage done to his body. When you refuse to exit a plane as instructed by flight crew and then by police that is going to get you into trouble. I look at this situation as two different situations. 1. The dreaded corporation did not handle the situation well in multiple ways. This could possibly lead me to not use their services in return (if it wasn't too much of an inconvenience for me). 2. The passenger made an unwise decision to resist authority that he had no legal right for sure and perhaps ethical rights to resist. He made life difficult for himself. He made life difficult for his fellow passengers. He made life difficult for the company (don't feel too bad about that). I don't blame the airline for the physical repercussions that he suffered. He agreed to that possibility when he refused compliance with authority. I don't think many persons on this forum would have put themselves in this situation.

Also, I have never found it necessary to pull out the doctor card. That action also makes me less sympathetic to him.

Posted by
31303 posts

Grier,

Thanks for posting accurate and correct information on Dr. Dao.

News reports this morning indicate that the legal wheels are now starting to turn, and a lawsuit will probably be filed in the near future. In addition to a concussion, the Dr. reportedly suffered broken teeth, a broken nose and sinus injuries which will require reconstructive surgery. All of that is going to be expensive, so I imagine the settlement is going to be many millions. Regardless of how much the settlement is, I suppose United passengers will ultimately be supplying the funds.

Posted by
12551 posts

vandrabrud, I guess I am still confused. Who dragged the guy off the plane? United employees or the police? So, if I have a trespasser in my house, and I call the cops, and the cops beat the guy up; I am liable? I also thought I read someplace that refusing to follow the directions of a flight crew was some sort of big time crime. Something to do with controlling terrorism threats or something?

Posted by
2780 posts

Ken---read my links a few posts above, particularly the LA Times. It explains how the mix-up occurred and the idea arose in social media that a different Dr. dap had the criminal history. But it turns out The doctor was indeed correctly identified by the Louisville newspaper as having past convictions. They verified their facts with several sources. The other guy in Grier's explanation is licensed in Louisiana and was not the passenger.

James---since when is a passwnger sitting in his seat with a valid ticket a "trespasser?". And how do you know the order to leave the plane was in fact lawful?

I think you need to read further about this and become more informed before asking your questions here. Try this:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/04/united-passenger-removal-reporting-management-fail.html

Posted by
10048 posts

Cindy H, sorry but your article is biased fake news with lots of errors.

If a flight crew member wants you off the plane, you are off the plane. If the Captain deems he does not want a passenger on board for any reason, you are off. FAA rules clearly state the Captain is in full control of that aircraft. No one, and I mean no one, can force the Captain to comply to any rules. Technically, the Captain doesn't even have to obey Air Traffic Control if he feels doing so is a danger to his aircraft. (Of course, if he blatantly ignores instructions he will probably have to attend a hearing as to why he did it.)

You can be bumped for many reasons. If you smell bad and others complain you can be removed from the flight. If other passengers think you are a menace and complain, you can be removed from the flight. (How often have we heard recently where Muslims were removed from flights because some passenger heard them talking in Arabic?). If you keep talking on your cell phone after the flight attendants have instructed you to put it away, you can be removed. All of these have happened and in the news.

If the airline wants you off, you get off. That doesn't mean the airline is absolved of their responsibility to gt you to your destination. And in many cases also has to pay compensation in addition to honoring your ticket.

Don't confuse contract of carriage with federal law. The contract of carriage basically spells out your rights if you are bumped. The airlines follow federal law which is not included in the contracts of carriage because it's the law.

Sasha, as I stated, if a flight crew member wants you off, you are off. All they have to do is claim that it is in regard to safety and the passenger is removed. If a passenger won't comply on the ground, they'll say, it will be even more dangerous at 30,000 feet.

I trained to be a pilot many years ago and part of the training was learning the law. The law gives the Pilot In Command, in airlines the Captain, almost ultimate power over his aircraft.

Posted by
1178 posts

Frank - there is a legal concept known as escalation of force. If a police officer fails to escalate force in a proper manner they cease at that point to be police officers. I actually had to be a Juror on a criminal trial that was based on this concept. The judge spent quite a bit of time instructing us on that concept.

There is also an issue of using police to enforce private contract matters. Again, you're not supposed to do it.

The captain has authority until the law is broken. At that point, you lose that authority. This legal concept has been stated in several trials, usually under the heading of "illegal orders". Most of the time you see it in regard to the armed forces, but it exists elsewhere.

Posted by
2780 posts

This was not a safety issue. United has never argued that it was.

And do you know for a fact that the pilot was the one who made the decision to forcibly and brutally remove him?

Posted by
902 posts

James E. Read my post again. I think we agree.

It seems to me that people think that for no reason, a police officer boarded the plane and beat up that passenger without cause. Of course I wasn't there and don't know exactly what happened. But, I do assume that this wasn't the case. I feel comfortable in saying that if I was the passenger I would not have been assaulted. I am sure I would have been angry but I wouldn't need surgery and I wouldn't be missing my two front teeth. Why not? Because if I was instructed to leave the plane by flight crew, I would have left the plane. If I was feeling feisty and resisted, when the police came and asked me to deplane, I would have deplaned. After that I would have used my big girl words and complained to United Airlines and asked for proper compensation.

I understand why posters are sympathetic to his cause. But I don't understand why they are putting the entire blame on the airline and the officer. Somebody with authority, hopefully with the Captains request and authority, asked the officer to remove the passenger from the plane. This shouldn't have been the time to resist at all cost. This man was being unreasonable and unlawful by not deplaning. Again, I agree that he shouldn't have been asked to deplane in the first place. But after he was asked to deplane and refused he should bear the consequences. Even if he is awarded $10 million in damages by a sympathetic jury, in my opinion his behavior was just as egregious as the airlines and the officer involved.

Posted by
8293 posts

vandabrud, apparently the CEO of United Airlines disagrees with you. He is apologizing all over the place and mea culpa-ing as well.

Posted by
6750 posts

I don't like litigating this over the internet with incomplete information and allegations that haven't been fully fleshed out. Lawyers can claim anything they want to advance their case - you need to weigh both sides free of bias. I am pretty much ignoring all the articles directly related to this case now because they're looking more and more like click-bait.

But the larger issue is...does everyone know their rights? This is a simple quiz, but effective.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/12/travel/airline-passenger-rights.html?&hpw&rref=travel&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

Posted by
12551 posts

Agnes, wise statement.

vandrabrud, I knew we agreed.

I always thought that there was some law against not doing with a Peace Office directed you to do. I always told my kids to do as instructed by the police. Be polite and say, yes sir and no ma'am. Then if it turns out to have been unwarranted or illegal, we sue the hell out of them. If the Doctor thought for a moment he would be able to remain on the plane, once ordered to leave (rightly or wrongly) he was insane. So why fight it? Why make the police's job tougher? Why make everyone late, why make that flight the crew had to meet also be late. Why, why?

Posted by
10048 posts

The courts will have to decide if this is a federal law matter or a civil matter regarding the contract of carriage.

The contract of carriage talks about denied boarding and the compensation you get. In this situation, the passenger already boarded.

The airline can still order you to leave the aircraft. All it takes is one member of the flight crew to say they want the person off, then it becomes law of disobeying a flight crew member.

At first, I'm sure the airline asked the man to leave, he refused. They probably tried to explain it to him after the others in the same situation had left, that he needed to go. At that point, a member of the flight crew probably asked him to leave. (We don't know this but it will come out if it goes to court.). If he still refuses, he is now breaking federal law, not a civil contract, and law enforcement can be called. (Remember, the contract of carriage talks about "denied boarding" not removal from aircraft.)

Technically, the airline didn't do anything wrong. The real problem occurred with the law enforcement officers called.

United is apologizing not because they broke any laws but because this is a P.R. headache to them. As usual, the internet is taking sides and the fake/one sided news articles are coming out of the woodwork. People are believing what they want to believe.

My prediction....at some point, this will go to court. United will be absolved of any wrongdoing but will probably pay some compensation to the guy injured as a gesture of good will. (This will probably be negotiated outside of court.) The police officers involved will probably be fired and possibly even charged with a crime.

One last thing, the Captain of an aircraft never loses full authority on his aircraft. Unless he is removed from the position, and there are reason he could be--mostly becoming unable to complete the job--he is in command. While he can't obviously break the law, if he feels anyone on board "might" interfere with the safety of his aircraft, passengers or crew, they will be removed. Failing to obey to a flight crew member is a guarantee you are probably getting. And even if it is a minor issue. (Remember Alec Baldwin and "Words with Friends.?")

Posted by
10048 posts

And the NY Times article is wrong.

First. if you voluntarily get yourself bumped, you will definitely get a seat on the next available flight but everything after that is negotiable. They may offer you a voucher but everything is negotiable.

The other has to do with delayed flight. If a flight is delayed or cancelled, you MIGHT get a voucher for a hotel room and meals. It depends on the reason for the cancellation. If it's the fault of the airline, they pay. If it's a fault of nature--storm, volcano, etc. you are on your own. (It's different in the EU where you get vouchers and refunds for just about any cancellation or major delay.)

Posted by
1178 posts

Frank, I'm more than a little bothered by your overuse of the term "fake news". Law Newz actually has a strong and demonstrated history of fact checking.

This is a matter for the courts and also the DOT and maybe congress. Let's not forget that the airlines made specific promises to avoid regulation.

Let's see what happens.

Posted by
31303 posts

One point that's occurred to me is that while airline crews have authority on who is allowed or denied on a flight, their request for removing someone has to be based on a reasonable and valid reason. Removing someone from a flight to cover the airline's incompetence in scheduling transportation for their relief crew would not seem to be a valid reason. Another question is whether police ordering someone to leave the aircraft for no valid reason constitutes a lawful order. I'm sure this will all be debated at length during the court case that will surely be coming in the near future.

Posted by
1178 posts

Technically, the airline didn't do anything wrong. The real problem occurred with the law enforcement officers called.
United is apologizing not because they broke any laws but because this is a P.R. headache to them.

I disagree with this statement. Please remember that the airlines made certain agreements with the US government in order to avoid regulation. They are bound to those agreements via federal law. The contract of carriage is part of those agreements. So a violation of the CoC would be a violation of the laws governing the airlines operation in US airspace.

Also note that this was not denied boarding. It was a removal and therefore under different rules of the contract. The replacement was not another paying customer, but an airline employee. Had they replaced the doctor with another customer this would be a different animal.

Violation of the contract in and of itself would technically place United in the wrong. Then there are further issues of misusing authority (illegal orders) which is still up for debate.

Posted by
378 posts

"To add to United's PR woes, I just saw this news article about a scorpion that fell out of the overhead bin and into some guy's hair while he was having lunch."

In other news, IcelandAir finally has an in-flight meal for all you proles flying in the cheap seats . . .

-- Mike Beebe

Posted by
10048 posts

Cindy....I was not referring to the law newz article but the medium.com one.

This entire fiasco will be decided in the courts. The airline will present one set of interpretation of the rules and the defendant will present another. It will be up to the judge and the jury to decide. If it gets that far.

Posted by
7996 posts

I don't believe it will make it to court (trial). UA will settle out of court to make this all go away.

Posted by
1767 posts

So a politician writing an airline to say don't do that has an "effect"? Well, yes if the 'Effect' is to get the politician publicity

Yes, this was bad.

No, United won't go out of business or have any other major long term consequences. Instead they will have a sale and all the people going "boycott United" will go "oh look we can save $5" and hit the buy button.

Posted by
31303 posts

Carol,

"So a politician writing an airline to say don't do that has an "effect"? Well, yes if the 'Effect' is to get the politician publicity"

The politician in this case is the Minister of Transport (and a former Navy officer and Astronaut) and therefore has the authority to punish those who don't comply.

Posted by
7996 posts

The latest rankings from the industry regarded Skytrax Awards.
http://www.airlinequality.com/news/2016-world-airline-awards-announced/#mainMenu

Based on reading negative opinions on this forum for over 13 yrs with United being named more often than others, and belonging to two RS travel groups and knowing lots of FF who say they'll fly any airline other than UA, I believe UA is disliked more than most others. Of course there are people who will say they've had no negative experience with UA, many years ago I flew UA several times and had no problem, but the vast majority of people I know have nothing but negative things to say about UA and I believe I've just been lucky. I heed their warnings and bad experiences and will not fly UA. And this was before this incident. This incident is indicative to me of a systemic problem with UA (and no doubt other airlines).

The link shows Skytrax top 100 airlines list, rated by customers from best to worst. I picked out the airlines familiar to me that fly US-Europe with their rating alongside.
UA is at the bottom with AA and Icelandair.

Lufthansa (10)
Air France (14)
KLM (24)
British Air (26)
Virgin Atlantic (28)
Norwegian (30)
Air Canada (31)
Delta (35)
Aer Lingus (49)
United (68)
American (77)
Icelandair (81)

Posted by
61 posts

Apparently the pilots on this flight disavowed
any role in this incident, so the Captain did not direct the passenger to leave.

Posted by
5689 posts

Anybody wanting to boycott United -- could you do it in December so there will be more mileage seats available for me ??

Posted by
2780 posts

I don't think fewer passengers buying tix will affect the number of reward seats they release. If UA sees a drop in business as fallout from this, they will need to promote revenue seats, not give them away for miles.

Posted by
2716 posts

Transatlantic voyages by ship are looking better and better.
Several companies, many destinations.

Posted by
8293 posts

I am flying with the hated Air Canada to London next month and am dreading it. But then it is only about 5 hours out of my life so what the heck

Posted by
31303 posts

Norma,

I just about always use Air Canada for flights to Europe, and so far they have provided great service. I have no complaints. The last few years I've paid extra for Premium Economy and that makes the 10 hour trip so much nicer!

Posted by
12551 posts

AirCanada, the only airline I was ever tempted to boycott. After a 4+ hour delay we finally got on our way. I was starved, most of the people on the plane were starved. Food, any food! Well they didn't have food, at least not any free food. CASH ONLY (this was some years ago). All I had was a $100 bill. Nope, nothing larger than a 20 accepted no matter how much change they had. So I said, the hell with it. I want 20 sandwiches ($5 each). Nope, cant do that either. Well then give them to the first 20 passengers that are hungry. Nope cant do that either. Just before I said something inappropriate another passenger who had a spare $5 bill purchase me a sandwich.

Posted by
8293 posts

James E. I have been using Air Canada for about 35 or more years and have never, ever, had to pay for food on long haul flights so your food story is very surprising. It also illustrates the downside of travelling with only $100 banknotes in one's wallet.

Ken. I asked about upgrading to Premium .Economy for my trip in May and was told it would cost $2160 extra each way. I was speechless. But it is as I said, 5 hours only, unlike your 12 hour flights from the west coast.

Posted by
31303 posts

Norma,

$2160 extra for an upgrade to Premium Economy??? Now I'm speechless. That's absurd. As I recall, my flight cost last year including P.E. was about $2k total. My flights from the "gateway" city (Vancouver, Calgary) are typically 10-11 hours these days, so I expect to pay more as it's a longer route than from the east coast.

I should add that I tried Air Canada Rouge last year and again paid for Premium Economy (YLW / YYZ & YYZ / LIS). It was great only having two flights to reach Europe instead of the usual three flights. Those flights were very comfortable and some of the best I've ever had. Based on the reviews I've read, the experience would have been much different had I been seated in Economy Rouge.

Posted by
8293 posts

Ken, maybe I had better contact AC again to clarify. Even if I misunderstood and the cost is a total of $2160 for the upgrade, it seems a ludicrous amount of money. Thanks.

Posted by
10048 posts

It doesn't matter what I think, or anyone here thinks, or what a law professor thinks.....what matters is what actually happens.

United will pay off the doctor and all will go away. It will never get to court. United will announce new rules to deal with passengers and the FAA will go away. (This will also be part of a major PR campaign to show how United "cares.") The officers involved will either be fired or will be allowed to resign and then move on. Or if they are lucky, get "retrained."

That's the reality of dealing with big corporations. They throw money at things and then people go away. No courts, no publicity. The amount of money the doctor gets will never be revealed because part of the deal will be to keep quiet. And they always do.

Posted by
506 posts

Frank II you are spot on with your analysis. The plaintiff's lawyers will continue to make statements to the press. The firm representing United will go about their business quietly, but very efficiently. One day it will be settled with a serious confidentiality clause. That will be it.

Ed

Posted by
533 posts

For what it's worth (I'm not a lawyer), I agree with the law professor's analysis linked above. United's contract of carriage has a list of reasons why a passenger who's already boarded can be removed from a plane. "To free up a seat for another passenger" is not on the list - therefore, it's not a valid reason. This seems straightforward to me.

Posted by
12376 posts

Frank II, I was referring mainly to your post at 11:26 on April 13, in which you basically said that the airline employees can order someone off the plane for any reason or no reason at all. As well as subsequent posts in which you say the pilot has absolute power on his plane. We have no idea if the pilot was even involved here ( and the United pilots have disavowed any role in this).

As for saying this will "never go to court", I think you mean it will never go to trial. It will be settled, I agree, but most likely he will file a lawsuit and both sides will engage in discovery before a meaningful settlement can be reached.

Posted by
12551 posts

Norma, was a 3.5 hour, more or less, North American flight. Final leg home from Europe.

BUT, like I said; the only airline I ever considered boycotting. If theirs were the best choice I would still use them.

Posted by
12551 posts

As for the UA thing. Denying service, isn't that a civil thing? Whats that worth? A few thousand dollars?

Posted by
7996 posts

Yeah, and the physical injuries in the millions.

Posted by
2780 posts

I don't thinks"denying service" would be the basis of Dr. Dao's lawsuit. More like assault,with physical and emotional damages.

Posted by
12551 posts

I didn't realize it was UA employees that beat him up. I thought it was the airport police. My bad.

Posted by
533 posts

He could still argue, I think, that the UA employees' actions were the proximate cause of his injuries. They wrongly ordered him to leave the plane, and they wrongly called the police when he refused.

Posted by
607 posts

I am not going to argue the legalities of UA's right to make this passenger to give up his seat.

For me, the liability of the plane operator was clear the moment the passenger smashed his head against the arm rest. He was clearly bleeding, suffered a concussion, broken teeth and nose. Full stop right there. The man needed immediate medical attention. There was no way he should have been dragged down the aisle, possibly aggravating his bodily injuries and suffering further indignity. And then to let him get up and wander to the back of the plane with a head injury, dripping blood on the seats and people. This goes well beyond just compensation for a mere bumped flight.

Nobody should be apologizing for UA. Even UA have finally realized that.

Edit: We just got home from Hawaii. We flew Air Canada Rouge. Best price for airfare at the time compared to others. Checkin and on board service etc was good. Free non-alc drinks. We had to pay for food and snacks. Credit card only, no cash. All entertainment is by wifi streaming on your electronic devices, or you can rent an ipad for $10. Note it is best to download thie AC Rouge app before you board the plane, at home or at airport. My son did it at YVR and it took a few minutes. I did it on the plane and it took over 1.5 hours (took a nap). Once downloaded, the app and streaming worked flawlessly.

Posted by
12551 posts

That's why I love this forum. I learn new things and new words. Makes me worry a bit though. What if I saw a guy that I thought was carrying a gun and I told a cop? What if the cop demanded the guy to show what was under his shirt and the guy refused (after all the guy knew he didn't have to) and the cops beat the hell out of the guy while ripping his shirt off? Would I be liable because of that "proximate cause" thing. Or am I exempt cause I haven't got a bunch of money in the bank?

Posted by
31303 posts

funpig,

" We flew Air Canada Rouge. Best price for airfare at the time compared to others. Checkin and on board service etc was good. Free non-alc drinks. We had to pay for food and snacks. Credit card only, no cash."

It is possible to save money on Air Canada Rouge if using Economy Rouge, although the seats aren't that comfortable and that's NOT something I'd tolerate on a 10 hour flight to Europe. As you mentioned, just about everything is extra cost, which is why it's cheaper. They also offer Premium Rouge on some routes and I can tell you that is SO much more comfortable (almost like business class), although it's not cheap.

Posted by
12551 posts

Thanks for the link. Very good read. United has made some customer friendly changes that will be good for them and they have handled the political issues well given the changing moral standards and perceptions in the country.

Posted by
6750 posts

No surprises that this was settled out of court and behind the scenes (and very quickly). This story has sucked up way too much oxygen already.

Posted by
31303 posts

This seems like the typical way that misbehaving corporations deal with stuff like this - throw a bunch of money at it and the problem will go away. I'm sure Dr. Dao got a "generous" settlement, but only if he keeps quiet about the amount. The big question is whether United or other airlines has learned anything from this.