Thanks to Louisville resident Audra Bridges who posted a video of an incident online Sunday evening, American United Airlines has become incredibly infamous. The video of a man, apparently a doctor, being dragged from his seat to make room for airline employees has gone viral, prompting a public apology from the company’s CEO.
The video shows three security officers speaking to an unidentified passenger (later revealed to be David Dao) on United Express Flight 3411, which hadn’t left O’Hare International Airport in Chicago yet. Suddenly, one of the officers grabs the passenger, who screams as he is yanked out of his seat and pulled down the aisle, He was treated as if he was a terrorist.
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued an apologetic statement – “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”
What happened was the Flight 3411 to Louisville was overbooked. The airline was supposed to reserve four seats for their own employees. In order to solve their internal screw up, they initially offered US$400, and increased to US$800 vouchers and a hotel stay, for volunteers to give up their seats to four United employees who needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight.
— Tyler Bridges (@Tyler_Bridges) April 9, 2017
After they boarded the flight, Bridges said she and her fellow passengers were told that four people would be selected randomly to leave since no one volunteered. When United Airlines named four customers who had to leave the plane, three of them did so. The fourth person – David Dao – refused to obey, and police were called.
The man (David Dao) in the video was one of the four chosen, Bridges said, but he became “very upset” and said he was a doctor who needed to meet with patients the next morning. Security officers came and he was forcibly and violently removed from the plane. Dao managed to get back on the flight after that. But Bridges said his face was bloody and he seemed disoriented.
Social media condemns United Airlines because the man (David Dao) wasn’t being ejected for misbehaviour or a security threat. It was because United overbooked the flight, its staff chose him at random (of which the selection is questionable), and he didn’t want to get bumped but was dragged and thrown out of the plane anyway.
David Dao was reportedly a Chinese American doctor who said he had to be in Louisville Monday to see patients and would not relinquish his seat. Other passengers on Flight 3411 are on video were heard saying, “Please, my God,”, “What are you doing?“ ‘’This is wrong”, “Look at what you did to him“ and ”Busted his lip”.
In a phone interview, United spokesman Charlie Hobart said – “We followed the right procedures. That plane had to depart. We wanted to get our customers to their destinations.” However, for obvious reason, the airline didn’t address David Dao’s forcible removal or the visceral reaction, let alone how he was bloodied on his mouth, chin and cheek.
Audra Bridges’ husband, Tyler said – “We almost felt like we were being taken hostage. He was kind of saying that he was being singled out because he’s a Chinese man” – referring to the United Airlines manager he had spoken to, who was an African-American. The shocked passengers berated United employees who boarded the plane in the ejected flyers’ place.
Will Nevitt, 30, a teacher who was returning home to Louisville from Chicago, said that United Airlines manager called the doctor (David Dao) and his wife that they were being asked to leave the aircraft because they and two other passengers had purchased the cheapest flights on the plane, suggesting that the selection of passengers to be bumped isn’t based on random at all.
The Chicago Department of Aviation, in an emailed statement, said the incident on Flight 3411 “was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure.” The department said its security officer who dragged the man from his seat had been placed on leave pending a review of the situation and that his actions “are obviously not condoned by the department.”
Chicago Police Department, on the other hand, issued a statement Monday that said the Asian passenger (David Dao) was 69 years old and was taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after the incident. Security officers claimed they tried to carry the man off the plane “when he fell,” and his “head subsequently struck an armrest causing injuries to his face.”
According to airline industry, overbooking a flight isn’t prohibited by federal regulations. Therefore, they oversell, betting a certain amount of no-shows for any given trip. In the event of overbooking, airlines would offer volunteers with a new flight in return for compensation and will keep upping their offers if necessary until enough people take the deal.
However, if still need more people to give up their seat, the company can determine who must leave but typically makes that decision “before” passengers board the plane, not “after” as in the case of United Airlines. The latest incident comes two weeks after United was criticized for barring two teenage girls from a flight because they were wearing leggings.
It appears that the Asian man was chosen based on either his ticket price (Nevitt’s story) or his ethnicity (Bridges’ story). Anger was not limited to the U.S., unfortunately. The incident was the number one trending topic on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, attracting more than 150-million views and more than 100,000 comments, after it was revealed the victim was a Chinese.
Many Chinese social media users accused United Airlines of racism, while others called for a boycott. CCTV, the state broadcaster, showed photos of the passenger’s bloodied face above the word – “Savage!” The ruling Communist Party’s flagship newspaper – People’s Daily – scolded United for failing to condemn the man’s treatment.
United’s screw-up is set to hurt its revenue in China, where the airline began flying in 1986 and has steadily built a loyal customer base. As of last May, United had 96 departures a week to cities in mainland China and Hong Kong. United Airlines’ stock price were nearly 6% lower in premarket trading on Tuesday as the company scrambled to address the issue.
A Weibo user wrote – “Where are the human rights the democratic countries have been advocating?” Another wrote – “In the United States, Asians are often discriminated against. If it were a Muslim or black person, they wouldn’t have acted this way”. Calling for a boycott, Joe Wong, a popular Chinese-American comedian said – “Too few Asians are willing to talk about discrimination out of pride.”
Zhang Zishi, an 18-year-old student from China who lives in Britain has started a petition on the website of the White House calling for a federal investigation into the case, using the hashtag #ChineseLivesMatters. So far, the petition has more than 44,000 signatures. He said – “I’ve learned from the media that there is a lot of racism in the United States,”
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