What a crazy week this has been following a huge incident with a doctor being pulled from his seat after boarding United 3411. Most video footage, until now, did not show the initial conversation between Dr. Dao and law enforcement.
In 2016, United involuntarily forced 3,765 passengers off oversold flights and an additional 62,895 United passengers volunteered to be bumped, all receiving compensation.
If you aren’t familiar with the situation, I will quickly bring you up to speed.
• United announced flight 3411 was overbooked in the gate area.
• They needed four volunteers to be accommodated to a much later flight, they offered $400 per passenger including a hotel stay, since it would be overnight.
• United boarded the aircraft after no volunteers came forward.
• Once everyone had boarded, United increased the offer to $800 to make room for four United crew members.
• No passengers took the $800 offer so an airline supervisor announced that the computer would randomly select four passengers to be involuntarily removed and placed on tomorrow’s flight.
• Three of the four ‘randomly selected’ passengers collected their things and left the aircraft, Dr. Dao refused.
• Airport police were called when Dr. Dao refused to leave the aircraft as his seat was now being assigned to a United Airlines crew member on a dead-head.
• Dr. Dao informed the officers that he was a physician and needed to see patients the following morning.
• After refusing to leave the aircraft, the officers jerked Dr. Dao out of his seat causing him to hit his head on an arm rest. (resulting in significant bleeding)
• Dr. Dao somehow made his way back on the aircraft while dripping blood. He appeared disoriented from hitting his head.
• The aircraft was then completely emptied so the crew could clean the blood that had dripped from Dr. Dao’s mouth.
• The aircraft was then re-boarded and departed two hours behind schedule, without Dr. Dao and with the four United crew members
That did escalate quickly
As you can see, it is a bit of a confusing situation. For many, the term “involuntary bump” is new, but basically it means the airline is giving up your seat to someone else and putting you on a later flight. In the event you are involuntarily moved to a 2+ hour later flight, the airline must offer you 4x your fare, up to a $1,350 maximum.
Here’s the text from United’s contract of carriage:
“UA will request Passengers who are willing to relinquish their confirmed reserved space in exchange for compensation in an amount determined by UA (including but not limited to check or an electronic travel certificate). The travel certificate will be valid only for travel on UA or designated Codeshare partners for one year from the date of issue and will have no refund value.
If a Passenger is asked to volunteer, UA will not later deny boarding to that Passenger involuntarily unless that Passenger was informed at the time he was asked to volunteer that there was a possibility of being denied boarding involuntarily and of the amount of compensation to which he/she would have been entitled in that event. The request for volunteers and the selection of such person to be denied space will be in a manner determined solely by UA.“
How did this start?
Here is a video that shows a brief back-and-forth between Doctor Dao and the officers:
In the video you can see that Dr. Dao states he is a physician needing to get back to his patients. My question remains to the other 66 or so passengers: Why would you not volunteer when you see a 69-year-old man being removed involuntarily? I don’t know why this resonates so strongly with me, but I am a frustrated at the able-bodied passengers who could have volunteered in this physician’s place.
Based on a number of reports, it does appear that Doctor Dao had previously committed felonies involving exchanges of sex for prescription drugs. According to one report, he is still able to practice internal medicine although it is on a probationary status.
Does this change my feeling about United’s role in this situation? No. He committed no crimes and I can’t see anywhere that United had the legal (certainly not ethical) right to forcefully remove him once seated. Hold onto your wallet, United, this one is gonna hurt!
The Friendly Skies
United was within their legal right to deny boarding to a passenger, but once onboard it becomes a different scenario. I hope legislation is put in place that will make this scenario much less likely to occur. I also don’t appreciate United using our taxpayer-funded police force to settle their customer service disputes.