If you’re a person with internet access in 2017, you’ve probably spent the past 24 hours online parsing the details of the United Airlines incident. A passenger reportedly named David Dao—a doctor from Elizabethtown, Kentucky—appeared to be knocked unconscious and dragged off a flight when United Airlines decided they needed to open up some seating room for their own staff. That’s all according to multiple videos and passenger testimonies of what went down. And now, there’s some more video, and it doesn’t exactly help United’s case.
You can watch it here, but we warned, there is some profanity and it’s just pretty disturbing in general. The passenger appears to be dazed and mumbling “just kill me” and “I have to go home” repeatedly while blood runs out of his mouth.
United doesn’t look any better, with an absolute monster of a self-inflicted PR disaster on their incapable hands. They spent most of Monday doing their darndest to make everything worse, from defending manhandling a customer (“We followed the right procedures”) to blaming the passenger himself (claiming he was “disruptive”) to coining a laughably bad neologism to describe their treatment of him (“re-accommodated”).
Does it get worse? Oh yes. The Courier-Journal—Louisville, Kentucky’s premiere news outlet—did a little digging and found that Dr. Dao has run afoul of the law, saying he has a “troubled past.” It’s hard to see exactly how relevant the doctor’s past is to his being knocked into a daze and dragged off a flight but, well, it’s the information age. As Twitter was quick to point out, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw “troubled past” around too lightly.
The specter raised by the incident is one of airline policies around overbooking flights, and whether or not they should have the right to kick you off a plane seat for which you paid. Legally, they do. But there’s a question between something being legal and something being right, and when the space between those two things involves pile driving an elderly man who says he has patients to get to, it’s hard not to wonder if maybe United just should have asked someone else to stay behind.