Multiple media reports about the United Airlines passenger who was dragged bodily and bloody off of a flight have added a new twist to the story. The passenger is identified as Dr. David Dao, and he is said to have a “troubled past.”

Advertisements

It seems that in 2005, Dr. Dao was convicted of writing illegal prescriptions for drugs for which he allegedly traded for gay sex. Dao denied the gay sex angle but admitted to exchanging sexual favors from an associate for reducing a debt. He was sentenced to five years supervised probation and was required to surrender his license to practice medicine. In 2015 Dao’s license was restored and he was allowed to practice again under certain unnamed conditions..

Advertisements

The rumor on social media is that #United is the source of this revelation and that Dr. Dao is being smeared as a way to poison the jury pool in the inevitable lawsuit that is going to ensue as a result of his manhandling. Some have pointed out that Dao had paid his debt to society and was being allowed to be a doctor again. In any case, even if United had known in advance of Dao’s unfortunate past it would have in no way justified his forcible removal from the plane.

Indeed. United is still suffering from the consequences of what occurred. Its stock price tanked the day after the story hit the media. Late night comics have proven merciless in their mocking of the #Airline.

The most ominous development from the point of view of the airline are accusations in the Chinese media that Dr. Dao was violently removed because he is Asia. Dao is a native of Vietnam where he received his medical training. In any case, China is a huge market for air travel and would be in the position to punish United if it chooses to..

Advertisements

The overriding problem is that air travel in the post-9/11 age has become nightmarish for passengers with customer service all but nonexistent. When a stressed out passenger snaps, as did Dr. Dao, he suddenly becomes a security problem, and the airlines feel justified with using brute force to get rid of the difficulty.

However, the root cause of the incident was not Dr. Dao’s “belligerence” or even the Stormtrooper tactics employed by security to remove him from the plane. The root cause was the pernicious practice of overbooking. The theory behind it is that a certain percentage of people who buy tickets on an airliner are no-shows and overbooking is a way to keep the plane full.

But, all too often, more people show up for a flight than there are seats available. Then we get situations such as happened on the United flight.