Airlines make a great deal of money in flying passengers across long domestic or international distances. They also lose a lot of money whenever a passenger plane takes off on schedule with empty seats that passengers haven’t bought tickets for. To offset this problem a lot of airlines have delved into the practice of overbooking, selling more tickets for seating on a flight that it actually has. In that way, even if certain passengers miss the flight there will be enough spillover to occupy the untaken seats. But what happens if an airline needs to reserve seats for their own company staff on the flight, but the seats have been completely filled by passengers. What means these air carriers legally have can be rather shocking, and on especially rare occasions, downright violent and painful.

BBC reports the sordid details of a passenger aboard a United Airlines flight on Sunday April 9, that was caught on video being hauled out of his seat and dragged kicking and screaming out of the aircraft – getting a head wound in the process – all for refusing to give up his seat to make room for a UA staffer that needed to fly on to a connection point. The victim, an Asian American doctor of Chinese or Vietnamese descent named David Dao, insisted on taking the evening flight as scheduled due to having important appointments with his patients with his patients at home the following morning. He was accompanied by his wife, who had volunteered to be among the four passengers giving up seats for United’s standby crew.


UA standard procedure for enticing passengers of an overbooked flight to give way for important staff taking the plane include offering a cash amount plus a free overnight hotel room and a guaranteed seat on a later United flight. That Sunday the UA staff asking for volunteers to give up seats to the standby crew offered an initial $400, which was then upped to $800 after a lack of takers. Then the staff announced that they would select people to leave the aircraft (and compensated with $800 plus the above). Another couple took up the offer, along with David Dao’s wife. He however insisted on taking the flight, but rather than selecting someone else the staff decided to call security to forcibly eject Dao with his spouse, resulting in the physical drama caught on video by fellow passengers.

The incident caused a stir on social media wherein the other passengers expressed disgust at the UA staff and security’s heavy-handedness with David Dao. The airline has issued an apology for their actions on Twitter, along with news that one of the security people involved was placed on “leave” pending investigation of unnecessary violence by the Department of Aviation. Both Chinese and Vietnamese social media networks condemned what happened to Dao, threatening boycotts of United Airlines and criticism of American airline policies. Even White House press secretary Sean Spicer heard of the incident and termed it “disgusting”.

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