United will rough you up before it pays for its mistakes

Today’s edition of Hello Humans is free, because United Airline’s humiliation shouldn’t be stifled by a paywall.


UPDATE V: It turns out David A Dao was correctly identified as the man with the sordid past. I maintain none of those details should ever have been reported as they had no baring on his humiliating and violent eviction from the United Flight. 

LA Times has the story http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-united-david-dao-20170412-story.html

UPDATE:  Dr Dao’s lawyers have responded with a statement which can be found at the bottom of this post

This post has been updated, scroll down for details. 


IN addition to racial profiling, draconian security measures, a distinct possibility of having your electronic devices confiscated and inevitable delays, air-flight travellers can now add casual police brutality to their list of common airport inconveniences. 

In case you missed it, United yesterday sent the Chicago Police onto one of its flights at O’hare Airport to drag a paying customer out of his seat because the airline had “overbooked”. They did so by slamming his head into a seat rest and carrying him off the flight, seemingly concussed.

I have included the video below. Warning: it contains graphic violence. 

As it turns out, the flight wasn’t even overbooked. United tried to remove four passengers so it could use the seats to shuttle four airline staff to another airport.

Right now United is probably trying to figure out a way to justify their actions.

The Chicago PD already released a statement in which it claims the customer received his injuries when he “fell”, despite the fact that you can’t fall over when you’re sitting down, nor can you fall over when you’re being pulled from your seat by armed guards.

At first the Department of Transportation said it was reviewing whether United followed consumer protection regulations. Then United released a statement.

When asked why a paying customer was forcibly removed and if it was standard procedure to haul a man unconscious off a plane, United refused to comment. Then Chicago PD released a statement claiming the 69-year-old fell, ‘causing his head to strike an armrest causing injuries to his face’.

Worse, Chicago aviation officers have been pushing for authorisation to carry weapons in airports and on planes, but the chairman of Chicago City Council’s Aviation Committee said the incident at O’Hare Airport was “so poorly handled from A-Z” that the officers have lost the argument over their right to bear arms.

United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz apologised and said the airline is conducting an internal review but in a letter to employees he claimed United staff had followed established procedures.

Morality aside, United airlines has demonstrated to the paying public that it is prepared to rough up customers before digging into its own pocket to rectify its own administrative mistakes.

I have had friends and colleagues offered in excess of $1000 spending money, flights, accommodation and food all covered by rival airlines when they have been inconvenienced by an overbooked flight. (To be fair, they have had to ask and / or barter the price up, but nonetheless the airlines were polite in the process and willing to pay).

United is a company with a market capitalisation of $18 billion as of September 2014. It was prepared to go to $800 and no higher before it sent in the boys in blue. If this decision was an attempt to save money, United fucked it up big time. This incident is going to cost ’em bigly.

The offending officer has been placed on administrative leave, pending investigation. But while the guard’s conduct was atrocious, let’s not forget that none of this would have occurred if United hadn’t sanctioned the incident.

Let it be clear: United airlines was prepared to rough up paying customers, because it wasn’t willing to pay for its own mistakes.

I hope United is sued into the ground. And you wonder why so few people fly these days. It’s almost as though they don’t want people to travel.

Pretty strange business model for an airline.

UPDATE: The identity of the passenger dragged off the United flight has been identified as Dr David Dao overnight, who made the following statement.

We seem to have reached the victim blaming stage of the news cycle. The Courier-Journal of Louisville  dug up dirt on Dao making allegations about his past which I won’t dignify by repeating here.

The allegations about Dao’s private life have been repeated by the following news outlets:

  • News.com.au
  • The Telegraph
  • The Daily Mail
  • The International Washington Times
  • The New York Post

Like there was any connection between activities of more than a decade ago and the decision of United’s hired goons to bash Dr Dao’s face in before dragging him unconscious off the flight. Speculation has been made as to his mental health based entirely on his refusal to capitulate to authority.

If the good doctor didn’t already have a case against United, he now also has grounds to sue for defamation of character anyone who repeats the slanderous claims that have been made of him over the last 24 hours.

These articles and publications bring the reputation of Dr Dao and a United paying customer into disrepute, all because he happened to be ‘randomly selected’ to be dragged off a plane by hired goons. I don’t care what terms and conditions were written into the ticket purchase agreement, contracts are reciprocal and United had an ethic of care (not to mention an obligation to the basic tenets of consumer law) to its passengers, including the good doctor. The media also has an ethic of care, to do no harm. These outlets have opened the doctor up to global scrutiny, they have put his emotional and mental well-being at risk by reporting on information that has no pertinence to the incident. The information about Dr Dao’s past has been used as a justification for United’s behaviour.

Never mind that it feeds into the normalisation of casual violence when capitalism fails, it feeds into narratives about ‘yellow peril’ and Orientalism, it breeds a fear of foreigners and the use of natural justice by police, despite the fact Dr Dao had not been charged with a crime, nor had he broken the law. The only thing he did wrong that day was get out of bed. (That and his decision to fly United).

I smell lawsuits. I hope these publications are held to account. In fact the public should crowd-fund to ensure that they are. This is bush league reporting and it has no place in the Fourth Estate.


UPDATE II: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported that the officers involved were security guards given police cover. The involved officers were employed by the Chicago Aviation Authority who are trained at the same academy as Chicago Police Department, but they do not carry guns.

UPDATE III: I hate to say I told you so, but as it turns out fact checking matters because a number of publications (including the ones listed above) may have confused United’s Dr David Dao with another David Dao registered in a different state.


I did some digging and there are two David Daos registered as doctors in the USA. One is registered in Kentucky as Dr David A Dao, the other in New Orleans as David Thanh Duc Dao. They may be one and the same, they may not be. I have contacted Dr Dao’s lawyers for confirmation. In the meantime you can check out the registration documentation for seemingly two different people below:

New Orleans – Dr David Thanh Duc Dao:



Kentucky: Dr David A Dao, David Dao:


Seeking insights from any lawyers or legal specialists who can offer perspectives.

More to follow…

UPDATE IV: I got in touch with Dr Dao’s lawyers, who responded with the following statement:

UPDATE V: It turns out David A Dao was correctly identified as the man with the sordid past. I maintain none of those details should ever have been reported as they had no baring on his humiliating and violent eviction from the United Flight.

LA Times has the story http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-united-david-dao-20170412-story.html

Claire Connelly is working on her first book, How The World Really Works, a guide to recognising rhetorical red flags and immunising yourself against bullshit. You should definitely buy it when it comes out. A podcast of the same name will also be launching in the coming months. Stay tuned. In the meantime, for the cost of one cup of coffee a month, you too can support independent journalism. Damn the man. Save the Fourth Estate!