Tuesday, April 11, 2017

America's Airports: The Front Line of Fascism

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

"Know this, United Airlines:  I am sixty-nine-years-old, the same age as the doctor that your security thugs physically and ruthlessly drug off of that plane in Chicago Sunday night.  If I am ever seated and buckled in for one of your flights and your agents try to remove me - I, too will fight!  Your company's behavior was disgraceful!

My name is Pa Rock and I approve this message."
Every time I have occasion to take a commercial flight in this country, I return from the experience swearing that the next time I will take the more expensive, more time-consuming, but much less stressful train.  I have had a few (damned few) good experiences at airports and on commercial flights, but they are eclipsed by the traveling horrors that seem to be the mainstay of U.S. airports and commercial air flights.

Sunday night Dr. David Dao boarded a United Airlines flight in Chicago for a short hop to Louisville, Kentucky, where he reportedly had patients awaiting his care the following day.  After getting seated and buckled in, flight attendants announced that the flight was overbooked and asked for four individuals to give up their seats.  Even though compensation was offered, no one volunteered to go - probably because the next flight to Louisville wasn't until the following afternoon.

The airline was "overbooked" because United suddenly realized that it had to shuffle four employees to Louisville in order to keep a flight there from being cancelled.

The airline employees then initiated a process that resulted in four "volunteers" being selected by the airline based on several factors.  Three of the randomly chosen "volunteers" reluctantly agreed, but Dr. Dao did not.  The doctor expressed his view that he had been racially profiled due to being Chinese, and insisted that he had patients to serve in Louisville.

He became irate.

The airline employees called in security and the old physician was removed, dragged from the plane, a process that left him with a busted and bloody lip.

Score one for corporate America.

But the victory of United Airlines was short-lived and very, very Pyrrhic.

Twenty years ago a multi-national airline would have gotten away with that kind of outrageous behavior, but not today.  In this day and age when a corporate bully decides to humiliate a little guy, out come the cell phones.  In addition to yelling their strong disapproval at what was happening to their fellow passenger, many began video-taping the incident - and most of those videos were posted to the Internet before the plane was even in the air.

The whole world saw what happened - and now United Airlines is in full grovel mode.  The corporation's president issued a letter to United employees saying that even thought the incident was regrettable, it had been handled correctly.  His cavalier attitude fueled another big surge of resentment against the suddenly beleaguered airline.  Then one of the security guards involved in the incident was fired.  So much for being "handled correctly."

And those pesky videos were viewed hundreds of millions of times.  A news story on NPR this morning talked about outrage in China regarding the incident.  One Chinese viewer of the video asked if it was an example of "human rights" in America.

Sadly, it is.  Fascism was already well established in the land of the free and the home of the brave - even before the arrival of Donald Trump.  It took root in our airports - where paying passengers are routinely lined up, processed, de-shoed, de-belted, searched, relieved of property, sometimes patted down and even undressed, and made to suffer rude treatment -  and has spread from there.

Don't "Fly United."  In fact, don't fly at all!


Mineko said...

It hasn't occurred to me until I read this article that a racial matter could have been involved in my and my husband's own experience of having been picked as the only two persons to have had to get off the airplane flying from Albuquerque to San Francisco, after we had finished attending a summer institute at UNM and were on our way back to Japan. We were suddenly told to give up seats to a white couple who arrived later than us and as the staff just found that the plane was overbooked and they knew that we had extra time to spend in San Francisco before catching the international flight back home. When we agreed to quietly get off the plane, an offer of money was proposed for the extra six hours we had to kill at the airport, and we accepted the offer, but we never understood beyound their explanation of knowing our flight schedule why they came straight to us to give our seats to someone else among all the other fliers. We gave up the seats not reluctantly then, but now I seem to be able grasp of a possibility of a racial matter could have been involved as a factor in deciding on who to bring down from the plane, but I had better stay gullible as we were in those days (1995) and let bygones be bygones for peace of mind. The carrier then was the United.

Xobekim said...

Twenty years ago this wouldn't have happened because we still had competition among airlines. Now we have fewer carriers, many rural areas are no longer served, and we see airlines opting to use force instead of using the offer of money. During the course of the day I understand that United lost a billion dollars in the overall value of their stock. The Passenger's Bill of Rights says these passengers should be offered $1,000. The offer here was $800.00. Another problem is that the passenger had paid and boarded the plane. United management at the airport was being stingy. It will cost those managers dearly. United could have chartered a jet for their employees and avoided this public relations disaster. Clearly United has not only committed a breach of contract but is responsible for the intentional tort of assault on the good doctor.