Doctor brutally dragged off of overbooked United Airlines flight after refusing to give up seat

Hunter Gill, Pollster

Dr. David Dao, a 69 year-old Chinese man traveling to Louisville, Kentucky, was forcibly thrown off an overbooked United Airlines flight after refusing to give up his seat for a crew member. While being literally dragged off the plane, Dao suffered a severe concussion, had two broken teeth and a broken nose for which he will need reconstructive surgery.

The practice of overbooking is widely used by airlines in anticipation of some passengers not showing up. However, in the event that more passengers show up than expected, airlines are allowed to remove passengers from the flight.

However, rather than go about it in a more humane way, United went over the loudspeaker in the plane and reportedly said, “We are not leaving until four passengers give up their seats.”

In this instance, Dao refused to give up his seat when asked because he had patients to attend to and was subsequently forcibly removed in front of other passengers, including many children. One group of high school students and their adult escort even got up and left in disgust.

“It seemed grossly overbooked and just for an airline’s policy to be such that you would remove a ticketed passenger instead of making other arrangements for your flight crew to get to Louisville, they could have flown, they could have ridden with another airline.” said Joya Cummings, a passenger on the flight.

What is almost as absurd as the treatment of Dao was United’s response to the incident. First, United’s Chief Executive Oscar Munoz released a statement apologizing for having to “re-accommodate passengers.”

“Re-accomodation”- that statement is so blantly thoughtless that it is laughable. Apparently re-accommodation on United now includes violently being dragged off a plane.

Then, Munoz made the problem even worse, which is quite impressive given how ignorant he first statement was, by blaming the situation on Dao, saying that Dao “defied” officers. While that may have been, United should not have had to remove passengers from the plane in the first place and certainly should not have removed Dao in that manner.

Finally Munoz issued a statement saying that they “will take full responsibility for the incident.” While that may be nice to hear for some, it’s hard to think that United said that for any reason but saving face.

“Better late than never, but the sentiment certainly rings a bit hollow when it follows two previous failures and 36 hours of intense public pressure. The back-against-the-wall, through-gritted-teeth apology isn’t generally a winning strategy,” said Jeremy Robinson-Leon, a principal at the corporate public relations firm Group Gordon.

The ridiculousness of the situation was not lost on many social media users with people taking digs at United.

“We’ll beat the competition, not you.” read one mock Southwest Airlines advertisement.

Hopefully this incident and the subsequent backlash from the public leads airlines to change this horrible overbooking policy or find separate accommodations for their crew members. Nobody should be violently removed from a plane because a company wanted to make a few extra dollars.