Dr. Dao’s Loss Was Our Gain

The saga of former United Airlines customer Dr. David Dao is getting more and more expensive for the airline. According to the Daily Mail, he didn’t get home with all his teeth or his baggage. It seems that although United’s O’Hare Airport staff had time to order Dao beaten, which caused the loss of two teeth, they didn’t have time to take his luggage off the plane before it departed.

Maybe the baggage compartment isn’t subject to being oversold.

After the incident United CEO Oscar Munoz evidently decided to emulate Jim Carrey in the movie “Liar, Liar” and kick his own a**. He issued a number of news releases and endured a series of interviews that only served to illustrate the truth of the old public relations adage: When you’re in a hole, stop digging.

First Munoz contended the 69–year–old doctor was “belligerent.” Then Bloomberg reports that Munoz said no United employees would lose their job or be punished in the wake of the incident. “It was a system failure across various areas, so there was never a consideration for firing an employee or anyone around it,” he explained.

Although accurate, the statement doesn’t begin to address all of United’s legal problems. Dao was bumped because of what was termed at the time an “oversold” condition. The contract United customers enter into and never read when they buy a ticket addresses “denied boarding” on an oversold flight. United’s enormous liability problem is Dao wasn’t denied boarding; he was boarded and seated on the aircraft, so the contract provisions no longer applied.

After the initial death–by–streaming the video caused, United clarified the situation. Their particularly aggressive brand of musical chairs wasn’t caused by overbooking. United needed to move a crew of four to Louisville for a flight the next day and Dao was in the fourth seat.

Now there are many examples of passengers being beaten during their commute. An entire train was hijacked in Oakland just this week. But Dao may be the first person in history who was beaten so someone else could commute.

What many people don’t know about the airline business is many, if not most, of their cabin crews don’t live near the airports where they’re assigned. Crews flying out of Louisville may choose to live in a happenin’ city like Chicago, since the airborne commute is free. Dao’s teeth–rattling adventure could well have been the result of a lifestyle choice by the cabin crew in question. A tidbit that will cost even more if the case goes to trial.

The airline’s “system failure” was a pennywise–and–pound–foolish approach to overbooking. United supports the free market when it helps to make money, but dislikes the market when it costs money.

United began the market–based bidding process by offering $400 to passengers, but there were no takers. Then United offered $800. When that didn’t work the bidding was abruptly closed.

The supervisor hadn’t even gone up to the $1,350 maximum compensation required by law when he awarded Dao a free trip to Fist City.

And this is where the doctor’s loss becomes our gain.

Delta Airlines saw the post–knockout $1.4 billion drop in United’s stock price and decided to expand its auction for oversold seats. The Daily Caller reports Delta gate agents can now offer up to $2,000 in compensation and ground supervisors can go up to $9,950.

Now United is following Delta’s lead.

I’m a very satisfied Premier 1K flyer with United and today I received an email acknowledgement from Munoz that admits, “Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.”

To show Dr. Dao didn’t bleed in vain, in the future United “will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000.” Now the only violence in the cabin during an overbooked event will be when passengers didn’t think a volunteer held out for enough money and reduced compensation for the rest of the volunteers.

Even better, United now has a “no–questions–asked” $1,500 reimbursement policy for misplaced baggage. So if Dr. Dao’s new dentures are lost during a future flight he won’t have to supply the baggage supervisor with a cast of his teeth.

This is the most customer–oriented policy change that I can remember in the airline industry and we owe it all to Dr. Dao. I would almost suggest we start a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the good doctor’s physical therapy and PTSD sessions to demonstrate our gratitude.

But something tells me that after either the settlement talks or the trial concludes, Dr. Dao will have so much money he won’t be participating in any seat auctions regardless of how high the bidding goes.

A Grope A Day Keeps Osama Away

Sen. Rand Paul (R–KY) made the news Monday when he declined to get up close and personal with TSA guards at the Nashville, TN airport. Paul entered the security line; dumped his belt, glasses, wallet, shoes, cell phone and pocket change in the attractive plastic bin and walked passively through the full–body scanner.

Unfortunately while his chromosomes were enjoying this brief radiation bath, the scanner set off a “random” alarm that sent the crack TSA Grope Group into action. In Paul’s words, “TSA also wanted my dignity” and he refused their demand that he submit to a full–body latex massage.

Channeling years of innocent flyers before him, Paul showed them his leg (evidently something about this limb aroused, no pun intended, the suspicions of the Guardians of the Airways), said he was a frequent flyer and asked to be rescanned.

TSA replied no grope, no hope.

When Paul again refused, he was detained in a holding area. Laboring under the mistaken belief he still had a few rights, the senator called the office to say he would not make his scheduled speech.

This angered the TSA drone that informed Paul he should not have used his phone to call for help. There the situation remained until the TSA director appeared and allowed him to re–enter the scanner and take a later flight.

The difference here is that for the rest of us the director would not have appeared to save the day and most likely we would have been arrested for refusing the scan and trying to leave, as Mr. Don’t Touch My Junk learned.

Now Paul knows what the rest of the flying public has learned: TSA is a law unto itself and is designed to intimidate the public and insulate its employees from outside accountability.

When I buy BVDs and open the package I learn that “Inspector #38” has approved my drawers. But when I get home after a trip and discover some TSA minion has been rummaging through the unmentionables, all I have is a standardized notification with no indication of who actually did the inspection.

Consequently I’ve discovered surprises while unpacking. A TSA guard, who was too stupid to squeeze the plastic catch, cut through a luggage strap and deposited the unusable remains inside my bag. I’ve had thirsty TSA personnel open a sealed liquor bottle and sample the contents. In each instance I called the number on the form (1–800–Don’tHoldYourBreath), left a message and had the complaint ignored.

Compare this with a traffic stop. A motorist has the name and badge number of the officer and local number to call if there’s a complaint. If worse comes to worst, often you have the video from the dashboard camera to review.

TSA has none of this.

TSA employees have assumed the trappings of law enforcement without any of the training or responsibility. Consider the evolution of TSA uniforms. From the original white shirt with no badge we now have a blue uniform with a shiny gold badge, indistinguishable from that of a real police officer. Yet TSA guards lack the training of even a rural policeman.

For his part, Paul did not demand special treatment; although he got it shortly after the TSA figured out it was a member of the US Senate they were detaining. I’m sure Paul’s photo will be posted in the Nashville TSA break room with a ‘Do Not Grope’ order attached and he will have no future problems there.

The simple, obvious and wrong solution would be to exempt federal elected officials from TSA screening. If I had my way they would have to be screened twice just to show them what the rest of us put up with on a daily basis.

One of the many problems with the porcine, pervasive government we enjoy today is that elected officials who pass the laws and the bureaucrats that implement the laws don’t have to suffer the effects of the laws.

If more elected officials were forced to undergo the same red tape and petty harassments the people who pay their salaries do, there would be one of two outcomes. Less government interference with individual liberty or — what I’m afraid would happen — more exemptions for our betters, since everyone knows they aren’t a terrorist, bank robber, embezzler or fill–in–the–blank. Either way, voters would know and be able to adjust voting behavior accordingly.

You may know you’re not a terrorist either, but try telling that to the TSA when you want to take 5 ounces of shampoo on your next flight.