United Has No PR Skills but Dr. Dao Made Foolish Mistakes as Well

glasses-300x240Dr. Dao should not have been asked to leave the United flight he paid for, but he was a fool to behave like he did once he realized leaving was inevitable. Were I the Judge on this case, I would look long and hard at the contract for carriage and what Dr. Dao said on tape before I allowed certain issues to make it to the jury. In this era of fake news I read articles suspiciously and look only for hard facts, so let’s look at this case together.

If you read the passenger accounts and listen to the audio tapes, it all boils down like this; Dao was seated when United asked for four volunteers to give up their seats so a flight crew could make it to their next flight. He initially volunteered, but changed his mind when told about how long it would be till the next flight.

United supervisors then asked him to leave his seat and he would not. At that point, airport security officers got involved. Dr. Dao made his critical mistake when he refused the lawful request of the officers to leave after being told he would be removed. He had every right to be outraged at being asked to leave. He had every right to be furious with the airline, but when a law enforcement officer makes it clear that they are going to forcibly remove you, do not act like a child and scream and throw your body about. His injures were the result of his foolish decision on how to react to an outrageous situation. “You can drag me out, but I’m not going. I’m staying right here,” is not a wise reaction. “I make a lawsuit against United Airlines” is indicative of a lot of what is wrong with the world.   I will give him a hall pass on lying about having to be at work when you are no longer a doctor, but the rest of his decisions from then on were poor.

Police officers can frequently be in the wrong and do sometimes use excessive force. When you are being told that you will be removed, do not complain when you are.

What should he have done you ask? Made it clear on a recording that they were forcing him off and peaceably walk off the plane. Any legal claims he would have had would be intact and he would not have been injured. The law enforcement officers will be disciplined according to their departmental rules. United has suffered over a billion in market capitalization in losses. Dr. Dao will instead get in a long line of plaintiffs who helped to bring harm on themselves.

United Airlines has the right under the ticket contract to remove you from a flight. There is no breach of contract. The legal claims against United will boil down to whether the airport law enforcement officers were under United control and direction when they use force to remove him. I won’t pretend to know which state and Federal laws come into play. What I will say is when it comes to dealing with law enforcement, it is proper to stand up for your rights but when you are clearly going to be physically touched if you resist their orders, comply and let the law work it out later. It is not worth losing life and limb to make a flight.

Overbooking is annoying but understandable. No one shed a tear for Eastern, TWA or Pan Am when the went out of business because they followed looser business practices. We get to fly around the world in relative comfort and safety because these airlines make a profit. This whole fiasco is a terrible black eye for this major airline. United’s policies and decisions in this situation are short-sighted and ham-handed. That said, use your common sense and if you are getting screwed by the system, don’t act like a child and throw a temper tantrum. Leave with your dignity and deal with it as a business person.