Archive for April, 2017

Chaos on United: What Dr. Dao Should Have Done

12 Apr

Like many of you I watched a disturbing video this week in which an airline passenger flying on United Airlines was forcibly ejected from a flight  After watching the video while I agree that in no way did the passenger Dr. Dao deserve to have his face brutalized to the extent it was,  in this instance and other instances in which security personnel and police officers must remove belligerent passengers from air transport  when the only option left is the exertion of force, what are the people charged with guarding the safety of passengers in a post-9/11 world supposed to do? Clearly, in this instance there were several attempts to calmly explain to the passenger that he must de-bark and it is clear to anyone who witnessed the event that there was no way he could or would remain on the plane once the decision to vacate him from the airplane was made. Given the world in which we live, air travel personnel, from customs agents to air stewardesses, are charged with an incredible responsibility and have been given powers which reflect that. Has this power been abused in instances passed? Absolutely and it seems that almost weekly there is some news story about an airline or a customs agent acting in an improper and/or heavy handed manner. Did that happen in this instance? Arguably yes, and especially if one is working with the premise that United has a terrible policy with respect to overbooking flights and “bumping” passengers (seated or not) when more desirable passengers are in need of accommodation (another United bumping incident occurred a mere few days before this one, but the solution cannot be for passengers to throw fits or act belligerently with airline or airport personnel. Can you imagine the result  if everyone passenger who was repeatedly given an instruction by authorities reacted the way this person did?  It would be utter chaos.

While again, Mr. Dao did not deserve the extent of his injuries even if it resulted from his repeated refusal to leave peacefully or even his daring of personnel to drag him off the plane coupled with his pre-incident threat to sue the airline if they did- the rules, regulations, and laws are clear, when you are asked to vacate an airplane, even if it seems unreasonable, that  passenger must comply.  Does that mean that Mr. Dao or other passengers who are the subject of dubious policies and unreasonable conduct have no recourse and must simply do nothing? Absolutely not, and what Dao and other passengers should do is make a formal complaint and immediately commence legal proceedings against the airline and/or airport that committed the wrong. It is that simple. In a post 9-11 world in no way can someone refuse the request of air personnel, escalate the situation, and essentially reduce their options to the use of force and a forceable ejection. Again the skies would be utter chaos.

In this instance it does appear that Mr. Dao will commence legal proceedings and given the extent of his injuries and the notoriety the incident has received he is in-line to receive a hefty settlement (or judgment if this matter surprisingly proceeds to trial), but his refusal to comply with directives on board was not the correct manner in which to receive justice. In addition, his hefty payout even when he essentially challenged personnel to use their last resort will only serve as a figurative pot of gold for other passengers to chase in order to receive a similar payout through confrontational behavior. This incident and the precedent it sets is thus quite dangerous.

If there is a silver lining however to this incident it is that it will force airlines like United who are already making money hand over fist to not try and double dip their seats with many of the ludicrous overselling and bumping policies in place today. This reform was long overdue and will most likely happen in the near future.

Finally I have a couple of more points. In the days since the incident it was revealed that Mr. Dao is a convicted drug trafficker and sexual predator that was forced to cease his practice for a number of years . Although this information is certainly interesting, except for a tenuous link between his having bad judgment for committing these crimes and his having bad judgment for refusing to exit the air plane and then running back on to the plane and demanding that someone kill him, his prior convictions have little baring on the airplane incident. In addition, any attempt to link Mr. Dao’s situation to those who have been the victims of police brutality over the last number of years is outrageous While force is always an option for peace officers, it is supposed to be the last option and it is not supposed to be excessive. Here, it was the last option and Mr. Dao suffered lacerations to his face, in many of those incidents people were stopped for seemingly innocuous reasons, violence was almost always the first option, and many of those who interacted with police lost their lives. By trying to equate what happened to Mr. Dao and those who have lost their lives due to police brutality one does nothing but minimize and trivialize the experiences of the dead. Similarly, any attempts to associate Dao with civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks either by his fellow passengers (who it should be noted did nothing to help him during the incident by volunteering their seats when they saw him in distress) or by his financially motivated lawyer are absolutely ludicrous and should be dismissed as such.

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