United Airlines has a huge public relations nightmare on their hands! Every airline overbooks their flights, anticipating no-shows. When more people arrive than there are seats available, they make the famous statement at the gate asking for “volunteers” to give up their seat in exchange for free travel vouchers with the airline, etc. When Dr. David Dao was traveling from California to get home to Louisville, Kentucky, the proverbial poo hit the fan! On the last leg of the journey, at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Flight 3411 needed four seats for United crew members. The airline kept increasing the amount they would offer for a volunteer and managed to get three, but when they couldn’t voluntarily find the fourth and final seat they needed, they took it to the next level and “involuntarily” removed a passenger.
Dr. David Dao wound up refusing to leave, stating that he had to get home. Despite asking several times, the crew called for security personnel to remove the good doctor. In what has been recorded by horrified passengers and gone pandemic (viral isn’t quite the word), the doctor was dragged off the plane with a concussion, broken nose, missing teeth and even damage to his sinuses! This is just about as bad as it can get when it comes to public relations, but it made us curious about the specifics related to not only this case of “involuntary” passenger removal, but the policy in general. So here are 15 things about this incident and the policy that will absolutely shock you!
15 Didn’t Offer Enough Money!
Airlines are a business and as such are in the business of making money. For this reason, it is very understandable that they would start off offering a lower amount of money in travel vouchers for people to volunteer their seat. But the situation with the doctor being forcefully removed from a United Airlines flight did not even offer as much money as they were allowed by law! They stopped their offers as $800, which is well under the federal limit of $1,350 prescribed by the FAA! One would kind of think that before they went to the trouble of breaking his nose and causing further injury that they may want to up the ante to the highest amount allowed. I guess they were just tired of the hassle.
14 The Flight Wasn’t Even Overbooked
A lot of people that have heard about the situation with the doctor on Flight 3411 have imagined a line of extra passengers struggling to get onto a plane with no seats. This is absolutely not the truth whatsoever! In fact, everyone was seated on the plane and ready to go with all paying passengers accommodated. A flight crew from another airline (contracted with United Airlines) came up to the gate needing on so they could make it to Louisville to operate another flight. This allegedly happened at the last minute, which makes us have to wonder why there was not a little more planning and preparation to avoid circumstances like this. The flight crew wasn’t to blame, but they apparently got booed when they came on the plane making it all the more uncomfortable.
13 Dr. Dao Has A Criminal Background (Not That it Matters)
We are going to put this out there to acknowledge that there is a lot of information circulating around that the doctor about Flight 3411 that was dragged off the plane had a history involving criminal wrongdoing involving trading prescription medication for sex, among other infractions. This occurred in 2004 and he has since had his license reinstated in Kentucky. With the incident, the juicy gossip was just too good and people had to bring this skeleton out of the closet! But the larger point is that it doesn’t matter...this man paid for a ticket, was boarded, sitting in his seat and then was brutally harmed when told to leave. None of that has anything to do with his past and is completely irrelevant and it is a waste of time to try to discredit the man.
12 Airport Security Receive Less Training
Each airport in the country does things a little differently, but in the post-9/11 world where airport security is no laughing matter, you would think that the police force at airports would be some of the most well trained law enforcement officials available. At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport where the recent United Airlines involuntary removal disaster with Dr. Dao occurred, it may surprise you to learn that the police officials that provide security for the airport itself are not trained to the extent of other Chicago Police Department officers. While they aren’t handed a gun and a badge right off the street, they don’t have the same procedural training as other law enforcement officials. I’d be willing to bet that this policy changes substantially in the very near future!
11 Refused Two Passengers To Board Due To Clothing
Have you ever heard of a “buddy pass?” Many airlines give its employees a certain number of these passes that they can give to friends and relatives as an employee perk. They allow a person to travel at an extremely discounted rate (usually just taxes and fees). Traveling using this pass has certain expectations though and one of them is how you are dressed. In the case of two young ladies that were traveling using a buddy pass, they were not allowed to board by United Airlines because they were wearing leggings! They require people traveling using buddy passes to adhere to a certain dress code, but in this case, they felt that leggings would look bad on the company. I think that’s the least of their worries at this point.
10 United CEO Called it: “Re-Accommodation”
United Airlines Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz, made a huge mistake in his initial statement regarding Dr. Dao and Flight 3411! He released a very cookie cutter, generic statement right after the incident, stating that it was “upsetting” and that these customers had to be “re-accommodated.” The word “re-accommodate” is the public relations nightmare heard ‘round the world! Of all the things Munoz could have said, he chose the absolute worst possible one to describe what happened to Dr. Dao on that flight! Munoz went on to make much more genuine and heartfelt statements afterward, but the damage had been done. Time will tell if Munoz will survive this as the CEO, but using words like “re-accommodate” certainly doesn’t help in his efforts to stay around in the top job for United.
9 United Airlines Crew Not To Blame
To be perfectly clear, in the case of Flight 3411 and any situation where involuntary removal of passengers occurs, it is not the crew that is to blame. They are following procedures and protocols set forth by the company. The crew aboard Flight 3411 did not forcefully remove him from the plane or dictate to the security officers how to remove him from the plane. They informed him of the procedure and that he would need to give up his seat and he refused. While there’s nothing that says they have to enjoy being held-up by an unwilling passenger, they do have to follow their company rules and procedures. That is exactly what they did, but unfortunately the law enforcement officials that removed him chose to act in a way that was physically aggressive.
8 Involuntarily Denied Boarding Happens Often
Believe it or not, the airlines have to involuntarily deny boarding to more people than anyone realizes. Most people eventually comply with the demand of the airline and grumble as they walk away and change their plans, but it does happen, usually due to overbooking. In fact, in just a three month span of time between October and March of 2016, nearly 9,000 people were involuntarily denied boarding on commercial aircraft! Over 100,000 people voluntarily gave up their seats in that same time frame, but the fact that almost 9,000 were forced to change their plans is somewhat startling. With numbers like that, it is a surprise that other incidents similar to the Dr. Dao forced removal have not been brought to the public spotlight before now.
7 All Flight 3411 Get a Refund
If you watch the shocking videos from Flight 3411, you’ll hear several passengers yelling out in disbelief that a person would be treated in that manner. They are both disgusted, as well as horrified and it didn’t stop there. Apparently, everyone had to deplane so they could clean the blood (from Dr. Dao) before they could return. In addition, airlines are known to try to get in and out of the gates as quickly as possible, so this was inevitably a huge inconvenience. United Airlines offered everyone a refund of their fare, but somehow that doesn’t seem like enough. If the airline was smart, they would offer a free travel voucher on United so they can see that most flights run very smoothly and without incident. But then again, they aren’t too good at dealing with the public these days.
6 Airlines Don’t Kick You Off “Randomly”
The assumption is that when an airline has to involuntarily remove people from the passenger manifest of a flight, they do so randomly. The idea of randomness seems to be a fair way to perform an unfair task. But the airline doesn’t actually decide who stays and who goes randomly! They actually sort the list based upon boarding priorities. Understandably, unaccompanied minors and disabled individuals are moved to the end of the bump list. But they also move passengers with “elite” status and higher boarding priorities to the end of the list as well. This is all outlined in the contract of carriage that each airlines has with its passengers. The contract is agreed upon when you purchase the ticket. No one reads it of course, but after this, it may be worth a look.
5 You Can Be Paid in Cash...Not Vouchers
The airlines try to make people volunteering to give up their seat on a plane believe that they will receive travel vouchers that are good for free flights with their airline. They advertise this when asking for volunteers and the vast majority of people are totally cool with anything free that they can get for a small amount of inconvenience. In addition, the airlines offer food vouchers and even hotel if an overnight stay is necessary before catching the new flight. But people don’t realize that by law, if you demand payment in actual money, they have to give it to you! So if the agreed amount to volunteer your seat is $800, you do not have to accept free travel. You can get that in actual currency. In fact, some people have made very good money off the airlines just for giving up their seats!
4 Dao Has Hired a Personal Injury Attorney
In the case of Dr. Dao on Flight 3411, he was treated not just unfairly, but inhumanely. Whether you believe that he should have given his seat up or not, causing physical injury and dragging a man from a plane that he had already been allowed to board as a passenger is just too much. As a result, Dao isn’t only accepting an “oops, our bad” from the airline. He has retained a well known and highly successful personal injury attorney that has already filed motions to keep the airline from erasing or destroying any recordings from the flight. The wagons are circling and many people believe that this will be a huge payday for Dao. United will probably be tripping over its own feet to get him to settle before long!
3 United Airlines Value Dropped by $1 Billion!
A funny thing happened the other day in the stock market. United Airlines' corporate value dropped by one billion dollars! Let that sink in for a moment. Because of public opinion related to the horrific treatment of Dr. David Dao on one of its flights, United Airlines' value in the blink of an eye, dropped by more money than most of us would see in ten lifetimes! To be fair, this corporate valuation, market cap, etc. is all very fluid. Few of us understand it, but it certainly makes sense when you see the line on the graph take a nosedive! United Airlines got back a lot of that “lost value” in the days after, but if nothing else, it shows the supreme power of the masses with social media!
2 Dao Got Back on the Plane!
When Dr. Dao was dragged off of Flight 3411, it seemed that this was the end of the spectacle. Who knows what would happen from that point to the poor guy, but the world has believed that that was pretty much all there was. In actuality though, a few minutes after he was dragged off, bloody and noticeably very shocked, he appeared again on the plane! He apparently ran back onto the plane, disoriented and muttering about having to go home. Dao had explained numerous times that he had to get home and he had patients to see the following morning. How Dao managed to get away from the security officials and back onto the plane is very puzzling and kind of makes you wonder if security is really as tight as they make you believe.
1 United Advertising For New Public Relations Person!
It could just be a coincidence, but the timing seems a bit funny that right after this incident, United Airlines listed a new job opening. They are apparently seeking a new brand manager for its public relations efforts! After something like this happens, the public relations people always have to spring into action and their response is absolutely crucial. They go from being proactive to reactive and have to play an amazing defensive game. Between kicking off a couple of young women because they were wearing leggings to the initial “re-accommodation” statement by the Chief Executive Officer after Flight 3411, the company has some serious image problems. I guess they feel the need to get some fresh blood in there and do some image cleanup. Time to make the donuts!
Sources: Forbes, Vox, CBS News, Mother Jones, NYMag
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