United Airlines: Justified removal or horrific assault

Ashley McCann, Opinions Editor

United Airlines has recently caused several controversies such as kicking two young women off of a flight for wearing leggings and having a passenger forcibly removed because he would not leave his seat to accommodate transporting a flight crew to Louisville. While both incidents rustled up consider debate, the second event, involving passenger David Dao, has produced considerable confusion and controversy as to what airline companies are allowed to do aboard their aircrafts.

In response to the recent event, Fox News lead analyst Andrew Napolitano said that Dao, the United Airlines passenger who was forcibly removed from the aircraft, had every right to remain seated because he paid for his ticket, passed the TSA checkpoints and was already seated when he was asked to disembark the plane.

While this argument may seem logical, it does not hold up well when examining the legality of Dao’s removal. According to Timothy Ravich, an aviation law professor at the University of Central Florida, “passenger rights are still limited by laws, regulations and policies. Airlines have the authority to decide whether passengers are breaking the rules, and can remove people at a company’s discretion, even against a passenger’s will.”

Rule 21 of United’s contract of carriage states, “United Airlines shall have the right to refuse to transport or shall have the right to remove from the aircraft at any point, any passenger.”

In response to Rule 21, Ravich said, “passengers who fail to comply with or interfere with duties of the members of the flight crew, federal regulations or security directives may be removed.”

While the treatment of Dao is unacceptable, his removal – depending on what further information may surface over time – seems to be justified per United’s contract of carriage. This policy, one that also allows the removal of “any passenger [at any point]” to include “women who are nine months pregnant… or even [people who] are ‘barefoot or not properly clothed,’” Politifact, is unfair and in Dao’s case, not applied appropriately.

In an interview with Joshua Gillin of Politifact, Stephen Dedmon, an aviation law professor at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University said Dao’s case could not be “resolved without knowing all the specifics or legal interpretations.”

After suffering a concussion, broken nose and the loss of his two front teeth, the legalities of the situation should be explored by both Dao’s lawyers and the United Airlines Corporation in efforts to compensate Dao for his injuries and time, as assaulting someone who was not violent was inappropriate and dangerous.

Ashley McCann
Ashley McCann is a junior english and secondary education major. This is her second year on The Flyer, but first as opinions editor.

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