The Real Reason a Man Was Dragged Off That United Flight, and How to Stop It From Happening Again

Sunday’s incident where a man was dragged off a United Express plane and bloodied was terrible. It’s excruciating to watch the video of the incident unfolding, and later of the disoriented man mumbling “just kill me.”

United is taking the bulk of the blame here, and that’s probably their own fault. Their PR response has been disastrous, with United CEO Oscar Munoz apologizing for having to re-accommodate passengers. As Jimmy Kimmel said last night,

“It’s like how we ‘re-accommodated’ El Chapo out of Mexico,” Kimmel said. “That is such sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility, corporate B.S. speak. I don’t know how the guy who sent that tweet didn’t vomit when he typed it out.”

This was a tough situation all-around for which there were no good solutions. And things turned from bad to worse when a passenger refused to get off the plane when told to do so by the airline and by police. And it became the source of worldwide outrage when the police overreacted, dragged him off, and bloodied him.

There are a lot of myths about the situation, and it’s leading people to some bad conclusions.

  • This didn’t happen because United sold too many tickets. United Express (Republic Airlines) had to send four crew members to work a flight the next morning. The weekend was operationally challenging, this was a replacement crew, if the employees didn’t get to Louisville a whole plane load of passengers were going to be ‘bumped’ when that flight was cancelled, and likely other passengers on other flights using that aircraft would have their own important travel plans screwed up as well.

  • United couldn’t have just sent another plane to take their crew even if they had such a plane it’s not clear they had the crew to operate it legally, or that they could have gotten the plane back to Chicago in time legally so prevent ‘bumping’ via cancellation the whole plane load of passengers it was supposed to carry next.

  • If the passenger could have just taken Uber, why not the crew? because United doesn’t get to transport its crew any way it wishes whenever it wishes, they’re bound by union contracts and in any case they were following standard established procedures. We can debate those procedures, that’s productive, but United didn’t do anything out of the ordinary.

  • United should have just kept increasing the denied boarding offer passengers didn’t willingly get off at $800, they should have gone to $1000 (would that have made a difference?) or $5000 or $100,000 — it’s not the passengers’ fault United didn’t have enough seats. Though the time this would have taken might have lost a takeoff window or taken time where the crew went illegal (and the whole flight had to cancel) or the replacement crew wouldn’t get the legally required rest.

    More importantly, United didn’t do it because Department of Transportation regulations set maximum required compensation for involuntary denied boarding (in this case 4 times the passenger’s fare paid up to a maximum of $1350). So they’re not going to offer more than that for voluntary denied boardings, especially since the violent outcome here wasn’t expected and the United Express gate agent had no authority to do more.

I’m being called very terrible things in the comments that I won’t reprint here in this post. What happened to the man was terrible but it was a difficult situation all around, he should have complied when ordered off the plan by United and then by Chicago Aviation Police. It was a terrible situation for him, but one that at that point could foreseeably have gotten worse. I’m just glad he wasn’t accused of disrupting the flight as part of a terrorist plot that sort of thing can happen in confrontations like this.

The Chicago Aviation Police overreacted and appear to have used way too much force. One officer is already on leave because of the incident, the Aviation Police recognize some fault is likely there — and that’s a pretty high hurdle to climb considering the Chicago Police Department immediately stood up for an officer by claiming horribly that he had simply ‘fallen on his face’.

Is it possible that if circumstances were different — if different things had been done before Sunday — then the outcome would have been different? Sure. Although what those things are, what the consequences of those things would be, are debatable — and most people doing the debating don’t have much or even any information on which to base their judgments.

Fault here lies with:

  • United for not having as many seats as they sold, although it wasn’t because they sold more seats than the plane held, it was because their operation became a mess and they needed to salvage that to inconvenience the fewest passengers overall. It wasn’t “to maximize their profits” although they certainly wanted to limit their losses by limiting passenger inconvenience.

  • The passenger who should have gotten off the plane when ordered to do so. It sucked for him and wasn’t his fault, but refusing airline and police instructions unless designed to provoke a violent response for media attention to promote a civil rights cause is a bad idea.

  • The Chicago Aviation Police shouldn’t have responded with the force they did. They’re the most to blame. If they hadn’t used as much force this whole thing would never even have been a story.

United’s statements backing their employee, refusing to name the victim, or acknowledge that the police really did hurt him are deplorable.

But the situation itself lands mostly at the feet of the police, who appear to recognize this based on actions thus far.

So what do we do to prevent this in the future? The truth is there’s not very much. Running an airline is hard. Weather and mechanical problems and back luck and IT problems cancel and delay flights, so they work hard to recover.

Maybe the maximum denied board compensation should be even higher, though that’s not clearly an issue. When the Department of Transportation began regulating denied boarding in the 1970s, there were about 150,000 involuntary denied boardings in the U.S. per year — and now with many more passengers the number there are in the 40,000s. As flights have gotten more full, the percentage of passengers denied boarding has gone down.

The real solution here is to change the culture of law enforcement in aviation. As soon as there’s even a misunderstanding between passengers and crew, that can trigger law enforcement. The assumption is that the passenger is always wrong, the airline backs its crew, and there’s tremendous risk to the public. Not every customer service situation is a crime.

This is in no way limited to being a United issue, it’s endemic to American society and aviation as a whole. It’s a function of the growth of the security state in response to 9/11. We’ve come to accept it, and indeed we get it from the TSA day in and day out. Until that changes, incidents like these are likely to repeat themselves.

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. Your ability to optimize flight miles doesn’t make you an expert on carriage contracts. You make many presumptions that are incorrect. You cannot deny boarding if the passenger has already boarded. He was not given a written explanation of his rights. Your opinion shows pro-authoritarians leanings, which you have a blind trust in things you probably shouldn’t trust.

  2. @Trader Jim – I don’t see how placing blame on police for use of excessive force can possibly mean that my “opinion shows pro-authoritarians leanings” that simply makes no sense.

  3. I think next time the police should just let an unruly passenger just continue to be unruly. Then turn around and walk away!

  4. To be clear to those who are blindly hating UA, this sort of situation is just as likely to have happened on American or Delta (the only real difference that they could’ve made was raising the voluntary compensation higher). The ultimate problem here has never been United. It was the Chicago police overreacting to a man who simply needed to get to work, excaberated by the airline’s poor response to the situation. I don’t endorse this sort of thing by the airlines; I hate it as much as you do. But the big problem lies in the culture, not any one airline.

  5. The man only became unruly when United successfully and illegally used the Chicago Aviation Authority security personnel as their bouncers in what was simply a commercial dispute. You don’t get to provoke someone into a reaction and use the reaction as justification for the provocation. That’s backwards reasoning. United had no basis upon which to insist that they passenger leave involuntarily; read the Contract of Carriage. They had even less business bringing in the authorities to use force to avoid having to pay enough to have gotten someone to leave voluntarily.

  6. @Budd Duke
    While I agree that the police should not have taken to the force they used to remove the man, I do not agree that being unruly should have gone ignored. There is a completely reasonable explanation as to why the flight crew needed to take people off the flight as stated above, and the man got upset about his name getting called. He refused to follow directions. What the police should have done was detained the man in the standard get up and put your hands behind your back. And not yank the man from his seat. I also believe this could have actually happened (please note I did not say I believe it DID happen). And the reason they yanked him out of his seat could have been for failure to comply with that. But there were 3 Police officers there they could have done a much better job detaining this man until he was removed from the plane and had a chance to calm down from the inconvenience.

    Unruly=Disturbing peace=Detainable offense

  7. This is the only well-balanced, thought out and logical article I’ve seen on the matter. Can you please take it down to make way for more biased conclusion jumping. We wouldn’t want this to encourage people to think critically now would we?

  8. Aside from some of the author’s misunderstandings regarding the Contract of Carriage, here’s where I think the biggest gloss-over occurs:

    “More importantly, United didn’t do it because Department of Transportation regulations set maximum required compensation for involuntary denied boarding (in this case 4 times the passenger’s fare paid up to a maximum of $1350).”

    Yes, DOT sets the maximum REQUIRED COMPENSATION, sure. But that doesn’t mean UA can’t offer an amount beyond the required amount. They chose not to. Then they chose to utilize a public agency to handle their bad business predicament.

    In no way was anyone entitled to this passenger voluntarily giving up his seat – and that includes UA. This situation is clearly a known risk of operating for UA and that means it is a business risk, plain and simple.

    This blog entry is a bunch of BS, authored by someone who gets a lot of perks from the airline industry, I’m sure. Including United.

  9. @Jon — Jason’s point is that while the airline has a cap on what they are required by law to offer, they can certainly choose to offer more than they are required to by law.

    And as an attorney who has read the carriage contracts, there are some pretty big problems with the above analysis. First, the airline is permitted to refuse boarding to individuals in an oversold situation. But this wasn’t an oversold situation, as noted above. Wanting to move your crew doesn’t mean you’ve sold more tickets than you have seats. The crew didn’t have purchased tickets. Legally, the flight wasn’t oversold and the airline breached its contract with the passengers by forcibly removing people to give priority to their crew. Second, the requirements are different under the contract for denying boarding vs. forcing passengers to get off the plane after they’ve boarded. There are fewer situations in which you can require someone to get off once they’ve boarded. An oversold situation, or making room for crew members, aren’t among them. One of the few situations where you can forcibly remove someone is where they’re being “disruptive,” which is why the airline initially tried to paint him as disruptive even though the video clearly confirmed that he wasn’t disruptive at all until after they tried to forcibly remove him, leaving his wife and belongings still on board.

    The CEO’s multiple responses demonstrate that the airline came to realize this. The first time he made a public statement he blamed the passenger entirely, pushing the “disruptive” narrative. Apparently, someone then explained to him that the airline’s behavior had misapplied the law and they had real exposure. Suddenly the airline was all apologies and taking responsibility. Part of this was media backlash, of course, but a bigger reason was likely their realization that they were in fact legally in the wrong and they needed to get rid of the story before it became a lawsuit. (That ship appears to have sailed….)

  10. No two companies are exactly alike. Otherwise there is no differentiation in price and service. Incidence like this will happen if you only care to maximize your profit in the short term. UA saved some money that day by kicking out a passenger. UA didn’t think there would be backlash. Let UA fail and the rest of the airlines will learn. Not all 12 disciples of Yeshuah were replaced. Only Judas Iscariot.

  11. @Stacey
    Got it. Maximum Required means that is the maximum that the law can require. Not capping the maximum that could be offered. I wonder who came up with a maximum requirement law when it comes to compensation. I completely understand minimum requirement laws in compensation settlements

  12. Seems that you can’t even explain the law right. As noted in other comments, the $1350 is the cap a customer can request without case-by-case justification. There’s not a cap on what the airline can offer. It’s funny how some people talk as if they know it for sure when they actually don’t. That makes the credibility of the content of your whole site questionable.

  13. So how come the pilot (God of All Things Aboard) has no responsibility? What if the captain had walked to the back and explained the situation? And certainly the captain realized from all the screaming and dragging that unreasonable and excessive force was being applied.

    Further, isn’t there a jump seat in the cockpit that check pilots use when conducting a check ride that one of the ‘accomodated’ crew members could have used? How ’bout an extra cabin-crew seat? All they needed at that point was one.

    Of course, the better, and ultimately less expensive option for United, would have been to keep upping the offer for a seat until a true volunteer agreed to give up a seat.

  14. UA offered $800… The passenger was not unruly… in fact there is new video from a man that sat behind him before the doc was dragged out. He was declining to ‘voluntarily’ leave in a calm matter. I don’t know where some of you are getting the idea that he was unruly.

  15. @Lyla – the airlines treat it as a price cap because it’s their maximum legal liability, and there are limits on customer ability to sue.

  16. I also agree w/Neill, Rita, Steve, Stacy. btw it might be interesting to know that a United FA, I think, commented that the $800 had something to do with the SHARE computer system, which they really dislike and find hard to use. They have had to use this ever since the merger w/Continental. To be able to offer more than $800, they mentioned it is a bureaucratic/technological mess that would have taken a lot of time, included 10 more steps in the computer, getting multiple authorizations from superiors, etc. Of course in retrospect, this still would have been a cheaper option.

    Gary– it might be useful to research more about the Chicago Aviation Police vs Chicago Police Dept. I’d be curious to know. From what I’ve read so far, they are NOT a part of the Chicago Police Dept, and act more like security officers? They don’t carry weapons. I work in a place that has both security and Police. Our Security cannot arrest people. If escalation is required, Police have to be called and they can do the arresting. Generally speaking, the Police Dept takes care of the more serious issues.

    I will reiterate that the passenger said in the video he was willing to go to jail. I am sure that Stacy is right and there are different rules for denying someone boarding vs. forced removal from a flight. The first is preventing someone from boarding; the second is actively and possibly physically removing someone, and of course there are greater risks to the passenger and personnel, and greater inherent liability. So these rules should also be scrutinized. Certainly United could have contacted the Chicago Police and asked them to arrest him, if they chose to push it that far. This is another big problem. It’s one thing to forcefully remove him after being arrested. It’s another if he’s not being arrested, which I don’t think he was.

    Another detail being glossed over is that both security and police can respond with force that is COMMENSURATE with what the person is doing. I can imagine scenarios where this response was appropriate: the passenger punched the FA or another passenger. Also the police can point a gun at him and even shoot, if he had a weapon and was pointing it at people.

    In this case, they cannot respond violently if the passenger is not violent. For those who are saying that because he didn’t listen to the FA crew, he can be treated violently like this, the law does not say this.

    A passenger who IS acting physically violent CAN be treated like this. However, a passenger who is verbally protesting, disagreeing, refusing to leave cannot be treated violently, except force might be able to be used by the Chicago Police after they arrest him. The police response must match the action of the person they are responding to. In other words, the police would not be justified in pointing a gun at him and shooting him, just because he refuses to get out of his seat when he is otherwise nonviolent and not a physical threat to anyone. Gary, if you want to look into this, it might be interesting for all of us to learn more about.

    Rosa Parks is a good example that someone mentioned– the bus driver (nor a security officer, typically) did not have a right to physically pull her off the bus and give her a head injury on the way out. The bus can contact Police to arrest her, though, which is what happened.

    However, focusing on CAP and giving them all or most of the responsibility, while giving UA a free pass is premature to say also. At issue will be– what exactly did UA tell CAP? Did they portray this as a physically threatening or violent situation that requires a violent response (as you would for a drunk, violent passenger)? If so, and if THAT’S the reason CAP acted the way they did (because otherwise it is puzzling why CAP used so much force), the UA will be quite liable for this. I’m sure everything is being reviewed carefully now. Also as much as UA might want to say this passenger was physically violent, which necessitated a violent response, it simply is not what is being reported by the passengers on the flight so far. So, UA is potentially in a lot of hot water here.

  17. I HOPE all the AIRLINES have learned their lesson and treat people with respect. This is more than the Hitler and dictators that the North Korean, North China, North VIETNAM Communist kind of thing would do to their human. THIS IS SICK.

  18. First United should Have offered more money. They screwed up the man paid for seat it’s his. I disagree with overbookings. My tickets always say nonrefundable so if I cannot a refund then why do they get to oversell.

    Not I keep hearing USG cap on allowable compensation I have not read any rules that place a cap on allowable compensation only a cap on the minimum or maximum required amount of compensation. Not a cap on allowable compensation.

  19. Interesting that there are now 2 memes, this one & another, circulating FB that have almost identical Q&A format…with nearly identical outcomes…United had no choice in this matter

    United had many choices, rather than the CHOICE to offer fairly worthless travel vouchers of $800 to passengers that had already been boarded & were seated on a flight (their code of carriage allowed up to $1350 CASH… real money, not vouchers!)
    As I have already stated in many posts on this issue, the 4 crew members & United KNEW IN ADVANCE THAT THIS TRANSFER WAS NEEDED & KNEW THAT THE CREW TRANSFER ON THIS FLIGHT WOULD CREATE AN OVERBOOKED SITUATION… Think about it, Ohare airport is one of the airport that you NEED the advanced boarding time to get to most gates & any flight crew would have been called up from a distance from the airport, unless they were already on standby in the airport for this callout…
    They had plenty of time to offer the maximum allowed by law -$1350 in cash PRIOR TO BOARDING AN OVERBOOKED FLIGHT – REAL money (not the $800 voucher which costs UNITED way less than $800, and, from our experience having taken vouchers, is WORTH WAY LESS THAN $800 as they are very hard to use in todays booking environment… unless you are a totally dedicated United flier!)
    AND THE DECISION TO HANDLE THIS CASE THE WAY THEY DID ENDED UP IN A 2 HOUR DELAY & a passenger in hospital for days… & over a BILLION dollars of stock value lost in a little over 24 hours
    These facts are what totally negates this whole argument that they had no other choice & they had to bump a seated passenger-
    Many have questioned the TIMING of this incident…. This is a commuter route, & was the last flight of the day… many travelers had work the next day at the destination (used to do this route, ON UNITED fairly regularly when I did production inspections…)
    If the crew transfer was needed & they called up a crew in Chicago…they had at least an hour or more notice prior to boarding (Ohare airport is one that you actually NEED the recommended lead time to navigate & any crew called most likely was some distance from the airport…)
    It is one thing to bump PRIOR to boarding & offer fair compensation…it is quite another to bump post-boarding and offer a pretty useless travel voucher….again…have accepted it once, will never do it again for the voucher…they are pretty worthless….

    I have also seen airlines that handle overbooked situations pre-boarding, & we have even accepted an alternative prior to boarding…. I have also seen United handle overbooking post boarding, after customers are seated in the plane on flights into & out of Hilo (they are our only direct-to-mainland carriers) & this is always a way more stressed filled scenario…

  20. If the selection of the passengers to be removed was “random,” shouldn’t the fact that he was a doctor with patients in the morning be a factor? Thoughtless and no respect for the customer … and that’s pretty much how I feel the airline culture has changed.

  21. Technically, the Chicago Department of Aviation security personnel are not police officers. They have the authority of a Chicago police officer with respect to the airport grounds only, but do not carry weapons (thankfully). As to whether they would act with reason and restraint? You must not live here, or you would be aware of the issues we have been having with a sizeable minority of the law enforcement officers in Chicago. It isn’t at all surprising how they acted, as these are either off-duty cops moonlighting for CDA or they are law-enforcement wannabes that think they are acting like real police when they behave this way.

  22. Before I continue, I don’t have anything bad to say about you, as a person.

    This article is very “white” of you, never living a life of a minority. Airlines have treated it’s customers, not just minority, horribly. This man might’ve felt that being a minority, he will make a stand, to an unacceptable case. Please read this theblaze article below, maybe it’ll restart some common sense.

    Did this man threaten the crew? Did he use physical pressure against the “hired” security? He just spoke of unfair treatment in a loud manner anyone can agree with. He might’ve felt slighted, being a minority being picked to give up his seat after he had clearly every right to fly. In my mind, he did 0% wrong here. I commend him for standing up for his rights, which so few passengers have done since 9-11. Did crew try to reason with him, like if you don’t give up the seat it’ll delay for hundreds of people? They just threatened him by force.

    http://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/04/12/commentary-just-because-united-airlines-had-the-right-doesnt-mean-they-were-right/

  23. The gentleman involved is a surgeon. He had people scheduled to go under the knife the next day. How are those patients less important than the passengers on a flight that hypothetically might have been grounded? United should have chosen someone else. Period. He is not in any way at fault. And you have got to be kidding me with your comment about the cops. I do not tolerate police brutality. Ever. Full “f”ing stop.

  24. So many people have no clue about boarding and rights. Just because you are on the airplane, doesn’t mean an airline can’t ask and have you taken off. Perhaps people should read the contract when they buy a ticket. People think because they are on the airplane that they somehow have magical rights and that they don’t have to leave if asked. Try again. And when you start refusing to follow aircrew directions, now you are obstructing the flight which is a felony. This guy should have gotten off when asked. But this good news is this guy will be banned from United and probably from the other major airlines. The question is why isn’t this guy sitting in jail for the felony charge?

  25. @Halstead

    He Was not a surgeon undergoing the knife in the morning he was an outpatient physician

    It’s not even about the 1 flight that may have been cancelled it is about the whole ripple effect that happens when a plane is grounded. It screws up so much more than 1 little flight. Like months of recovery and not just the 1 airline. It affects the airports in a big way.

    @ James

    Thanks for being the anti racist-racist. Your point became invalid at the beginning.

  26. United is going to pay $$$$, and they should. My outrage is at the public. Instant personal opinions and character assassination rolled in on social media. The battered (unlawfully) passenger was dragged through the mud, as is the usual response to these sort of incidents. Citizens do not have to obey an unlawful order of Law Enforcement. It’s not a smart or safe thing to do, but when a LEO directs an unlawful order, it can be ignored. Who gave legal authority to the Guards/Officers to batter and then drag this man off an airline? The entire debacle was mishandled by airline employees. You stop people from boarding if the seat needs to go to another. This man was seated on the plane and his luggage may very well have been stored in the cargo area. Federal law prohibits checked baggage if the owner is not on the flight. I’ve not seen any mention of checked baggage yet. Just because three unhappy passengers got off, doesn’t mean the fourth did anything wrong. The CEO of United should resign. His comments were spoken in public before he knew the facts. Everything he said, initially, was character assassination upon the man involved. Coming back and apologizing, sorta, doesn’t erase the initial gross mistake.

  27. @Stan – You say: “Just because you are on the airplane, doesn’t mean an airline can’t ask and have you taken off. Perhaps people should read the contract when they buy a ticket.” Sounds to me like YOU haven’t read United’s Contract of Carriage as it applies here. I have. Rule 25 allows “denial of boarding” for “oversold” conditions (i.e., bumping). United not only WELCOMED the passenger to board, but the plane wasn’t oversold. At the last minute, they decided they wanted to fly their own staff over paying customers. You can argue semantics all you want that “deplaning” and “denial of boarding” are the same thing. No reasonable jury would agree.
    You can call last minute employees showing up out of the blue as “oversold”. No reasonable jury would agree. If I’m sitting there in my seat on the plane and you read me Rule 25, I wouldn’t agree either. The only rule that triggers de-planing is Rule 21: Denial of Transport. The only time it could be argued that the passenger violated Rule 21 was AFTER the mall-cop airport security officers were – improperly – called on board, and AFTER he was told he had to leave. It’s far more likely the mall cops are convicted of a felony for assault than the passenger is for disobeying an improper order.

    You also say: “But this good news is this guy will be banned from United and probably from the other major airlines.” Far more likely: He’s given a free first class pass for life. I doubt they have such a pass, but it’s far more likely they create one just for him than ban him.

  28. @Stan – so many people, like you, have no inkling about what a contract between a ticket holder an an airline involves and you still think you have to express your cluelessness. This is what really amazes me. Also the immense spinelessness of quite a few commenters here (well that includes Gary the blog owner!) who’s first and after some uproar even second reaction is to blame the victim, apologize for the airline and can’t for life understand that somebody doesn’t immediately follow stupid, insulting as well as illegal directions from some kind of ‘security’ guys. WOW – dark times indeed.

  29. Security in a plane or any other location of an airport should be high and if asked to leave or get off of a plane, anyone should simply cooperate. Simple as that. This man is clearly crazy.

  30. As it turns out, the jerk lied about having to see patients the next morning! He’s not employed. He was belligerent from the onset – view the video taken prior to his being forcibly removed from the plane. Now he’ll use everything available to sue the airline- which will of course end up paying the former drug felon millions! Let him go back to his home country. We have enough trouble with people such as that without having to put up with immigrants breaking laws – especially someone who SHOULD be gracious – one EXPECTS a REAL doctor not to deal in drugs! His license should have been permanently revoked & he should have been sent back to his country of origin where perhaps they like homosexual drug dealers. It’s a wonder his wife even accepted him! I know I’m being overly harsh – but just fed up with people such as this man.

  31. So let me get this straight, the real United airlines takes the rap for something that was not done directly by any of its employees on an airplane owned and operated by an independent airline called Republic airlines who has code share deals with American, Delta and United. Does anyone care when it comes to the blame game? Also, it’s amazing to me that Chinese people in China are so upset at United airlines when everyday, thousands of their own citizens are removed and disappear for saying the wrong thing. What happened was wrong and changes will be made. Let’s be real about what this was, simple police brutality. When it comes to blame, maybe we should all just look in the mirror.

  32. I do appreciate trying to take a more level-headed tone; however, you are downplaying United’s responsibility a little too much.

    United screwed up big time by boarding all the passengers and only then kicking people off. It’s on very shaky ground they even have the legal right to do that since the law allows denying boarding due to overbooking, not removal once on the plane because they forgot to save room for their employees.

    United made a huge operational error to be so disorganized to only realize that the crew needed to get on the plane after the boarding process was completed.

    Sure you have to stop somewhere but $800 was way too low considering that this wasn’t just the standard legal overbooking but an huge operational blunder where they tried to cram crew on after the fact. At a minimum they should have gone up to the $1350 – I’ve read differing accounts, but by some accounts they got 2 volunteers at $800 and only needed 2 more – surely they should have made a reasonable decision to increase it before kicking someone off the plane who was already seated. Even the CEO incorrectly stated that they had offered $1000. I’m sure in hindsight United wishes they had done exactly that – they should have correctly empowered it occurring in the first place.

    I don’t buy that they could not have found replacement crew members by the next morning local to Louisville – I call b.s. that the plane could not have flown without these 4 exact crew members.

  33. In no way should this man have left this airplane. United should have found another way (by car or another airline) to get their staff to work on time….or how about run a better operation. The doctor purchased a seat and made his plans – despite the rules of carriage, which I don’t pretend to understand. Perhaps next time we go to a restaurant and order a meal, as we begin to enjoy our dinner the restaurant will throw us out because they need the table for management. Or you rent a car and they run out of cars – this has happened to me more than once. Airlines get away with FAR too much and the traveling public is not protected. Shame, shame, shame.

  34. Garry’s original comments have been proven to be very flawed over the last days. They should be revised to reflect information learned since the 11th.

  35. You keep referring to this as a “denied boarding” when the video clearly shows that the passenger had already boarded, stowed his belongings, and fastened his seatbelt. This could very easily have been avoided if it HAD been a denied boarding. This type of situation should never happen because it should be taken care of at the gate BEFORE anyone boards the plane. There was no surprise that they needed the seats for the deadheads. This was just poorly handled by United from the very beginning.

  36. @Ken S – Exactly. This wasn’t a “denial” of boarding situation, no matter what legalese someone might try to spin. It was a WELCOMED boarding situation. United knows it won’t win in court with that argument. In fact, I wonder if there’s a class-action suit just waiting here for all people bumped involuntarily once they’ been seated on a United plane. The CEO in his letter to employees is on record saying they followed established protocol.

  37. Just heard that the dr. and his wife accepted voluntary compensation and got off the jet. That he ran back onto the aircraft after that and then refused to get off the aircraft. Can you verify this story going around the airline industry?

  38. Hey it’s a guy with stock in United that doesn’t like what he sees and has every excuse lined up – nice.

  39. Its a pain in the ass but if the Police tell you to get off you get off and ask questions later

  40. Yeah. Even fake police with fake badges and jackets, right Travis? My guess is Dr Dao will do just fine with the decision he made. Meanwhile, you just keep doing what you’re told, no matter what your rights and no matter who it is telling you.

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