United Airlines – the fine print doesn’t matter.

Posted By on April 14, 2017

By now, if you live on planet Earth with an Internet connection, you’d have seen the video of the three security thugs violently hauling a 69 year old doctor out of his seat, breaking his nose, cutting his lip and breaking two front teeth, all because they wanted his seat for an employee. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t paid, had contraband, or even been belligerent – they decided they wanted his window seat so one of their employees to fly back to the USA.

Here’s the link for the video, if you haven’t seen it already: United Airlines security assaults passenger

According to United Airlines, their contract allows them to do this whenever they feel inclined and we don’t have a leg to stand on. Of course, it’s written on the ticket somewhere and as travelers we should have read all that fine print and understood all the nuances of the legal jargon they used, to communicate this important point to us.

Firstly, regardless of the wording, using three strapping security thugs on a 69 year old man exceeds all reason. David Dao is not a sumo wrestler by any definition. He is a doctor, more accurately physically described as diminutive in stature. Rather than “removing” the passenger, as the airline describes it, “airline authorised assault on a passenger” would be a better description. When a 69 year old diminutive Asian man ends up with a broken nose and two broken teeth, you’d have to say that it’s a bit more than a “removal”!

United Airlines claim they chose their victim by ballot and it’s all fair. Maybe so, but a doctor, with appointments to see patients, should be sufficient grounds to remove a passenger from any ballot, when compared to others who are tourists.

All airlines overbook their planes, banking on last minute cancellations and passengers who don’t turn up. That’s common practice and it’s catered for in their contract with passengers but that contract states that passengers can be prevented from boarding the aircraft, not already seated on the aircraft. If we want to ignore reason, decency, common sense and descend to legal jargon, there it is. United have breached their own contract wording. The passenger had been allowed to board the aircraft and had met all the terms of the transportation contract.

United Airlines claim that without the four employees back in the USA, they would have had to cancel flights, is also highly suspicious. Essential employees in all airlines usually are employed on a 3-stage roster. One stretch (typically a month) is on duty, a second is on standby where they can be called to work at immediate notice and the third stage is off duty. If any airline is so inept that it cannot rake up some staff on standby, maybe it shouldn’t be allowed to manage something as complex as air flight!

When you take away the legalities, it all comes down to trust. I trust my airline to treat me fairly and get me there safely. I don’t expect them to beat me up before the plane has left the tarmac. I accept that turbulence might throw me around and trust the airline’s employees will do their best to limit my injuries – not cause them while we are still on the ground!

The heart warming part of this whole fiasco is the public response. United Airlines share prices dropped by 300 million following the incident going viral on the Internet, largely due to you, and millions like you, viewing the video online. Personally I hope he sues their arses off; no-one should be treated like this.

Let this be a message to all corporations seeking to hide behind complex legal jargon and fine print of contracts – ultimately it comes down to people power and the Internet’s ability to get the message out there – the fine print doesn’t matter.

About The Author

Mimenta.com is the online voice of a collection of consumer advocates working independently to represent people who would otherwise be unheard. We speak for those who are bullied by corporations and don’t realise they can have a say.


Comments are closed.