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The Blue & Gray Press | August 19, 2019

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Students react to United controversy


On April 9, 2017, O’Hare International Airport police forcibly had removed passenger David Dao from United Flight 3411 after he refused to exit the airplane upon the demand of management. Dao screamed as officers pulled him out of his seat, and his face hit an armrest during the struggle.

Officers then dragged him on his back along the aircraft aisle past rows of passengers. Before the dispute began, management offered compensation to passengers willing to vacate their seats to make room for four airline employees who needed to travel to the flight’s destination, but none of the passengers were willing to give up their seats. Four passengers were then selected for involuntary removal from the flight. Three passengers onboard complied, and Dao was selected to be fourth.

Videos of the encounter were quickly posted on social media showing Dao bloodied and frightened. It sparked an international outrage condemning United’s overall handling of the situation.

“What happened on that flight was terrible for the passenger that was bumped and United’s image as a whole” said junior Joemmel Tendilla. Many speculated that this incident would financially hurt United in the future, but to some that doesn’t seem to be the case. “I think people might not have much of a choice but to fly with United because of smaller competition on certain routes,” said Tendilla.

United’s CEO Oscar Munoz received intense criticism on his initial reaction to Dao’s confrontation, many calling it ‘unsympathetic.’ A couple days later, he made another statement ultimately apologizing to Dao and promising that this type of incident will never happen again.

“That initial ‘apology’ to Dao was only issued because of how much money United lost over the past few days,” said freshman Rachein Childress. According to Time, United’s value went down four percent over the course of the week. The stock ended up at $69 on Thursday, reducing the company’s market cap by $770 million to $21.5 billion.

Fortune reported that Munoz could lose up to $500,000 of his bonuses tied to customer satisfaction surveys. The airline collects up to 8,000 surveys from United customers each day. Since the incident with Dao, customers have been tearing up their survey sheets and United credit cards. “The only way I could see United coming back is [if] they completely overhaul [all] of their overbooking practices,” said Childress.

“The use of the word ‘accommodation’ from the CEO of United is flat out laughable. At least this incident brought a bevy of memes along with it,” said junior Eli Fraley.

Twitter and Facebook flooded with memes depicting people being brutally beaten to be ‘re-accommodated’ out of a United Airlines flight. “I’m not entirely sure that this incident will affect them in the long run, but I will avoid United like the plague in the foreseeable future,” stated Fraley. “I had a flight scheduled during the summer that was under United prior to this incident. Now I’m definitely going to go with another airline instead.”