Fight or flight: When letting them drag you off a plane is the best decision

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A few weeks ago, I was “asked” by United Airlines to leave an airplane, but I refused. When flight 311 arrived in Denver, they could not find my power wheelchair. It was supposed to have been brought to the aircraft door shortly after landing. I waited and waited, but there was no wheelchair. The flight crew wanted me to leave the aircraft on one of their aisle chairs but I refused. I told them I will not budge from my seat until MY wheel chair is at THIS aircraft’s door. They wanted to begin boarding the next flight, the current crew wanted to leave, and staff wanted to clean the aircraft. But I knew if United lost or destroyed my wheelchair it could mean remaining at the top of the jet bridge for days on end until they found mine or bought me a new one. I kept track of the time I had to wait after the plane landed, and warned them at the one-hour mark I was going to call the local news and also dial 911 so I could file an Air Carrier Act violation against them. One of the crew members suggested they could “make” me leave the aircraft. I told them “You will have to drag me off this plane before I voluntarily leave without my power wheelchair at the door.” I further warned them “I can call the local news stations now…the public doesn’t like seeing people mistreated.”

Now, United Airlines actually followed through on what they just threatened to do to me. Thugs with badges dragged a Vietnamese physician off a plane after roughing him up. Fortunately, the incident was caught on camera and subsequently televised world-wide. Everyone is talking about how despicable United Airlines was.

“Pissed Off Redneck” passionately defended the Asian victim, stating on YouTube he saw a press conference from the passenger’s family where it was revealed the boarded customer “suffered a concussion, a broken nose, lost some teeth, and he might have to have reconstructive surgery.” “Pissed Off Redneck” went on to say “Some people would have handled it differently, not screamed and yelled like a bitch, but I’m telling you, those sons of bitches, I would have throat-punched them for even trying to drag me out.”

In some jurisdictions, it is legal to fight back when a thug with a badge illegally assaults and batters you. The concept, while good in theory, gets a little messy, especially after seeing the Chicago Police Department officially releasing a statement that was a blatant lie: “Aviation Officers arrived on the scene, attempted to carry the individual off the flight when he fell and hit his head on the armrest.” Whether it’s a thug with a badge, or an organization of lying thugs with badges, they will work hard to figure out dishonest ways to get around the victim’s response to illegal assault.

Ted Williams, attorney, said on MSNBC he believes the customer has a cause of action for a lawsuit against the law enforcement officers for “excessive force…. I think there was false imprisonment, there was a breach of contract, and there was clearly an intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

I graduated from law school, I earned my doctorate in law, and also did post-doctoral graduate work in law, then more graduate work in anthropology, so I know enough about unlawful, uncivilized behavior to recognize it when I see it. In my case, I refused to get off United flight 311 because I knew the carrier had the responsibility to get my power wheel chair to me. I was willing to let them drag me off the plane, but I wouldn’t start the screaming until I was in front of a bunch of people with cameras to video it.

Leonard French, who goes by “Your Favorite Copyright Attorney” on YouTube combed through United’s contract of carriage document and found no language giving United the right to remove a boarded passenger from one of their aircrafts for “overbooking.” Any airline with common sense would have simply offered incentives to get people to take a different flight, like upping the ante.

Isiah Friedlander replied to one of Leonard French’s vlogs on the subject, saying, “If I was in that plane I would beat the Hell out of those “security guards” just for fun and pleasure, don’t care if I would go to jail, it would be worth it, and I would feel so f**king proud of myself.”

Other people have remarked the police officers should be given the axe, and not in the figurative sense.
When my spouse, Marco, was in an overbooked situation flying to Milano, I gave him a quick primer over the phone how to negotiate his own incentive with Delta when other confirmed fliers wanted his seat. I can’t discuss the booty for legal reasons, but let’s just say the denied boarding “compensation” was more than the “legal” limit most people are talking about on television. It was enough to pay for almost all of our week for two people at Sandals Resort Emerald Bay. It was real money, it wasn’t food stamps or coupons of any kind.

There is a lot of talk that Dr. Dao should sue United. I don’t think a lawsuit is the best answer. If United gives him a million dollars, they will pass that bill on to customers and everyone else will pay for it, while CEO Oscar Muñoz gets massages and rides in a Mercedes-Benz to parties. United should be treated like a five-year-old child; they need a time out. Specifically, I’m saying the D.O.T. should revoke United’s privileges of flying from Chicago to Louisville for six months or a year, allowing other carriers with better management to serve the public between those markets. By “other carriers” I’m not necessarily referring to the big three, I’m advocating for open skies. The big three are too powerful, and they need real competition. Air Canada could easily fly this route if congress changed the laws to allow open skies. Scandinavian Airlines are far too civilized to beat up passengers. I would rather fly Lufthansa from Detroit to Hawaii if congress would allow it.

Refusing to obey thugs with badges after you have been legally boarded is best met by letting them drag you off the plane in front of cameras. The big three are developing mob-boss mentality when it comes to operating their flights, and they need to be punished with loss of privileges, not fines they can easily pass on to the public. Allowing safe carriers like Lufthansa, SAS, and Qantas to operate domestic flights would teach the big three that bad behavior has consequences.