United Airlines Set to Lose Millions, Maybe Billions

United Airlines Set to Lose Millions, Maybe Billions


Last week United flight 3411 was scheduled to travel from Chicago to Louisville. The full flight was completely full and loaded with passengers. Just before takeoff, a United flight ticket agent said the flight was overbooked and asked 4 passengers to voluntarily leave the plane. In exchange, the airline would offer $400, a hotel room and status on a flight the next day. No one budged. The next offer was similar, but the compensation was doubled to $800. Still, no one budged.

The next voice was that of a United manager. She said 4 passengers were going to be selected at random and asked to leave the plane. Following some algorithm, 4 passengers were randomly selected. Three of them got up and exited the front of the plane.  The 4th passenger, David Dao, refused. He said that he was a medical doctor and needed to see patients the next day. TSA Security Agents were called and away we go.

One of the agents grabbed Dr. Dao and forcibly pulled him out of his seat. He was then dragged off the plane by his arms. According to Dr. Dao’s lawyer, he suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost 2 teeth.

Facts: There are a few facts to consider here.

  • The flight was not overbooked. United wanted 4 crew members to get on the flight so they could meet a scheduled flight out of Louisville the next day.
  • The United manager did not increase the voucher up to the $1,400 that is allowable on any flight to entice passengers to voluntarily leave the flight.
  • The passengers were not truly randomly selected. The algorithm rank-orders passengers based on loyalty status and how much they paid for the flight.  The four passengers were among the non-frequent flyers who paid the least amount for the flight.
  • Airlines do frequently overbook flights and engage in this process of compensating volunteers for voluntarily choosing to take a later flight.
  • In the fine print, it does say that airlines have the right to give your seat to someone else. In actuality, we, the public, are not buying a seat on a flight.  They just can’t forcibly remove a passenger against his/her will.

Joe’s Perspective: This one is simple – it’s a slam dunk. Just put yourself in the passenger’s perspective and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Would you give up your seat voluntarily as a paying customer?
  • Is it fair or right that a company can make you give up your seat because they overbooked or they want their employees to make another flight?
  • Do you have the right to be treated fairly and respectfully by a company that pledges to get you to a certain destination in a timely manner for an agreed-upon fee?
  • Does a security officer have the right to man-handle passengers to get them to leave when they have done nothing wrong?

If you are like me and the billions of people who watched this video, you probably come down on the side of the passenger. This will cost United millions and maybe billions. David Dao will ask for millions in court. United’s stock has gone done 28% in just a few days. The CEO made half-hearted apologies and he will probably lose his job just so United can save face. Passengers will choose other airlines whenever possible. This is very bad for business. Other airlines should pay attention.

The Other Side: I read a Facebook post from a pilot’s wife who explained the other side. In essence, she argued that Federal Law states that pilots and crew need to make their scheduled flights. If not, the entire system will break down. For example, if that crew did not make their scheduled flight the next day, 150 or so people would be inconvenienced. This would set off a chain reaction, affecting other flights. We would essentially have chaos in the skies. The other fact she pointed out was that no United employee ever laid a hand on any passenger. The followed the regulations and notified TSA. It was the TSA agent who roughed up the customer. She has a lot of other arguments that you can read below that made me question my point of view.

Hmmm… I hate it when people make logical arguments in the face of my righteous emotions. With that being said, I still say United ran the playbook on how to lose billions and piss off customers. If United needed those seats, they should have offered $1,400 or $2,000. Someone would eventually get up and dance their way to the front of the plane. They could have parted with an additional $2,000 (4 passengers x $500 additional) instead of the billions they will lose in court fees, stock prices and future customers. Seems like an easy choice now.

Your Turn: What are your thoughts on the whole scenario? What would you have done as a passenger in that situation? If you were the CEO of a airline company, what changes would you make to ensure this never happens again?

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  1. 1) I think they could have dealt with it differently.
    2)i would speak up and say something
    3) i would refund him the money and i would give him 1400 to the man

  2. 1) I think they could have dealt with it differently.
    2)i would speak up and say something
    3) i would refund him the money and i would give him 1400 to the man

  3. I think that it is almost entirely united airlines fault they shouldn’t have let more people on the plane if they knew that they were going to have to remove them and be over booked. But if offered to me I would take the 400 or even the 800 dollars to get off.

  4. i think tsa should be at fault for this, i would have got off the plane, make it clear that you may be removed from the flight.

  5. 1. I feel like it was not right for the TSA agents to put hands on him and hurt him.
    2. If I was a pasanger I would probably get off the plane happily for the rightful amount of money not just $800
    3. I would make sure that before anything we know how many people are on and make sure no plane gets overbooked.

  6. I think that they could have solved it in a different matter. If i was the passenger i and they graved me i would have prolly fought back, but if they would have never did that i would of just left. also if he was doctor and had people to see they should have picked someone else.i would make sure that they would not have it packed.

  7. I believe that the TSA and United Airlines could have handled this very different. The passenger had patients to see the next day and if the flight crew needed a flight they should have booked it ahead of time, like everyone else. They shouldn’t get to be favorites, they should be prepared. If I was in this situation I would have took the $800 and got off the airplane. If I was a CEO of an airline company I would definitely not treat any other human being like that. If I had to treat the passengers like that I would definitely quit my job.

  8. I think the removal process in which they removed the passenger was unnecessary. As that passenger i would’ve let them man handle me so that i can sue the people who took part in the removal. As the CEO i would work on making a new system that will prevent or lower the chances of overbooking, I would at least come up with an alternative to the problem.

  9. What I thought about this whole scenario is that it wasn’t fair especially if that guy was a doctor and patients needed him. What I would have done as a passenger is gotten off and get the money and go by their rules, but if it was something very important then there is the problem I would just live by saying that I got overbooked by them to the boss or something like that. If I was the CEO I Would Change the rules to make it where if there isn’t any room we would try to make room or stand in the isle and if we’re out of room we’re out of room.

  10. I think that united airlines dealt with this situation in a very harsh way and acted without thinking. This does not dignify a human being and no one should be treated in such a way.

  11. I think it was very disrespectful that United would create a situation like this for their passengers. and how they handled it was inhumane

  12. No one should have been treated the way United airlines treated that man, especially if they paid that much money for a ticket. I would have done the same thing if I were that passenger.

  13. I think the TSA and United could have handled the situation a lot differently. Instead of resorting to violence and risking a potential lawsuit, they could have compensated Dao with more money or a free flight ticket. This is just the opinion of a person who did minimal researching on the issue and just watching the camera video.

  14. Yes, the passenger should have willingly gotten off the plane as the airlines do have to right to do so. But, the airlines and security handled the situation completely wrong and never should have treated him the way they did. This reflects very poorly on United Airlines.

  15. I think that the United Airlines should have considered other options before forcefully removing the man. They should have asked again or raised the price to get passengers off.

  16. I herd of this awhile back and it was big. people were making memes and other things about it. I think this is sad and not right to beat and drag someone off a plane, I know that he did not get off when they asked him to get off but you didn’t have to be violent. I think that could have gone better and I think you guys over at united airlines know it too…

  17. I think they should let there 4 members aboard a different flight. They should of planned it out where there’re 4 sets reserved for them. So that dude wouldn’t have to be forcefully token of the plane. It’s United Airlines fault and they should of have some preparation.

  18. United Airlines could of asked someone else because as the passenger said he was a doctor and he needed to attend patients the next morning. They could of said oaky and chosen another passenger. I would of taken his place as in saying ill get of the plane for him to stay. If I was the CEO of United I would assure that the passengers have a safe and comfortable trip.

  19. I think it was very violent to pull him of of his seat like that. if I were the passenger they would have to pay me to get out of my seat. if I were the ceo I would change the rules on giving up your seat

  20. I think that the whole situation could’ve been avoided if the employees just started thinking like a person instead of the annoying and persistent robots those jobs teach you to be. The people chosen to leave the plane could’ve done the picks again after hearing the urgency of David leaving on that plane.