United Airlines will learn the hard way that “overbooking” is a word reserved not only for an honest airline, but also for an airline that doesn’t employ an arrogant CEO. And for an airline that happily unleashed thuggish and racist security officers to bully and violently dragged an Asian passenger off the flight, the fiasco isn’t going to go away soon.
United is looking at not only a major boycott which could cripple its share price, but also potentially millions of dollars in potential lawsuits. What initial announced by the Chicago-airline as “overbooking” to get away with its own internal screw up has turned out to be more scandalous – there wasn’t any overbooking in the first place.
Instead, United Airlines and regional affiliate Republic Airlines, which operated the flight, selected four passengers to be removed to accommodate crew members needed in Louisville the next day. Three passengers went quietly but David Dao, a physician in Elizabethtown, Ky., refused so he was violently pulled out of his seat and off the plane.
The CEO of United Airlines has again apologized on Tuesday after it was revealed that the United Express Flight 3411 to Louisville wasn’t even overbooked, amid a global uproar. CEO Oscar Munoz said – “I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight, and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.”
But the CEO could be merely shedding crocodile tears now that his cushy job is on fire. Mr. Oscar Munoz has proven to be a dishonest man. Hours after his first public apology on Monday, a leaked email he sent to the airline’s employees revealed how he praised the behaviour of the flight crew in dealing with a “disruptive and belligerent” passenger.
The passenger at the centre of United Airlines scandal – Dr. David Dao – a Vietnamese-born father of five is now represented by two Chicago high-profile attorneys – Thomas Demetrio, of the prominent Corboy & Demetrio law firm and Stephen L. Golan of Golan Christie Taglia. Demetrio is reportedly never lost an appeal and routinely won multi-million dollar settlements.
And there’s a good chance Dr. David could win his case. Back in September 2014, United Airlines assured federal regulators that all ticketed passengers are “guaranteed seats” on flights – a promise which was delivered in federal filings. David’s lawyers will most likely use this commitment, in addition to tons of witnesses on Flight 3411, to grill and paint United as the monster bully.
Dr. David Dao, who initially thought to be a Chinese-American, continues receiving support nevertheless. A petition started by Zhang Zishi, an 18-year-old student from China who lives in Britain, on the website of the White House calling for a federal investigation into the case has already breached the 100,000 signatures required to get a response from the White House.
The petition which started on April 11, 2017, and was signed off with hashtag #ChineseLivesMatters has now more than 160,000 signatures, and counting. Press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters – “I don’t think anyone looks at that video and isn’t a little disturbed that another human being is treated that way. I’m sure he (President Trump) has seen the video.”
United Airlines has been under siege since videos of Sunday night’s violent confrontation on the plane at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport went viral, drawing hundreds of millions of views around the world. By Tuesday evening, the fiasco had attracted more than 550 million views and more than 240,000 comments from Chinese Weibo users, China’s equivalent of Twitter.
It’s not hard to understand why the notorious United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has been apologizing profusely, or at least pretend to be sorry. When the company’s stock price plunged by over 3% at one point, its shareholders lost over US$700 million in market valuation. According to Reuters, Chinese customers in Asia contribute more than 14% of United Airlines’ revenue.
As the largest U.S. carrier operating in China, with 20% of the routes between China and the U.S. including non-stop flights to Beijing from Newark, Chicago, Washington, and San Francisco, the Chinese could easily kill United Airlines if they continue with a “violent boycott”. And if the Chinese customers want United’s arrogant CEO to be fired, the shareholders might just obey.
Although the White House may not have much involvement in this issue, the public pressure could force the Trump administration to change federal policy regarding how airlines can treat their customers. Sure, Donald Trump is a pro-business president but China is the fifth biggest market for tourism in the U.S. and that is expected to more than double in the next five years.
However, as United Airlines continues with its damage control, Mr. David’s past is being dug up by journalists and (most likely) the airline’s public relation and defence team, in preparation for the worst case scenario. David, who came to the U.S after attending medical school in Vietnam in the 1970s, was convicted in 2004 on drug-related offenses after an undercover investigation.
David, a pulmonary disease specialist, surrendered his medical license in 2005, but the Kentucky board permitted him to resume practicing medicine in 2015 on a limited basis. Dr. David is also suspected to be a professional poker player who made a killing on the World Series of Poker while his medical license was suspended in Kentucky.
It was revealed that in his poker career, David Dao has amassed total winnings of US$234,664, according to his player profile. The most Dao ever won in a World Series of Poker tournament was US$117,744 when he placed second during an event at Harrah’s Tunica in Mississippi in 2009. United’s defence team will most likely attack David’s “immoral” activities in court.
Still, in a land which preaches “democracy” and “human rights”, it isn’t hard to argue that a criminal case dating back more than a decade is no excuse for David Dao being “treated like a beaten animal” by “savage United Airlines.” Although he isn’t a Chinese as initially thought to be, that’s still a discrimination and racism against Asians. Perhaps a boycott is an overdue lesson for the airline.