United Airlines and David Dao – How to get kicked off a flight and make a million dollars


This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail

LAST week, my flight was delayed because of air traffic, which I’ve never understood. One of the reasons I fly is to avoid traffic and there seems to be more space in the sky than on the ground.

Rushing to the departure gate for my connection, I arrived 10 minutes before departure and saw the plane was still connected to the airbridge.

Blocking my path were two flight attendants, a female buried under several inches of make-up, and a collection of gel and teeth which I think was male. They smugly informed me the flight was closed.

Thanks to fears of being arrested by airport security and being brought up by two overly polite parents, I exploded with rage — by hate-typing a series of scathing Facebook posts.

The plane didn’t leave until 40 minutes later.

Really, I should’ve gone nuts, like that United Airlines passenger who refused to leave an overbooked flight and ended up hospitalised with injuries that, if he wasn’t planning to sue, may not have even necessitated a trip to the medicine cabinet.

Four hours later I was on another flight, which got stuck on the tarmac for 90 minutes, again because of traffic.

Then, because the seatbelt sign remained on and the entertainment system was off, conversation sprang up among some passengers, and it quickly turned to that United Airlines passenger.

A social worker wondered why, when the man became distressed, nobody else volunteered to leave the flight.

Several people said they also would have refused to leave, until the police arrived.

A lawyer said she’d looked into it and the airline was completely within their rights to kick the guy off.

An engineer reminded us all that flying involved travelling at ridiculous speeds, among gale force winds and storms in what was basically an aluminium tube, and it was a miracle far more planes didn’t go splat.

Everyone who didn’t have any engineers as friends felt good about that life choice.

An accountant wondered why the airline simply didn’t offer increasing amounts of compensation until someone agreed to give up their seat. According to the lawyer, American airlines only offered a maximum of around $1000.

Several people then questioned why in Australia there’s barely any compensation at all and everyone nodded, apart from the flight attendants who were all busy texting, although the seatbelt sign was still clearly ON.

The lawyer then explained why breaking the rules was the smartest thing that United Airlines passengers could have done. She said that, every year around the world, tens of thousands of people are kicked off or barred from boarding overbooked flights and, as upset as they get, they all eventually follow the rules, so the rules never change.

Now after this one person acted out, she told us, the airlines are all being forced to change, and already in the USA, some airlines have raised the maximum compensation to $10,000.

Also, the accountant chimed in, that one passenger is going to end up settling for millions.

I looked around and noticed several people with narrowed eyes staring off into space, all probably thinking the exact same thing — “If I’m ever asked to leave a flight, I really hope someone beats the crap out of me.”

This article first appeared in the Brisbane Courier Mail

Xavier Toby is a writer and comedian.

His second comedy memoir ‘Going Out of My Mined’ is available now.

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