A common term in the tertiary sector is that the customer is always right, and while very few of us actually take this idiom literally, it’s fair to say that we expect certain standards when it comes to customer service. As a customer, you expect to be served with a smile, dealt with patiently and politely, and most importantly, you don’t expect to be beaten up, especially not when you’ve just paid a fortune to board a packed plane.
That nightmare scenario, however, was exactly what happened to Dr. David Dao on Sunday with 9th of April, when he was violently removed from United Airlines flight 3411 due to the company’s overbooking. United had asked four passengers on the plane to leave voluntarily to make room for staff members that were required to transfer from Chicago to Louisville. When there were no takers, a manager selected four people, forcing them to give up their seats.
Dr. Dao refused to comply, and airport security dragged him by force from his seat. As a result of the ensuing scuffle, Dr Dao sustained injuries to his head and mouth, and was nearly knocked unconscious. He was hospitalised thanks to the altercation, and a video of the ruckus quickly went viral on social media, with thousands of viewers expressing shock and outrage at United’s overbooking policy.
United Airlines CEO Oscar Muñoz provoked further controversy in a leaked email to employees, in which he commended them for their actions on board the plane and dismissed Dao as “disruptive and belligerent.” Although most of us were on Dao’s side, there was a fair amount of skepticism surrounding the scuffle.
After all, we’d only seen the aftermath of the incident; we weren’t privy to the mood preceding the forced removal. Maybe Muñoz was right; maybe Dao brought it upon himself. A new video, however, has now emerged which seems to exonerate Dao from any guilt, and prove that he really was an innocent victim.
The video, which appeared on social media earlier today, appears to have been taken on a smartphone by the passenger sitting directly behind Dao. Dao can be heard arguing, stating “I am a physician, I have to work tomorrow.” One security officer can be heard telling Dao that they’d be forced to “drag” him off the plane. Dao simply replies “alright then, that’s what you’ll have to do.”
The argument is certainly confrontational, and Dao was warned that he’d be dragged off, but there’s nothing to suggest that the security guards were actually going to follow through on their threat, and absolutely no evidence that Dao was being belligerent or disruptive. In fact, considering how intimidating the authorities are, I’d say he kept his cool remarkably well.
This video will prove particularly unwelcome to Oscar Muñoz, who was forced under increasing media pressure to make a formal apology about the manner in which United Airlines had handled the situation. “The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment,” he stated.
Muñoz added: “I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way. I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.” Only time will tell whether United Airlines will recover from this debacle, but in the meantime internet trolls are having a field day making light of the situation.