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Overbooked flight turns into physical assault

by George Boria - Copy Editor
Mon, Apr 17th 2017 09:10 pm
Photo taken from CNN on Twitter

United Airlines (above) is under public scrutiny after a man was physically assaulted by officers as a result of his reluctance to leave an overbooked flight. Initially, United Airlines attempted to bribe the passenger. When that failed they resorted to dragging him off.
Photo taken from CNN on Twitter United Airlines (above) is under public scrutiny after a man was physically assaulted by officers as a result of his reluctance to leave an overbooked flight. Initially, United Airlines attempted to bribe the passenger. When that failed they resorted to dragging him off.

 Statistically speaking, airplanes are safer than cars. According to the USA Today article, "Is Air Travel Safer Than Car Travel?" by Aurelio Locsin, fliers experience about 20 incidents a year while drivers experience five million a year. The article references the National Safety Council's calculation of mortality statistics saying that driving you have a one in 98 chance of dying (over a lifetime) in a car while flying you have a one in 7,178 chance of dying. What the article doesn't account for are incidents like that which transpired on United Flight 3411 on Sunday, April 9. 

For the people in the world that believe in the inherently good nature of humankind it would be hard to imagine something as terrible as a man being forcibly and violently dragged off an airplane. However, just earlier this month it happened.

When United Airlines realized they had no available spots for United employees who needed to take the flight, they decided to bribe people with money instead of compensated ticket for their seats. According to the NBC Chicago article, "Man Dragged Off United Flight Suffered Concussion, Broken Nose, Lawyer Says," when the initial $400 bribe was not enough it was raised to $800. However, for those like Dr. David Dao, no amount of money can buy your seat when you need to go home. 

Dao says his reason for wanting to get home was more than just personal, but also work related. Dao had patients back home he had to care of on Monday and Flight 3411 was his last opportunity to make it in time. I won't say that Dao was in the wrong for not giving up his seat, but for what it's worth for the good doctor it may have been better in hindsight to accept the bribe than to stand his ground as United Airlines called upon the airport police to drag him off. We all know what happens when the police are called in to take care of obstinate people.

Security removed Dao from the plane by force and in effect Dao received multiple non-life threatening injuries. Why couldn't someone else volunteer to leave in his place? What would you say about the inherently good nature of people in this situation? 

In a very similar article by NBC Chicago titled, "Never Happen Again": United Issues Updated Policy After Man Dragged Off Plane", there is discussion about whether the action was racially motivated or not but it may very well be true, as Dao is of Asian descent. While it may not have been a racial decision and was, as the airline states, a decision that the thought was completely random, there is without a doubt in my mind that were he a white doctor traveling to a more urbanized city than Louisville, Kentucky the situation would have ended a little bit differently. 

The United States Department of Transportation says it is looking into reviewing the rules and regulations regarding overbooked flights. While the police clearly mishandled the decision I'd like to ask you, what would you have done if you were a passenger on the flight: watch or intervene?


gbori1@brockport.edu