The United Airlines fiasco

Written By: - Date published: 2:05 pm, April 12th, 2017 - 29 comments
Categories: Abuse of power, boycott, business, capitalism, class war, interweb, Media, social media lolz, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags:

No doubt everyone is aware of the United Airlines fiasco that is now raging on Twitter.  The incident neatly encapsulates aspects of modern life that drive us all spare.

A large American corporation sold an airline ticket to an elderly Chinese Doctor whose name is David Dao. He was seated on the plane which was ready to leave when the passengers were told by Airline staff that four of them would have to sacrifice their seats so that four United Crew members could be fitted in. Three others were selected and reluctantly left. Mr Dao stood or rather sat his ground.

He was then forcibly removed from the plane to the upset of the other passengers. A couple of cellphone recordings of the event and the incident has gone viral.

He somehow got back onto the plane after it had been emptied and had to be removed again by force. He was bloodied and clearly confused during the incident. It is possible that he was concussed.

The initial response from the CEO of United was a belligerent refusal to accept that the Airline had done wrong. Using the most blatant sort of respeak he described the forcible removal of the passenger so that United staff could fit on a full plane as an effort to “re-accommodate” passengers. He also described the victim as “disruptive and belligerent”.

It was only after the social media shit storm that ensued after video of the incident was released and the plunge in United’s share price that expressions of regret started to emerge. Clearly United is recalibrating its public response in an effort to deal with the adverse publicity. Shame it did not think of this when it ordered Mr Dao’s removal.

And the  Mr Dao’s background has been dug into with claims that he had been a former successful poker champion and that he had his medical license suspended for trading drugs for sex. You have to wonder about the relevance of his background as well as whether United had shopped the news around.

The story encapsulates the worst of corporate excesses, refusal by an airline to honour a ticket even though the purchaser was seated, the use of force to remove him, the attempt to affect the story by straining the English language to its limits, the recalibration of the story once the corporation realised that no one was buying the initial version of its story and the emergence of old news to cast doubt on the victim even though his background is totally irrelevant to the way he was treated.

The fury and anger is perfectly appropriate.  Now if only we could channel all of that fury and anger into dealing with climate change …

And some of the best twitter responses …

29 comments on “The United Airlines fiasco”

  1. Wow! – that airline can get stuffed and all !

    • This isn’t even their first PR fiasco this year, which is the sad thing. They were in trouble about their non-existent dress code for staff seats earlier, which actually stems from the same problem: They reward staff for rigid application of their “rules” rather than for showing actual initiative and service to customers.

  2. Andre 2

    Even if Dao’s background was somehow relevant, would United have known it at the time they selected him for bumping?

    Also a severe lack of basic problem solving skills. It was a 5:40 pm flight, and the best they were offering was a 3pm flight the next day. It’s only 500-odd km from O’Hare to Louisville. They could have offered a few hundy plus an Uber or rental car to get volunteer bumped passengers home around midnight or 1am, only three or four hours late. I’d be very surprised if that offer wouldn’t have been taken up. Or they could have done that for their staff they needed to get to Louisville.

    • bwaghorn 2.1

      ”Even if Dao’s background was somehow relevant”
      that in fact points out the truly scary part of this thing. fuck with a big company and the dirt on you will be found and spread round the world in hours.

      • Once ..whatever 2.1.1

        apparently related to prescription medication. I could find you many in Nu Zull who under the same circumstances could pull out a temgesic or two from their doctor’s bag, or even a much vaunted trauma specialist guilty of a bit of pethedine on the side. It might even extend to the close relative of our Natzi Scoince Advisor who’s just come out with a report stating the bleeding bloody obvious.
        We truly have devolved into 3rd World bloody status. In fact there are many in that category who’re doing better than ‘us’ in terms of measurement they have chosen to measure – like growth – or GDP.
        Earth to Houston – call in the spin doctor (and don’t put him on United)

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.1

          We truly have devolved into 3rd World Banana Republic bloody status.

          FTFY

    • weka 2.2

      One would hope that the four staff had shifts of their own they needed to connect with, and time was a factor, but I agree, this was really fucking stupid handling by whoever was in charge on the plane.

      The other thing that bothers me is that no-one has said whether Dao is ok or not. He maybe avoiding the media of course, but the airline should also be apologising to him and reassuring the public that he was looked after after being dragged off the plane.

      • Andre 2.2.1

        It appears he’s in a Chicago hospital for treatment, but is alert enough to make brief statements. Haven’t seen any detail beyond that.

        I’ve read a few things that say the four staff were needed for shifts the next day in Louisville. Haven’t seen anything that says what time those shifts started.

      • greywarshark 2.2.2

        Dr Dao says he is not well.
        Since being removed from the flight by the Chicago Aviation Police Department, the 69-year-old Vietnamese man has told CBS affiliate, WKLY that ‘everything’ is injured and that he is not doing well.
        Note the name: The Chicago Aviation Police Department! (The men employed as security who are prepared to behave in this thuggish fashion are called police? And the CEO who acts like a Mafia boss – they need investigating.)

        http://www.unilad.co.uk/crime/dr-david-dao-has-hired-two-teams-of-lawyers-to-sue-united-airlines/

        I liked one of the comments to the attempt to dirty the story by dirtying Dr Dao’s name:
        John Anderson · Machine Repairman at Ford Motor Company
        If it is appropriate to mention something Dr. Dau did more than a decade ago, shouldn’t we also look at what the three men who beat him up and dragged him off the plane did in past decades? How about what the CEO of United has done in the past too?

        Seems a reasonable way of looking at it.

        • Andre 2.2.2.1

          At the risk of appearing to add to the victim-blaming; keep in mind that when there’s a whiff of a lawsuit, wildly exaggerating injuries is a long-standing American tradition.

          Just about every sorta-kinda public entity in the US has it’s own police force. Public transport systems have their own police. Universities have their own police. ISTR even some tollroads have their own police.

          • greywarshark 2.2.2.1.1

            Andre
            Do those police have their own police?
            Learned something – Juvenal said (1st-2nd C. AD)
            Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
            (“Who watches the watchmen”)

            So we are still working with the same problems 2000 years later, perhaps humans don’t learn much! Thanks Wikipedia.

            • Andre 2.2.2.1.1.1

              The courts are supposed to be one of the watchers. The Department of Justice is supposed to be another watcher. Yeah, that department Jeff Sessions is now in charge of.

  3. saveNZ 3

    Now they are running stories against his character. For Gods sake the guy could be Hitler or Mother Teresa in character, it still does not make it right to forcibly remove a passenger from a flight and beat him up so you can put your employees on!

    The sad thing is now we are in the height (and hopefully death) of neoliberalism that is how business behaves.

    Even during Rogernomics Business used to “seem” to care about communities (or at least pretend to) but now they just shrug and say profits come first. We don’t owe the public one iota of care, or our employee’s anything either! It’s all about cut cost pricing and the lowest possible level of service and employment levels to try to maximise short term profits to shareholders.

    The community has suffered. Just was reading an article about how the arts funding is dire. Big business like Telecom and so forth used to fund the arts and so forth and the CEO’s did bit’s for community. Now they have to rely on government who will not fund them and suggest they crowd fund.

    People are just losing what it is mean’t to be human on this treadmill of work and commerce.

    • greywarshark 3.1

      Soon we will have to crowd fund the fire service and ambulances for equipment. Both are examples of how ordinary people are being exploited as they take on seriously responsible roles that are priceless for a community. More and more is being expected for less money or from volunteers. Get rid of this neo lib disease before it kills us or sends us back to the degradation of laissez faire government where the mere fact that it has existed for a while sets it in concrete as being a workable acceptable system.

      • saveNZ 3.1.1

        +100 Greywarshark. We now have to crowd fund so called charities that are actually part of what the government should be doing like Fire service and ambulances.

        We now have to pay donations to schools, eye watering costs to park at hospitals and every few meters you walk someone has got some project that needs community funding as well as user pays for everything.

        When Auckland council colluded with Ports of Auckland to steal the harbour, the public paid twice, once our rates to the council for their bizarre actions and then again for crowd funding to fight them and win. The only people who seem to win out of it all are lawyers and the dumbos in power making the decisions who never get held to account.

        Business and government used to fund community!! Now average joe has to fund the government, the councils, the community and pay all the user pays charges on top to business.

        No surprises that there is massive fatigue out there and most people are getting poorer while the .1% richer and more powerful.

        And that is what the right wants. People to just give up and take all their money and rights so the public have nothing to fight with anymore.

  4. ropata 4

    From what I have gathered:
    United offered $800 compensation to affected passengers, but Mr Dao was desperate to get to his destination for personal reasons. Another passenger spoke up and said she would give up her seat for $1600 but the manager laughed in her face, and allowed the beat down to proceed.

  5. McFlock 5

    A comedy website has Ryanair one-upping United: “Ryanair Passenger Charged 15 Euro For Being Dragged Off Plane” 🙂

    Always looking for new ways to inconvenience their own customers, Ryanair quickly announced that they really like the way UA handled the situation, adding that they’d been ‘looking for something just like this’ to make their own flights just that little bit more wrought with tension and misery.

    Seeing no sense in kicking the shit out of someone for free, Ryanair went ahead and added a 15 euro charge, ‘just for the craic’.

  6. greywarshark 7

    What about the international repercussions of this. Apparently USA people are accepting of being treated like shit, but how do the Chinese feel about seeing one of themselves with blood streaming from his nose on an ordinary flight, not even being
    freighted under extraordinary rndition (another Owellian doublespeak)?

    Then there is a niggling nasty thought in the back of my mind that the large corporates, which belong to no one country, or one person or family, amorphous, all-pwerful, ubiquitous, and are who’s as they have been able to get laws passed to give them status as persons, large Goliaths multi-pronged against small Davids and Davinas around the world – won’t it pay them to in good money to offer such awful personal service that we will willingly accept robots that are programmed to receive?

  7. greywarshark 8

    What’s the CEOs name for United Airlines. Oscar Moneys? And what are they united about?

  8. Andre 9

    Jimmy Kimmel’s pitching a new ad campaign to United

    https://cdn.theguardian.tv/mainwebsite/2017/04/11/170411kimmelad_desk.mp4

  9. weka 10

    Oh dear. In the smear campaign they researched the wrong man.

    “So.. as it turns out ‘The Meeja’ confused United Dave Dao with another Dave Dao and now they all stand to be sued for defamation. #United”

    https://twitter.com/_ClaireConnelly/status/852036052286033921

  10. rhinocrates 11

    Apologies for posting the same on two threads Mickey (you can delete it from Open Mike 12/04/2017), but this article is pertinent:

    A class analysis of the United Airlines’ Cartman-esque approach to overbooking:

    https://civicskunk.works/the-united-story-isnt-about-customer-service-it-s-about-class-warfare-52e47b455f2e

    If you’re a member of the creative class who rarely does business in the nation’s industrial heartland or visits relatives there, you might not notice the magnitude of economic disruption being caused by lost airline service and skyrocketing fares. But if you are in the business of making and trading stuff beyond derivatives and concepts, you probably have to go to places like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Memphis, St. Louis, or Minneapolis, and you know firsthand how hard it has become to do business these days in such major heartland cities, which are increasingly cut off from each other and from the global economy.

    The video that made its way across the internet today is what “getting worse” looks like. Here’s the thing: when you support trickle-down economic policies that put profits before people, this is what you get. Low-wage jobs, deregulation, and tax cuts for huge corporations result in a culture in which businesses enjoy a tremendous amount of power over ordinary citizens.

  11. greywarshark 12

    This is off the link that rhinocrates put up and talks about the way that the USA cities and even states are being cut off the national airline destinations with devastating results in loss of business. All caused by deregulation and surprisingly, to me, Ralph Nader was one of those who pressed for it.

    Definitely fact filled, lots of fibre, worth a read.
    http://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/marchapril-2012/terminal-sickness/

    Some useful facts to help you manage in the greatest country on earrtthh.
    These are from the civicskunk link on rhinocrates above.
    In plain language under Rule 25 — on page 35 if you print it out — the agreement says exactly what happens if the flight is oversold. “If there are not enough volunteers, other Passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily,” the language reads. (Of course, the deplaned man was not denied boarding, he was already boarded.)

    The language continues however, shining light on how these “other Passengers” are chosen. It’s not random, it’s “in accordance with UA’s boarding priority.” That means that if you have a higher fare class, have a complex itinerary, have status (e.g. gold or platinum), have checked in early, or are a frequent flier, you are less likely to be asked to take the next flight. Even if it’s just a frequent flier card that you never use, it might save you from being forcibly dragged off a plane.

  12. Draco T Bastard 13

    I think that the CEO and board of directors for United need to be booked on assault charges and, when found guilty, jailed with a multi-million dollar fine each. Drop the fuckers into poverty and they may actually learn something.

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