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AIRLINE PASSENGER ABUSE – WHAT RIGHT DO THEY HAVE?

Posted last May 26, 2017, 2:13 pm for Los Angeles Lawyers in Business report article

On April 09, 2017, at 5:15 pm, United Airlines brutally abused, assaulted and battered Dr. David Dao, having him beaten and dragged off of United Airlines Express Flight 3411 at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, despite the fact that Dr. Dao was a confirmed, paid-up, seated airline passenger, who had done nothing wrong.  Under Civil Aviation Statutes, passengers do have Rights, don’t they ?

 

Apparently, United Airlines had four (4) employees, who suddenly, and unexpectedly, needed to travel from Chicago, Illinois to Louisville, Kentucky.  United Flight 3411 was fully-booked.  The United Flight crew initially offered $400 in Vouchers for future travel on United Airlines, an overnight stay at Chicago’s O’Haire Airport.  Eventually, with no volunteers, United raised its offer to somewhere between $850 and $1,000 in Vouchers for future travel on United, plus free hotel accommodations, to any four (4) passengers who would agree to give up their seats.  


The primary problem was that the next scheduled United Flight from Chicago to Louisville was set for 2:00 pm on the following day – more than twenty-one (21) hours later.  When no passengers “volunteered,” United could have – should have – offered more money, perhaps even much more money, until some passengers really would have “volunteered.”  Just to provide some perspective, since the United Airlines incident occurred, other airlines have clarified their approach.  Delta Airlines has subsequently authorized Flight Crews to pay passengers up to $9,500 in order to induce them to give up their seats, if necessary, apparently on the advice of Delta’s Corporate Counsel.


In the case of United Express Flight 3411, faced with a lack of willing volunteers, United selected four (4) individual passengers to be targeted for removal.  The selection of these four (4) individuals was not – strictly speaking – random, since the United staff (apparently) considered such factors as:  (a) when the tickets were purchased, and (b) how much the individual passenger actually paid for their ticket.  The first two of the four passengers selected for removal were actually a “couple,” travelling together.  The Couple were not happy that they had been selected, and protested vigorously.  Nevertheless, when the Flight Crew refused to reconsider, the Couple left the airplane “voluntarily.”  If I were one of them, that would have been when I used my cell phone in order to Call My Lawyer.  


Next came Dr. David Dao.  When approached by the Flight Crew, Dr. Dao, explained that he was a Medical Doctor, with patients scheduled to see him the next morning, in Louisville, Kentucky.  The Flight Crew were unmoved by Dr. Dao’s protestations, and cell phone videos of the ensuing incident went “viral.”  A combined team of O’Hare International Airport Police Officers and United Airlines Security Officers forcibly removed passenger David Dao from the airplane, after he refused to voluntarily depart the airplane upon the demand of United Airlines management ( … just wondering if there are differences between IL and KY State Laws in this regard … do we have a Conflict of Law question? )  If so, you’d best contact a Los Angeles Lawyer. Dr. Dao screamed as officers pulled him forcibly out of his seat, and his face apparently hit an armrest – or some other hard surface – during the struggle.  Dr. Dao’s nose and mouth were bleeding, with his glasses knocked off his eyes, apparently unconscious as he was dragged down the aisle, and off the plane.  A cell phone video of the incident went “viral,” viewed by millions of people within a few hours of the incident.  As a result of this unfortunate incident, quite a number of very important questions come to mind. 


Let’s consider just some of these important questions, viewed from the perspective of an experienced Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney providing a Free Consultation, and listed here in Reverse-Chronological order:


1. If Dr. Dao was unconscious, shouldn’t a doctor or Emergency Medical Technician have been summoned?


2. Shouldn’t Dr. Dao have been strapped onto a gurney or wheel-chair, for his own safety and protection?


3. Shouldn’t the airline or the airport have had a Crisis Management Expert, a Social Worker, or someone with appropriate training, available?


4. Shouldn’t the Flight Crew have had the authority to offer significantly higher sums of money, so that a true “Volunteer” could have been found?


Officers then dragged him, apparently unconscious, by his arms on his back along the aircraft aisle past rows of on looking passengers. He was later seen with blood around his mouth. Prior to the confrontation, managers offered compensation to passengers to vacate their seats to make room for four airline employees who needed to travel to the destination, which was Louisville International Airport, but none of the fliers accepted. Four passengers were then selected for involuntary removal from the flight. Three other passengers complied, and Dao was selected to be fourth.  Republic Airline actually operated the scheduled passenger flight on behalf of United Express, which is a Regional Branch of United Airlines.


As we mentioned, video of the incident recorded by passengers immediately went viral on social media, leading to a landslide of outrage over the violent incident. Politicians expressed concern and called for official investigation. 


United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued an initial statement which appeared to justify the removal of the unwilling passenger, referring to it as "re-accommodating” the customers.  Munoz also sent an e-mail to United Airlines staff commending the crew's actions for following Established Airline Procedures, and referring to Dr. Dao as "disruptive" and "belligerent.”  Munoz was sharply criticized by the public for his apparently unsympathetic reaction to Dr. Dao's brutal treatment.  Police Brutality has consequences.  Two days after the incident he issued an additional statement, this time, apologizing and promising that this type of incident would never happen again on United aircraft.  He said, "no one should ever be mistreated this way."


Dr. David Dao being forcibly removed from United Express Flight 3411 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport -- and all because there were no available seats.  When United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz announced Wednesday that no one had been fired over the incident, I was certain there had to be more to the story.  And was it a coincidence that the roughed-up passenger was Asian?  Was this a Civil Rights Violation, or even a “Hate Crime”?


In response, Munoz has now (finally) apologized.  But more significantly, United claims that it will now change its procedures.  It will no longer allow seated customers to be displaced for crew members or other employees. And it will no longer ask law enforcement to remove passengers except when it is a question of safety or security. The airline has also implemented a new training program for gate agents. In addition at least one of United’s competitors announced that it would dramatically increase the amount of the voucher offered to passengers who voluntarily give up their seats. Delta will now offer volunteers as much as $9,950, plus rebooking.  Other airlines are also expected to respond. And the security officers involved have been suspended and may be fired.


What Legal Rights do airline passengers actually have?


Please e-mail YOUR flying nightmares, horror stories, problems and Complaints, so that other airline passengers -- and potential airline passengers -- are aware of what’s going on, and can comment.