What Really Happened Last Night When a Doctor Was Dragged Off a United Flight, and What Happens When You’re Denied Boarding

I wrote earlier about a doctor who was dragged off a United Express flight (operated by Republic Airlines) last night when the airline needed to transport crew instead of four passengers. He needed to get to work at a hospital the next day. United, though, needed crew in place in Louisville.


    Credit: @Tyler_Bridges

United didn’t just decide crew were more important than passengers, they needed those crewmembers in place in order to work a flight in the morning.

Here’s how United explains the progression:

  • The gate announced the overbooking of one passenger and offered $400 a hotel night plus rebooking on the 3 p.m. Monday flight.

  • Boarding commenced. Upon completion, they announced they needed 4 passengers to give up their seats and that the plane wouldn’t leave until the 4 crewmembers were accommodated on the flight.

  • The bump offer was increased to $800 but there were no takers.

The crew needed to make it to Louisville that night, and they’d have to meet federal rules for minimum rest before operating a flight the next day.


United Express Embraer Regional Jet

So United involuntarily denied boarding to four passengers. The first couple got off without incident. The doctor, traveling with his wife, refused to leave. That’s when three officers boarded the plane and removed him. He was injured in the altercation as he was literally dragged off the aircraft.

So what happens when you’re involuntarily denied boarding? When you have a ticket and reservation for a flight but the airline doesn’t give you let you fly on a flight which otherwise operates, and they don’t get volunteers, under 14 CFR 250.5 they’re required to pay:

  • Nothing if you are offered transportation to your first connecting city (or final destination in the event of a non-stop) scheduled for within an hour of your original booking.

  • Double your fare up to $675 if you’re rescheduled to arrive within 1-2 hours of original time.

  • Four times your fare up to $1350 if you aren’t given transportation scheduled to arrive at either your first connection or final destination within 2 hours of schedule.

Under the law the Department of Transportation will review these maximum amounts again this year.

However here’s what happened after the man was removed from the flight:

The man was able to get back on the plane after initially being taken off – his face was bloody and he seemed disoriented, Bridges said, and he ran to the back of the plane. Passengers asked to get off the plane as a medical crew came on to deal with the passenger, she said, and passengers were then told to go back to the gate so that officials could “tidy up” the plane before taking off.

The 1 hour 19 minute flight wound up delayed 2 hours.

Update: While this was a 70 seat aircraft, so the rules above applied, it’s worth noting that there are exceptions to the airline owing the compensation described above:

  1. If the airline substitutes a smaller plane than what was originally scheduled
  2. For 30-60 seat aircraft, if the bump is the result of weight or balance issues limiting the number of people that can fly.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. No, all four people were not Asian. When the computer chooses one person, it automatically chooses their spouse or other travelling companion. That’s how both Dao and his wife were chosen. The computer picked one, the algorithm aoto selected the partner.

    No, I am not an attorney. I have worked in legal research, and research of all types is my avocation.

  2. Gary Leff and Janiece Eaton, thank you very much for your replies in response to my comment and the questions there -in.
    Janiece, I could care less if you are a Lawyer or a Legal Professional, anyone who does some research and makes comments that make a lot of sense and provides Good Information that helps everyone else to have a better insight into this situation will always get my Applause and Respect.
    My option is to also do some research to try to refute what you have stated and the Contract clauses you have referenced, which I think would not be time well spent by me as I do not doubt what you have written.
    Now, it will be interesting to see how this plays out in Court and whether Dr. Dao is seen to be a victim or a violator of a Contract.
    Thank you
    Reg Ealey

  3. Thanks for the laugh Janiece. Self-congratulatory posts from a pompous faux lawyer on an aviation blog was not what I expected to be perusing on a lovely Easter Monday.

  4. Youre welcome Matthew. The last thing I expected was another waste of time post from you that cannot dispute the facts, the contract clauses, or the laws I cited. Most be a bitch that a non-lawyer on an aviation blogs can stomp every fake argument you try right into the ground. Have a pleasant pesach.

  5. Janiece, you may adopt a purist line and hope United do not settle. I agree that in a real Court, public opinion is virtually weightless. However in the court of commercial reality, it is a heavy commodity. The last thing United want is to have this incident on a front burner for the years it would take to run through the Courts, appeals and all. One from last is for this to get assigned, quite arbitrarily of course, similar to the way Dr. Dao [sorry but he is an MD, even if you are not a lawyer] was chosen, to a Judge who wants to be a hero and comes out with stinging comments against United and the airport police and narrowly or very heavily rules against the airline, doesn’t matter which. United will surely settle and Dr. Dao’s experienced PI lawyers will drive a very hard and expensive bargain, or course with no admission of liability etc. etc. etc. That is a concept that the Court of Public Opinion will just laugh at. They will be joined by Dr. Dao and his lawyers, all of whom will also be laughing [all the way to the bank] .

  6. But the flight was NOT overbooked. Booking was fine. The need arose because staff had to get to a destination and could only do so by taking that plane. That’s NOT overbooking. That’s poor planning on the part of whomever scheduled that staff. Thus, the contract should not be binding.

  7. This is not a sign of poor planning. More likely it was the result of something unforeseen. A medical emergency, bad weather preventing a crew from arriving, etc. This is a something that will happen.from time to time, and the contract remains binding.

  8. George: “That is a concept that the Court of Public Opinion will just laugh at. They will be joined by Dr. Dao and his lawyers, all of whom will also be laughing [all the way to the bank] .”

    absolutely lol. and they will deserve every cent. people will not fly United because (a) they don’t want to be beat up and (b) they don’t want to be told to leave after they are already seated and their stuff in the overhead bins. anyone who doesn’t understand this doesn’t understand that airlines are in the business of trust, and they need customers’ trust, confidence, and most of all $$ to stay in business. to keep insisting they are in the legal right, while they are losing in the court of public opinion is just plain foolish. which is why it doesn’t really matter who is right legally and who is wrong, or according to ‘carriage rules.’

    please keep flying United, it will leave room on other airlines for the rest of us, and we don’t have to risk being beat up or at best, kicked off last minute.

  9. Is this an alternative fact? Dr. Dao was off the airplane. He had accepted the initial offer, and was standing outside at the podium when he changed his mind and ran on board the plane without a ticket — triggering the ‘security’ event for the gate agent. He was behaving abusively in the airplane, and there are vidoes of this which were not shown publicly. A Federal Air Marshall (FAM) stood up, identified himself as a FAM, and told Dao that he must leave the plane immediately. Dao hit the FAM. The FAM decked him and carried him out. Less than 20 hours later, one of the largest, most well-financed law firms inthe country, specializing in Plaintiff’s tort actions, had a well-rehearsed social media / lawfare attack against UAL going, with numerous paid employees posting on social media, hyping a well-rehearsed script.
    How did Dao get to the law firm, get them engaged and operating, so quickly if he was in the hospital recovering ?That script included a call for resignation of UAL CEO, whio had recently fought off an attempted hostile takeover. Power has now shifted control to the ‘outsider’ group of
    investors.
    Prediction: watch for this to quietly settle, without all the facts being brought to light. Turns out he didn’t have to see patients in the morning, because he didn’t have a job, as his restricted medical license was still heavily restricted after the felony conviction.

  10. Is this an alternative fact? Dr. Dao was off the airplane. He had accepted the initial offer, and was standing outside at the podium when he changed his mind and ran on board the plane without a ticket — triggering the ‘security’ event for the gate agent. He was behaving abusively in the airplane, and there are vidoes of this which were not shown publicly. A Federal Air Marshall (FAM) stood up, identified himself as a FAM, and told Dao that he must leave the plane immediately. Dao hit the FAM. The FAM decked him and carried him out. Less than 20 hours later, one of the largest, most well-financed law firms inthe country, specializing in Plaintiff’s tort actions, had a well-rehearsed social media / lawfare attack against UAL going, with numerous paid employees posting on social media, hyping a well-rehearsed script.
    How did Dao get to the law firm, get them engaged and operating, so quickly if he was in the hospital recovering ?That script included a call for resignation of UAL CEO, whio had recently fought off an attempted hostile takeover. Power has now shifted control to the ‘outsider’ group of
    investors.
    Prediction: watch for this to quietly settle, without all the facts being brought to light. Turns out he didn’t have to see patients in the morning, because he didn’t have a job, as his restricted medical license was still heavily restricted after the felony conviction.

  11. Every single word you just vomited was a complete and total fabrication. show one mainstream news source saying a air marshal was on board or that he had accepted the earlier offer and then deplaned. You need to stop getting your news off of trump fan sites.

  12. Jean Biyer’s comments certainly put a new spin on this incident.
    Now, with added controversy, it will be interesting to see how this eventually plays out.
    Without having any information to refute what Jean Boyer writes, I for one, will be happy to wait and watch what further comments might be precipitated.
    Reg

  13. Sorry, Joan, I referred to you as Jean Boyer.
    I know names are important to people, so I wanted to acknowledge my oversight.
    Reg

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