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Vietnamese Man Violently Thrown Off US Plane

Post updated: 12/04/2017.

Just when I thought the US couldn’t get any more inhumane, a story has broken about a 69 year old ethnically-Vietnamese American gentleman now identified as Dr David Dao being violently assaulted by aviation officers in the US.

Here are the facts:

  1. United Airlines “overbooked” a Sunday flight from Chicago to Louisville. Apparently this is quite common in the US, and when it happens some passengers are shit out of luck. To say the least.
  2. They found someone to volunteer not to board the plane.
  3. Then they decided they wanted to use the flight to ferry 4 of their staff for an upcoming shift – no information was provided as to why they couldn’t have instead taken a bus, train, taxi, or hire car.
  4. They then asked for volunteers to leave the flight – no one wanted to volunteer because the next flight wasn’t until 2:30PM on Monday (the following day). Need I remind you that this was a Sunday flight, so of course people had to get home for work in the morning.
  5. 4 people were chosen, and three left the plane without incident.
  6. The fourth person, Dr Dao, did not wish to leave the flight, he told the staff he was a doctor and had to work in the morning.
  7. The aviation staff then called aviation offers to come and remove him by force.
  8. One officer pulled him out of seat, he hit his face splitting his lip and drawing blood.
  9. Following this officers dragged him off the plane, he appears to be dazed (possibly concussed), and other passengers are horrified by his treatment.
  10. One passenger said that while being dragged off he was heard saying that it’s because he’s Chinese.
  11. He was then allowed back on the plane for reasons not yet understood and he ran up and down the plane repeatedly saying “I need to get home”.
  12. He then stood in an archway of the plane, with blood dripping down his face and repeatedly said “just kill me”.
  13. Following this incident all passengers were removed from the flight so that his blood could be cleaned up.
  14. The flight took off after a three hour delay. Dr Dao was not on the flight.
  15. Chicago police released a statement reading “Aviation Officers arrived on scene attempted to carry the individual off of the when he fell and hit his head on the armrest.”
  16. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz sent out an email blaming Dr Dao for the incident and praising the efforts of the staff (see Appendix 1).
  17. The police statement was later removed from the Chicago police website.
  18. The aviation officer was put on immediate leave as of Monday.
  19. The Chicago Department of Aviation released a statement reading “The incident on United Flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions are obviously not condoned by the department.”
  20. United Airlines has also released a statement accepting responsibility for the incident.
  21. Analysis of United Airlines own Contract of Carriage document reveals that they did not have a valid reason to eject the customer (see Appendix 2).

Now we can make a few observations about this. Firstly, it’s only a four forty and minute hour drive from Chicago to Louisville – why on earth would you kick paying customers off a flight when you can just hire a car or send the staff to Louisville on a train or bus? Heck I’ll bet they could have found a taxi driver who would take $1200 and drive them there. That just doesn’t make any sense, and it goes to show they don’t put their customers first. Also, in what world is it okay to ferry your staff on an already full flight?? Let’s do some maths here: It would have taken the airline staff 4hrs and 40 minutes to drive to Louisville. On the other hand, the flight was delayed 3 hours, and the flight itself takes 1 hour and 15 minutes – so in total that’s 4hrs and 15 minutes. All of this bullshit only served to get the staff there 25 minutes early – and that’s assuming they left at the same time as the flight was scheduled. If they left earlier then then would of course be in Louisville earlier. And by the way, all reports I’ve read are consistent with the staff being required in Louisville the next day (Monday), not within the next 4-5 hours.

This is important, because United Airlines in one of their statements claimed that had the staff not got to Louisville on time that many more passengers would have been delayed on their flights. We know this can’t possibly be true, because the staff only got there a maximum of 25 minutes sooner than if they had hired a car and driven there. I keep calling them “staff”, it’s not clear whether some were pilots or whether they were all cabin crew, etc, but whatever the case they had other ways to get there that did not involve kicking paid customers off a Sunday flight. I also want to stress the point that a number of news stories have repeatedly referred to the flight as being “overbooked”, this is not the case. The flight was overbooked, but that had already been dealt with, the fact is they wanted to eject paying customers to give their seats to their own staff.

You can view many of the clips below:

Now note that this gentleman bought his ticket and expected to fly home on Sunday.  You could well argue that bumping Dr Dao to a later flight on Sunday isn’t a huge inconvenience – but the next available flight as already mentioned wasn’t until 2:30PM on Monday. I can understand why he would want to barricade himself in his seat – he was a paying customer who should be allowed to travel to his destination in peace. Instead he was violently assaulted by police. Now, bear in mind that passengers were offered $800 each to voluntarily vacate their seats – and no one did. Not a single passenger thought that it was worth $800 to them to vacate and fly home on Monday! Some reports have suggested passengers were only offered $800 in airline credit, however after going over the other facts of the case and looking at their aviation policy it does specify that compensation is in the form of a cheque. To be honest, $800 is pretty reasonable to stay overnight and fly the next afternoon – however people have commitments to make, and as mentioned no one on the flight thought that it was worth $800 to them to voluntarily vacate their seat.

The fact Dr Dao had a ticket and the airline simply wanted to give his seat to one of their staff is absolutely abhorrent. Is it really worth it to the airline to spend $3200 moving their own staff on this flight? This goes back to what I was saying before – flying isn’t the only way to get from Chicago to Louisville – you can take a 7hr train ride, or a bus ride, or a 4hr 40 minute drive. And why the hell are they even allowed to do that shit in the first place – don’t they have aviation regulations in the US? Since when can you revoke customer’s tickets after they have boarded the plane simply because you want to give someone else the ticket? That’s corporate scalping is what that is!

Furthermore, as revealed by a lawyer below, the Contract of Carriage Document does not provide a reason for the man to have been ejected from the flight (see Appendix 2). The document forms a legal contract between the passenger and the airliner and outlines when they are allowed to refuse flight for a passenger. Importantly, nowhere does it say they can remove a passenger so they can give their seats to staff, and furthermore, nowhere does it say that they can remove a passenger that has already boarded except for the reasons of disorderly conduct or security. The clause they are relying on is a denial of boarding – but as is perfectly clear in this case, the customer had already boarded. Put simply, their own contract doesn’t give them any right to forcibly remove an orderly passenger that has already boarded the flight. Or in legal terms, it deals only with denial of boarding and not with refusal of transport, or removal from the cabin after boarding.

The Contract of Carriage is what’s known as a contract of adhesion. That means it’s a contact presented by someone with greater power (in this case the airline) to someone with lower power. In such contacts it is not at all unusual for some of its terms to be thrown out when challenged in court. For example, the idea that you can refuse boarding to paying customers because you oversold the flight clearly advantages the airline’s interests over that of the customer. The Contact though also specifies that denied boarding is a last resort – and this brings me back to my point: why not pay a Taxi driver $2,000 in cash to ferry the staff to Louisville? That would have kept everyone happy – especially the cab driver offered the ride.

Dr Dao is currently recovering from the assault in hospital.

Appendix 1: Leaked email from United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz:

Dear Team,

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville.

While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.

As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help.

Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.

Oscar

Appendix 2: Lawyer reads the Contract of Carriage

 

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