College Students on the United Airline Crisis

In one of the most controversial videos of 2017, United Airlines dragged passenger Dr. Dao out of a fully booked plane to make room for staff. The video was shared all over social media and initially resulted in a huge dip in stocks for United.

Here’s what students had to ask on Packback Questions…

This Temple University student sums up the situation:

“Airlines are known to overbooked its flights in order to compensate for the passengers who are a no show. When a recently overbooked flight had no room for the crew, United Airlines asked for passengers to volunteer to get on a different flight. When there were no offers to volunteer, United Airlines had to randomly choose which passengers to kick off the flight. The randomly chosen passenger refused to get off the plane, forcing united airlines to involve police. This caused serious injuries to the passenger, that included the loss of his two front teeth, a broken nose, and a concussion.”

He had to ask:

This is one of the fundamental questions that has to be answered before any of the questions can be asked on legality and the treatment of Dr. David Dao.

All of the students who answered seemed to agree with this statement:

“I think it is highly unethical to overbook when people schedule their flights for specific times and reasons and then are told they must get off.”

If we agree that the conclusion is that United Airlines was at least partly unethical when they removed Dr. Dao from his seat, then we can start asking a lot of big picture questions.

Here are the questions that students on Packback Questions came up with:

  • Do you think with what happened in the United Airlines airplane will affect their future sales? Or will they be able to bounce back and win their customers back?
  • Is it okay for United Airlines to deny travel to someone they deem “inappropriately dressed”?
  • Do you believe that race played a role in the recent decision made by staff of United Airlines?

Many people suggested a boycott of United on the shared video. Others predicted that this would impact sales — but the charts show that after plummeting initially, “UAL continued to consolidate at its current level, and didn’t really move that much,” according to the latest data.

The controversial event even brought up a story from the past where United kicked off two girls for wearing yoga pants. This piece of knowledge adds an extra layer to the story. This knowledge portrays United Airlines as having a history of forceful, distasteful treatment of its customers.

Some students from Illinois State University questioned whether Dr. Dao’s forceful removal had a racial undertone to it:

“With the recent story of a doctor who was violently forced from his seat on a United Airline’s plane, some believe that race played in role in this event. The doctor, who was Chinese, was selected by the plane’s staff to give up his seat in order to make room for other United crew members. What are your thoughts about the decision that was made? Is there any evidence that might show the choice was pure coincidence? Or was there some racially-fuelled ulterior motive behind such a move?”

A student from Kent State University had a more personal question:

While considering how this event would impact United and the economy, this student wanted to poke at this current event in a different way: How will this event affect you?

This question re-focuses this seemingly outward issue back to the individual — which is one of the most important aspects of learning — understanding how things affect your life on an individual level.

Will United Airlines recover from this PR nightmare?

Until then, students will keep asking away on Packback Questions.

Written by Evan Le

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