Letter Re: The United Airlines Passenger Dragging Incident


I am a loyal reader, but your reference to the officers who removed this nut case off the plane as “goons” was uncalled for and unfortunate. With your military background, I would think that you would have been more inclined to view a “lawful order” as one that should be complied with and then questioned later.

This disreputable, defrocked, drugs-for-sex doctor obviously has mental problems, and he refused to comply with federal law and the officers who were merely doing their duty. Were I there in an official capacity, he would have had even more problems. – E.M.

HJL’s Comment: There are a number of things in play here, but the overarching question is not “Is it lawful?” but “Is it ethical?” The tired old excuse of “I was just following orders” has never been a valid excuse. Even if your job or your boss does not make any allowance for you to refuse to follow an unethical order, you still bear the responsibility of your actions. Let’s break this down on several levels:

  1. The doctor – There is no question that the doctor’s actions more resembled that of a five year old child than an adult. He may even have been, as you say, a “disreputable, defrocked, drugs-for-sex doctor”, but the fact remains that the treatment of him was cruel and not respectable. His background has no bearing on how he was treated at that moment. Those beating him into submission knew nothing more than the fact that he wouldn’t “volunteer” his seat. In addition, the article that is cited attempts to make the comparison of this man’s behavior to that of a terrorist. What they are really doing is manipulating the reader’s emotional response by dehumanizing this man and making it uncomfortable for anyone to disagrees with their view of his behavior. The statement “disreputable, defrocked, drugs-for-sex doctor” also does this. (It’s somewhat how the media can distort the story of a homeowner shooting an armed home invader while defending himself in his own home, yet the story headline read: “Tragic Killing of Local Football Hero” and readers demand charges be filed for the murder of their hometown football hero, disregarding the fact that he was the one threatening a family in their home.) This doctor demanding to keep what he (and all of the other passengers) had purchased from the airline does not constitute terrorism, as he was not threatening harm to anyone; yet the word “terrorism” stirs up emotions, and we see what appears to be violence. The violence just isn’t on the part of the doctor. This is tranference, and it is unjust to apply it to the doctor and then grossly exaggerate it into terrorism on his part.
  2. The police – Were these private rent-a-cops or were they sworn police officers? If they were sworn police officers, they should be fired and charged with criminal intent for beating a man on such flimsy grounds. I believe they violated their oaths, if they were sworn officers. If they were rent-a-cops (as I suspect), they should still be charged and the organization they work for should have its policies and procedures investigated with the proper consequences to all in the chain of authority. Remember, “I was just following orders” is not an excuse for this sort of jack-booted and thuggish behavior. How abusive does the behavior from anyone in authority (perceived authority or real authority) have to get before the people say “enough is enough!”. The police were not arresting or apprehending someone who was threatening the lives or safety of others. The only one who was threatened was the one who was beat senseless by these “officers”.
  3. The pilot – This pilot should never have escalated the situation to the level that he did. There are far better alternatives, and the captain has many options at his command. There are far better ways to deal with the situation than an immediate escalation like this. This shows an arrogance and carelessness for those who are trusting him with their lives. At a minimum, there should be an investigation to find out if he has made similar decisions in the past.
  4. The airline – They know better than this. They have, for years, dealt with situations like this without escalation into violence. This definitely shows that the airline truly doesn’t care about their passengers. You are no more than paying cattle to them. People should vote with their pocketbooks and refuse to fly United. Remember, you could be the next one beat into submission, or it could be your disabled wife, pregnant daughter, veteran son, or a grandchild who is occupying a seat the airline insists upon reclaiming at the last moment.

So how should the airline have dealt with this situation? The same way they have for years! I spent four years in college and flew home with round-trip tickets every spring break, summer vacation, Thanksgiving, and Christmas break, and I only bought two tickets in all of those years. I simply booked my flights on the busiest days of the year and made sure that I showed up in time to be one of the first to board the plane. When the overbooked plane invariably ran out of seats, the head flight attendant would get on the intercom and start bribing customers to give up their seats. They might start with $100 voucher, but I simply waited until they were offering a voucher for an additional flight (preferably round trip) and then I would volunteer my seat. I was always on the next flight, and I had my next plane ticket for the next break in hand. When the bribe got large enough, they never had a problem getting people to volunteer their seats. In this case, even if United had offered free tickets and $5,000 cash to give up the seat, they would have saved many times over what this will eventually cost them. Ultimately, it was United’s policies that failed here, and when the dust settles there should be consequences to those who created those policies. In the meantime, those who “just followed orders” should see consequences for the unethical behavior that they willingly perpetuated.


  1. What’s uncalled for and unfortunate is E.M.’s statement that
    ” Were I there in an official capacity, he would have had even more problems” (referring to the passenger removed from the flight). I surmise from the statement that E.M. is/was some sort of law enforcement, or at least fantasizes about being so in order to impose his will on others. As a 15 year LE veteran, academy trainer, firearms instructor, and field training officer, I was horrified at the actions of the ‘enforcers’ in question. Whether they were LE or private security, the mentality of these guys is the exact opposite of what we need in our LE ranks. The ‘protect and serve’ slogan is meant to pertain to the Citizenry, not the government or private business interest.

    1. “Were I there in an official capacity, he would have had even more problems. – E.M.”
      Wait, what? What the heck does this mean exactly? As a military police officer and company commander, I find this statement very troubling. The order most likely was to “remove the passenger from the aircraft”, not “use any force necessary to remove the passenger from the aircraft”.
      As police, we are often called upon to analyze the matter and determine if there is a crime being committed; in this case, my response would most likely have been that this was a CIVIL matter, not a criminal one. No crime was being committed, the passenger was not being belligerent, and the matter dealt with a wholly civil situation with no lives at stake.
      I carry a firearm, baton, taser, and cuffs. I find the use of force in this incident repugnant and unnecessary. So if he would have had “more problems” had EM been present, I would like to state that if I had been present in my official capacity, and EM would have been doing the dragging, I would have had no trouble recommending EM for a court martial.

    2. As it turns out, it may have been an illegal act on the part of United and the LEO. United has a right to overbook and deny certain passengers boarding. The problem is the flight was NOT overbooked and when Dr. Dao was checked in and assigned as seat that was his seat. When united wanted to make room for another flight crew, they broke the law when they gave preferential treatment to them. Even if what they did was legal then the response of the cops to someone who committed no crime was over the top. One thing for sure, in that close space, I wouldn’t be the only one going to the hospital. Bunch of Jack Booted Thugs.

  2. Fly the Friendly Skies?
    In the 80s I served as a Presidential Appointee to a small insignificant Commission under President Reagan and quite proudly so. I did a lot of traveling by Air during that time and witnessed many incidents involving the airlines and overbooked flights purchasing back seats from willing passengers and this was before the days of the Thugs Safety Administration and never encountered any one with issues and when it became questionable about obtaining additional seats, the airlines just upped the bid. I think in this case they could have gone up to $1300 but stopped at $800 and I recall even chose who would have to give up their seats which was a first I had ever witnessed. Yes, the Pilot is like a Captain at sea on a sea-going vessel, he is KING! and can in fact even put folks in the brig or have them confined to staterooms but that is after they are at sea and in this case, the aircraft hadn’t even finished boarding yet nor was it cleared to start the take off process so I question whether the Pilot had such authority. In the late 80s I attended a performance by “the Amazing Cresgan” at a dinner playhouse and in that presentation he as usual made some predictions not based on supernatural insights but on observing and analyzing of those observations and stated in the future air travel would not be as safe, nor as much fun and pleasure and in fact might even become dangerous and harassed. We just witnessed in fact an example of that prediction. I understand the seats were needed for a flight crew going to another location to assist in another comercial United flight of passengers. If that is true, they stood to make even more money if they accomplished the task of getting that crew there even if they were required to spend more money. Since I was traveling for the government in the 80s’ I never had to face the choice of taking money for my seat and in fact could or would not because of my own ethics. As for those who visited the abuse on the passenger as HJL said, regardless of their reasoning for doing it E.G. just following orders etc, it was wrong and only confirms that our corporate ethics have hit that slippery sloape of unethical behavior for gaining more revenue and not providing true customer service. I only hope this isn’t a trend in our country as I suspect it may be. I pray that we Americans will get our sense of national pride and ethics back and in the next four years gain back our dignity and pride as Americans and have no more of this kind of behavior towards peoples’ individual rights. Jack ROP

  3. I’ve regularly traveled for business purposes going back well over thirty years, on a variety of airlines, some of which don’t exist any longer. And, I had more problems with United’s customer service and on-time record than all the others put together. Some of the issues were epic, and in fairness to UA, I don’t count weather-related problems as being an airline’s fault.

    Based on my experiences with UA, I won’t use them for business purposes unless there is absolutely no alternative, and positively refuse to use them for personal trips. “Fly United” at your own risk. You have been warned.

  4. Im over it with you LE goons who think you have more of a compas for what is right, i dont care if your a prepper,,, your a goon if you act like one.

  5. Concerning the Passenger being dragged off the United flight.
    People seem to be ignoring one important element of the airline industry. it is not a Government program, and You are not required to participate. Further, if you have built your life around depending on the airlines, at what point does one take a step back and see the effects of their actions on your life ?
    It is no different then rush hr traffic in large cities, and complaining about it while participating in the craziness every single day. You are not required, and there is no law forcing you to participate.
    The fact is, it is not going to get any better just because people complain about the way they are treated, and participating in the madness only encourages their contempt for the people.
    Folks, ( at least on this site ) have no problem entertaining the idea of completely changing their lifestyle to reflect the SHTF scenario… Yet they cant accept the idea of simply changing the way they travel. or changing their life so that travel by airline is a nonissue… I know it sounds crazy to some. But not any crazier than selling your house in the city, and moving to a rural area and growing your own food,earning a living,lighting and heating your own home, and creating your own source of entertainment. It’s something to think about.

  6. In response to Hughe’s #3 above:

    As a pilot for many years, I can tell you the pilot didn’t initiate the removal of the passengers. Whenever the airplane door is open, the gate agent is in charge. Once the door is closed and the aircraft is pushed away from the gate, then the aircrew is in charge. So when “must ride” employees arrive to grab a seat for last minute scheduling issues, it definitely wasn’t the pilots fault. If anything, it was crew scheduling for lack of planning.

    I think anyone can agree that the Dr. never believed that United would drag him kicking and screaming off the plane. However, I think bad choices were made on both sides of the issue.

  7. Everyone is also missing that the Doc was traveling with his wife, he was picked, not her. So the United staff are so stupid they think it is OK to break up famlies? Wow, I can not belive the airline *** kissers here, they will be the ones turning honest people over to the beast!

  8. I’m a retired American Airlines captain. I don’t know what interaction the captain had (if any) in United’s event, but if he acted, it likely would have been without authority. The FAA says that a captain is responsible for operations and safety during flight time. Flight time is defined as commencing “when an aircraft moves under its own power for the purpose of flight and ends when the aircraft comes to rest after landing.” At American, the gate agent, not the crew, is responsible for allowing a person to board. The captain’s authority did not begin until doors are closed and brakes are released. (Of course, a captain can and will make safety based decisions pre-movement if necessary–needing more fuel, repair of critical systems, even deplaning a drunk, abusive passenger, etc. Although it might have been pre-movement, the dispatcher knew I wasn’t going anywhere until the safety issue was corrected.) Nothing I’ve read mentions that the United Express captain got involved in this debacle. If he did, he was “flying solo” without authority.

  9. E.M. is continuing the slander against the doctor. The doctor on the United flight is NOT the drugs-for-sex doctor. They have similar names but they are not the same people. An apology would be appropriate.

  10. @L.O. – The airline industry is so heavily regulated it may as well be a government program. They are capped at offering $1350 (why didn’t they?). Also, I can think of no circumstances where private parties are allowed to use violent means when they have not been subject to violence themselves. The flight was 100% full, then 4 employees showed up who apparently had priorities over customers.

    @HJL – The Airline Pilots Union came out completely against such treatment of Dr. Dao.

    General – There should be a statute of limitations on earlier history, nor do we really know. At Malheur, many pled guilty, and even if not convicted, are we going to think the Bundys are horrid, evil felons forever? If the force was just a little bit displaced, Dr. Dao would be as dead as LeVoy Finnicum.

    The only irony is there was a pro-border patrol post a few days ago saying they were happy to have their 4th amendment rights violated – with dogs that always indicate what their handlers want, and they would gladly open everything. I guess they don’t have any guns. What if the border patrol did that in the 100 miles just south of the CANADIAN border instead of the Mexican border – the constitution free zone.

    As to “always obey the cops”, tell me that no one supports drug-war rape: (cases are of men, but what if it was your mother, sister, or daughter

    The police in many places have changed from helpful constables keeping peace and order to jack booted thugs who are acting as an occupying army where every citizen is the enemy and the constitution isn’t thought of. Part of this is the paranoia training instead of constitutional rights training (If you hesitate or don’t shoot first, you will be dead, you don’t have time to tell if it is his wallet, it is a knife or gun!). They see hours of dashcam footage where the officer ended up seriously injured or dead. They get the message. The constitution will get you killed.

  11. I do so hope the mistreated individual will NOT settle for an “undisclosed sum,” but will hold this miserable airlines’s feet to the fire until they are forced out of business. United has been a dreadful excuse for an airline for way too long.

  12. Might I suggest that people start considering an RV? You don’t need a huge behemoth! A “class B” has plenty of room, with a functional kitchen, bathroom, and bed. They get great mileage and are easy & fun to drive. I enjoy the perks of my own dirt and my own schedule. Unless I need to get to an earth shaking event, you will never find me willingly submitting to body cavity searches, interrogations, special questioning, or any other behavior that passes for approved society standards. I also have less expectation of getting my teeth kicked out or being killed for being uncooperative.

  13. HL’s response and explanation of events is excellent.
    I will only fly in an “emergency” situation. I have had it
    with radiation, pat downs, extra wandings, and shoes off.

    I may be wrong, but I believe the whole screening process
    pre-flight is theater, “conditioning,” and a jobs program.
    Humiliation and child abuse are being perpetrated, and I
    will not participate.

    Thanks for this forum.

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