United Airlines began to face a crisis started by the fame of multiple videos of an elderly 70-year-old man being dragged off one of their flights.
This particular flight was overbooked Sunday, April 9th where Dr. David Dao and his wife were planning to leave Chicago to reach a hospital appointment Monday morning. When the flight was overbooked, there were four seats needed for other higher priority passengers, in this case, crew members of the airline.
Staff began to pick the seats and kick those four people off the plane including Dr. Dao. Witnesses started to record the incident just as the situation took a turn for the worst. Videos revealed security officers who began pulling him when Dr. Dao’s head hit an arm rest sparking outrage among the passengers nearby. The videos were posted and spread out through social media also showing Dr. Dao unconscious as he was dragged off the plane with blood all around his face.
“No one should ever be mistreated this way,” Oscar Munoz, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement. Munoz included an apology for having to “re-accommodate these customers.”
The internet, though, criticized the comment. “Nice to know ‘re-accommodate’ on United now means ‘drag you violently out of your seat,’” a post on Twitter.
Social media did not respond very well including in China where some believe United Airlines was kicking him out due to his race. Others believe there is no reason for such a horrifying moment and there must be another way the airline could have dealt with the situation. “This was unnecessary treatment,” said a witness.
However, to make more money, airlines have been overselling plane tickets for the past decades expecting some passengers not to show up. This strategy is how the airlines maximize profits.
Each airline has its own system for choosing who to kick out. Some pick the people who paid the least, and others pick the passengers who checked in the latest.
The spokeswoman for United Airlines, Megan McCarthy explained, “If the crew members had not been allowed to board, the Monday morning flight [the next day] would have been canceled.”
The chance of a person being kicked out of a flight is relatively small, as 40,600 passengers were bumped this year, a slight fraction out of 660 million passengers.
“We recognize that our response yesterday did not reflect the gravity of the situation,” Ms. McCarthy said. “And for that, we also apologize. Our focus now is looking ahead and making this right.”
Now, United Airlines has adopted new changes, after what Munoz calls, a “system failure.” He is to expecting better from future flights. From now on, crew members will no longer be able to bump a passenger who is already seated in one of the airline’s planes.