Man forcibly removed from United flight at O’Hare

The story is here.

So here is what we know…

1) When you purchase an economy plane ticket, you agree to be bumped if necessary. You will be compensated for the inconvenience but accepting the bump it isn’t optional. First they ask for volunteers and then they do a random selection. You agree to this with the purchase of the ticket.

2) Airlines overbook to make sure they don’t fly with empty planes. Full planes keep fares low which is something customers want. First class tickets are never bumped. A less expensive ticket includes the risk of being bumped.

3) Airlines use algorithms to predict no-shows but no prediction method is perfect.

4) As in ships on the high seas in the past, captains of aircraft have broad authority to manage their craft.

5) If law enforcement officers give you a lawful order, you must comply. Failure to comply always results in force.

We are all shocked and appalled to see this sort of force used, but at least one of the points above would need to change in order to prevent this.


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52 Responses to Man forcibly removed from United flight at O’Hare

  1. Jim22 says:

    “OMG! Look what you’re doing to him!”


    Everything that happens these days is recorded by someone with a smart phone. That doesn’t make any of it important.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      It is interesting, however, because it raises interesting issues. Most important is that any violation of the law will result in use of force at the logical end. Is this right?

      • notamobster says:

        Failure to Comply with lawful orders means the steps on the use of force Continuum will be escalated.

        Fixed that for you. The logical end would be compliance. The illogical end is resistance and getting your ass kicked.

  2. R.D. Walker says:

    Gaming this thing out…

    What if the LEO’s shrugged their shoulders and walked out mumbling that he was too stubborn and wouldn’t leave? Would the plane fly anyway? If so, this would mean that you can agree to be bumped in exchange for a low fare but refuse to accept those terms without consequence. That won’t work.

    It does seem like the breakdown in process for United was letting a bumped passenger board at all.

  3. Frank in Texas says:

    The best solution to actions such as this is for passengers to use some other form of transportation. Otherwise you are subject to whatever limitations you agree to when you buy a ticket. As for this man who fought the law all I can say is the law won. Better to have taken the $800 and free hotel stay than to have your azz dragged kicking and screaming off the plane.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      They are saying that he is a doctor and he needed to be at the hospital in Louisville the next day. I am unsympathetic to that argument. If you absolutely have to be somewhere and you are going by air, you better give yourself at least 24-36 hours of cushion… especially if you are going through O’Hare. I just spent 10 hours there last month. It was supposed to be 50 minutes.

      • BrunDawg says:

        It’s a 4.5 hour drive.

        • R.D. Walker says:

          Yep. I have on at least three occasions given up on O’Hare and rented a car for a four hour drive to CR. Take the several hundred dollars of comp and drive.

          BTW: My ten hour delay was on the way to Florida to visit my folks and that would be about a 25 hour drive.

  4. BrunDawg says:

    My thoughts – the airline has the right to ask passengers to leave. In this case, I can’t imagine how they let him on in the first place. I think he should have deplaned as an adult but understand his outrage. Having just returned home on United, I will do everything I can to avoid booking future travel with that airline. I am voting with my feet, not only because we waited in an airport for two days due to mechanical issues (not weather), but the way we, and others in line for various flights not associated with ours, were treated. I too, could have driven (round trip) in the time we were delayed.

    I hope this hurts their business, but I have my doubts.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      It is going to be hard to avoid United in Chicagoland once the American merger is complete.

      • BrunDawg says:

        As much as I hate Midway – It is now looking better than spending hundreds of dollars in an airport bar and receiving jack (unusable hotel vouchers). No doubt the incompetent United system will ruin American.

        • R.D. Walker says:

          It definitely ruined the very competent Continental.

          A big part of the problem is O’Hare. I try to avoid it as best I can but it isn’t easy. I am flying to Europe through Minneapolis this summer.

          • BrunDawg says:

            I’ve gone out of my way to go to Midway, Milwaukee, and even Rockford. Last week my issues were all related to the destination city.

          • sortawitte says:

            Oh my. I remember Continental. It was a class organization and fun to fly. Of course, most airlines used to be fun to fly. American Airlines is the number one reason I don’t fly anymore.

          • Ray Davies says:

            MSP is a great hub. We use it whenever we can. The Days End in Eagan have a park and fly so you can leave your car there for free if you stay the night. We’ve left our car there for as much as a month.

  5. Uke says:

    Tendentious statement:
    In the United States, the punishment for a parking violation is 5 years in a federal penitentiary, or even up to the death penalty.

    Of course, the official punishment for a parking violation is listed as $25 fine.

    But with enough resistance and non-compliance, you can bet you will eventually be facing real, hard time and the barrel of a gun. And it all started for going a few minutes over on your parking meter.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      True, but by the time you are in that much trouble you have committed serious crimes, not just the civil parking violation.

      In some jurisdictions the unpaid parking violation would just result in a hit to your credit rating and end there.

      • Uke says:

        That’s probably a smart way to go about it. The fewer routes that logically end with force, the better.

        But I think the point remains that noncompliance and passive resistance are still things that will get folks in a world of hurt in civil society. I’m not saying it’s wrong or right, but it just is.

        Refuse to pay the fine.
        Refuse to report to the clerk’s office.
        Refuse the court summons.
        Cops come to your home.
        Refuse to comply with lawful police orders, and…?

        If that chain is short circuited with a credit rating hit instead, that’s probably good.

  6. R.D. Walker says:

    The airline erred by letting him get on the plane. If I were the CEO of United, I would consider implementing a ‘squatter’s rights’ policy. That policy would be that bumps need to be resolved before boarding but, once an ass is in a seat, that person is removed from the potential bump list.

    Of course I don’t know enough to say it would work…

  7. miforest says:

    This is something lawmakers should keep in mind. Any law you pass can and usually will be enforced up to and including death .

    This guy was ridiculous, He should have done as the first officer asked. He could seel redress in the courts if he felt unfairly treated .
    Clearly some people are unclear of the principle above. If the police give you an order, you have to do it , or you will get fist, club,taser, and finally bullet if you don’t do as told.

  8. notamobster says:

    I’m not shocked. Stop resisting & we’ll stop putting our have on you. Comply with lawful orders or the steps on the use of force Continuum will be escalated.

    It’s really that simple.

  9. YeahWhatever says:

    If I understand the situation, the 4 people United wanted to put on the plane were employees…so they were making paying customers give up their seats for employees…that could’ve been put on a later flight OR been given a rental car to get them to Louisville..IF it was that critical for them to be in Louisville.

    I’m not saying the situation was handled well by the doctor, and I understand the rules for flying as I’ve flown plenty for my various jobs at my company.

    Just seems to me that if they boot paying customers because United failed at ensuring they had 4 seats available for stand-by crew by overbooking a flight, that’s pretty stupid and this will only damage the perception of United as a company.

    • Ray Davies says:

      My question is why would a doctor who needed to be at the hospital the next day risk flying stand by? Seems to me he would be able to come up with the extra few bucks to pay for a reserve ticket or even go up to a first class. Just wondering…
      If a cop tells you to do something, damnit !do it! argue about it later.

  10. Bman says:

    Why did they wait to bump him while he was already on the plane? Why wasn’t he bumped before loading the aircraft? I have flown hundreds of times and have NEVER seen someone bumped while they were on the plane.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      I agree. This reflects very badly on United.

      That said, the passenger could have walked off. The decision to be dragged off was his and his alone.

      Had I been him, I would have been sizzling mad but I would have walked off like an adult rather than act like a toddler.

  11. Bman says:

    I hope he was at least credited for his airline miles. I would say a good 20 feet is in order.

  12. R.D. Walker says:

    UPDATE: The passenger was allowed to reboard that flight and flew to his destination.

    Um, WTF?

    • Squib Load says:

      Either the police or the airline realized they fucked up.

      The purchase agreement says you may not be allowed to board an overbooked flight. It doesn’t say anything about removing you once you are boarded. They would have needed cause to remove him. If he was otherwise minding his own business this probably was not a lawful order. The guy will get a generous settlement.

      I don’t condone his behavior but the contractual fine print cuts both ways…

      • R.D. Walker says:

        If that’s the case, he deserves to fly and probably deserves some small settlement for his inconvenience.

        If I were on the jury, however, I don’t think I would give him a cent for the dragging. He could have walked off but he opted to be dragged off. That was his choice and is on him.

        • Squib Load says:

          The man never did fly, he was hospitalized. A bit more than an inconvenience. He did get back on but, everybody was then told to get off the plane. Presumably so they could clean up the blood. He then was taken away on a stretcher. One of the cops has been placed on leave. Interestingly only one of the three.

          • R.D. Walker says:

            New information to me.

          • R.D. Walker says:

            He could have walked off. He opted for the hard way rather than the easy way.

            Not that the hard way was cool. Like I said, everybody in this story sucks.

  13. BrunDawg says:

    I hope he’s a plastic surgeon.
    I just flew in from O’Hare and boy is my face tired.
    Doctor, you look like you have the flew (sic).

  14. R.D. Walker says:

    I am just going to go on the record as saying I hate everyone in this story.

    I hate United Airlines for being so stupid they would rather have a $100 million PR failure than bid up the payment for a bump to $1,200, or $2,000 or whatever.

    I hate this passenger for, rather than acting like a grownup, screaming like a pussy and demanding that he be dragged from the plane like a toddler.

    I hate the passengers with their fucking camera phones going. I don’t know why I hate them, I just do.

    I hate the cops for not telling the airline that “overbooking is your problem, deal with it yourself.”

    I hate everybody on the Internet acting like this is not a case of everybody sucking.

    Man, I hate everything. 🙂

  15. notamobster says:

    Yep, everyone in this story sucks donkey balls. The cops however, don’t really have the option to walk away when the airlines ask them to remove unruly passengers.

    If the guy is going apeshit, they need him removed but can’t put their hands on him unless he is physically threatening. At that point, he is trespassing and the cops need to be involved.

  16. C. L. says:

    United instructional video for dealing with nervous passengers?

  17. Rockheim says:

    So here’s the interesting aside and thought exercise.

    The agreed to, best course of action that works and should be followed is total acquiescence to the absolute authority of the state regardless of the demands made by the state.

    And not really the state.. But the tinpot dictator Du Jour that you may run across. With said dictator having the full backing of the state even if the agent escalates the situation to physical confrontation.

    Now. The prescribed recourse should you feel you were handled poorly or that said tinpot dictator overstepped his bounds is to pursue legal action through the courts.

    Pursuing action through the courts will almost assuredly result in no beneficial action for you, not even a reprimand for the dictator and no change at all to the system that may have wronged you. After spending untold thousands of dollars, years of your life in courts and working through the system what is the end result? If you’re lucky and beat the astronomical odds.. You MIGHT receive a form letter apology from some bureaucratic wing of some associated agency.

    Now.. that outcome is almost absolutely guaranteed if there is no serious harm inflicted upon you.

    In fact the only way that you may see any positive action is if you suffered grievous, permanent bodily harm at the hands of the agent of the state. And even then I’d say your chanced are no better than 1 in 10 to even recover damages that would offset your costs. And other than lip service claiming there will be retraining, change of policy, or other remediation.. Nothing further will come of that. It is the rare case where any serious action is taken against the agent of the state or even that there is any substantial payout to the people claiming they were injured.

    So… Either you submit to the power of the state who will continue to infringe upon your rights.. Or.. You get forced to submit to the power of the state who will then continue to infringe upon your rights.

    Now. Nowhere in any of this am I condoning the behavior of this clown or saying that you should get in the face of the cops who are “puttin’ their boot on your neck”.. Just a logical conclusion to the entire thought process.

    And this chain of logic is even worse for you if you set foot in an airport.. Which is why I’ve only boarded a commercial airplane once since 9/11. I choose to limit my exposure to an out of control state. And I refuse to expose my children to circumstances that may see them harmed for non-compliance.. And this is before you even factor in the TSA..

    • C. L. says:

      I agree with your train of thought, at least in principle. A past SCOTUS justice, I forget which, once said that you do not have to follow any law if you believe it is unconstitutional – that it carries no weight before of after a ruling in your favor by SCOTUS. I don’t know that it applies here, but it’s good to remember. The guy should have passively resisted at the very most. There are no heroes in this story.

    • R.D. Walker says:

      “The agreed to, best course of action that works and should be followed is total acquiescence to the absolute authority of the state regardless of the demands made by the state.”

      I didn’t agree to that. I am saying this is piss poor resistance. I am saying that opting to be dragged like a fit-throwing toddler is, in your scenario, worthless. You still get removed, you get bloodied and if it is an oppressive state you might end up in the gulag. You have accomplished nothing.

      Now, I suppose because we do live in an open society, this guy might get a sizable cash settlement. Maybe he will get policies changed that benefit us all.

      That requires a certain amount of doublethink, however. We must simultaneously feel he is a victim even as we understand that he calculated that being dragged was a small price to pay for a million dollar settlement and hero status.

      Back to your original question: If I am resisting the iron fist of tinpot dictator Du Jour, I hope my resistance will be more sophisticated, sustainable and effective than having my pudgy ass dragged off a plane.

      • Rockheim says:

        You are correct. True resistance to oppression is not squealing like 3 year old being drug out of the toy isle at K-Mart..

        But the broader point. You have 2 options.. Acquiescence or Resist.

        Resistance WILL end only one way. And it’s not with you on the plane.

        However.. These are all little erosions of freedom. And this is an extension of the previous parking ticket example. Either leave the plane or be executed. Now. There is a long road between get up on your own and being riddled with holes. And it’s paved with poor decisions.

        But that said. Where is the line drawn? And it could also be argued that this is a purely civil matter between a customer and business.. However the Business has the potentially lethal force of the state at it’s beck and call.

        This changes matters significantly.

        Well.. He was being disruptive. He was a threat to the safety of the aircraft.. yada yada yada. Well. He was none of that until United broke the rules and regulations of air travel and used force to remove a paid passenger from the aircraft.

        While Airlines have BROAD authority to determine who can and can not fly.. there are still rules of compensation.

        Involuntary Bumping

        DOT requires each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn’t. Those travelers who don’t get to fly are frequently entitled to denied boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash. The amount depends on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay:

        If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.

        If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $675 maximum.

        If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum).

        Apparently, according to other passengers.. United offered $400… then $800.. then it was .. Suck it up and get off. Depending on ticket pricing United shorted the required offer by over $500. For $1300 I’d have packed up and drove off and only arrived 3 hours or so after the plane.. $400 per hour for my troubles?

        And in light of all this we have one security officer suspended and United in full damage control/apology mode..

        You were right though. Everyone here sucked.

        But what right is worth fighting for? What does it mean if we’re willing to sacrifice the little things “For the greater good”?

        The attacks on 9/11 was the greatest gift to the leviathan of Government that it could have ever received. When and how do we push back? I vote with my wallet.. But what difference does my bi-annual travel matter to the industry or the Government as a whole? It changes nothing.

        If the new requirement for air travel was for all customers to travel naked and subjected to an invasive anal probe before being let into the airport is that too far? Anything in the name of security right? And while I could completely avoid it by no longer flying.. Is it right that i stand by and do nothing while others are being subjected to this? And then the next question is.. How long is it.. (//cue Monty Python.. “thats a rather personal question”).. until such incremental abuses make it into my life and intrude to a point where I can no longer avoid it?

        • R.D. Walker says:

          Yes, I agree. At some point you gotta face off with The Man and take a hard stand.

          That said, I fly a lot. I’d say that no more than 50 percent of the time does a trip by air go off without a hitch. That’s the nature of flying.

          A flight delay isn’t worth a bloody nose, a rug burned ass and national notoriety as an overgrown toddler. It’s not like they are quartering soldiers in my house or, I dunno, shipping me off to the camps in a boxcar.

          Where do you draw the line? Somewhere between flight related inconvenience and concentration camps.

        • Squib Load says:

          I fly a lot, and I hate it.

          The one thing that can lessen the misery is to always use a travel agent. My employer got me started on agents for business travel. I’ve come to value the service so much I use it for personal travel.

          An agent is an advocate with direct access to all airline booking systems. They are more than worth their minimal fee. Heck, they usually get you a better deal and cost little or nothing.

          Your agent is a phone call away when trouble happens or you want to change an itinerary. Instead of waiting in a long cattle line at the airport, or being placed on hold until your phone battery dies, a quick call to your travel agent gets you the best possible solution. All the seats on alternate flights are gone by the time you speak to an airline employee (the fliers with agents got them).

  18. R.D. Walker says:

    Serving your prurient interest…

    The passenger who was savagely removed from United flight 3411 is a medical doctor with a sordid history.

    Dr. David Dao was charged in 2005 with 98 felony drug counts for illegally prescribing and trafficking painkillers. Prosecutors claimed Dao fraudulently filled prescriptions for hydocodone, Oxycontin and Percocet.

    Dr. Dao was also convicted on 6 felony counts of obtaining drugs by fraud and deceit and in 2005 was given 5 years probation.

    Dao was also convicted for writing prescriptions and checks to a patient in exchange for sex.

  19. R.D. Walker says:

    Just to be clear, United only stipulated that the skies were friendly. They said nothing about the friendliness of United employees.

  20. notamobster says:

    #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos on Twitter is brutal.

    United: Board as a doctor. Leave as a patient.

    Southwest: We beat the competition, not our customers.

  21. MadBrad says:

    Now I understand all the crazy screaming. Where he’s from when they drag you away… they drag you AWAY.

    On the other hand, the screaming was impressive. Imagine 3,000 of them doing that as they try to over run your position at the Chosin Reservoir. If you ever look into the eyes of an Infantryman who fought in the Korean War, you know what Black looks like in its purest form. Just listening to that one guy carry on, I’m telling you I would shit in my pants if I heard Thousands of them coming at me with only my M1 and Bayonet to protect me.

    • notamobster says:

      08NOV65 – “Like a dark evil cloud, twelve hundred came down, on him & 29 more.”

      Republic of Vietnam.

      Much like the Frozen Chosin, that would have been a terrifying experience.

      I have so much respect for the men who, against insurmountable odds and a very determined enemy, dug in their heels for the fight of their life.

      My hat is off to those grizzled old bastards. May our country always produce such magnificent individuals.

  22. R.D. Walker says:

    Again, I am not defending the airline’s crappy behavior in the least, I am just reiterating that the passenger opted to be dragged. It was his call and he made it.

    United passenger told security to ‘drag me down’ after refusing to deplane

    • Uke says:

      Much as has been said, everyone in this scenario was a steaming pile of crap.

      The passenger (for behaving like a child).
      The airline (for not just persuading folks with better bribes).
      The onlookers (for being provocative, drama-instigating rubberneckers).