Boycotting United Airlines will send strong message

May 3, 2017 — by Ava Hooman

My eyes widened as I saw the video on TV that shocked the nation when it was released on April 9.

The video features a man with a bloody face, Dr. David Dao, being dragged out of an airplane unconscious. Dao, being one of the few Asians on the plane, refused to leave the overbooked flight after the management asked four passengers to leave, because he is a doctor and needed to treat patients the next day. Airline security proceeded to aggressively shove Dao around, causing him to suffer a broken nose and two lost teeth.

The flight staff and security exhibited extreme aggression toward Dao, and with the history of U.S. businesses and institutions discriminating against minorities, a possibility of racial motivation shouldn’t be taken lightly. In turn, the rest of us should refuse to fly on United until it has its policies straightened out and doesn’t discriminate against paying customers from minority groups.

Dao is Vietnamese and Chinese, and when news of the incident reached the Asian American community, it angered many, especially when people started speculating that the incident was racially motivated. Soon after, Vietnamese Americans assembled at the Chicago Airport, where Dao’s assault took place, to protest his harsh treatment. They held posters and demanded for the boycott of United Airlines; some even wanted the CEO Oscar Munoz to resign.

After the incident, Dao filed a lawsuit against United Airlines. Dao’s attorney, Thomas Demetrio, said that Dao is physically and mentally hurt and that a United Airlines apology would not suffice. Furthermore, the apology that United Airlines did end up providing was quite frankly deplorable. (United and Dao have recently reached a financial settlement.)

Not only did Munoz take several days to issue an apology to Dao in the first place, but the apology simply stated that the incident was a “harsh learning experience.” The apology has been called “overly callous” as it solely addressed United Airlines’ mistake in overbooking instead of addressing the harsh treatment of its passenger.

The actions of United Airlines and the initial apology that Munoz sent out showed that the company had little respect for Dao and his family, a sentiment further solidified by the fact that Munoz did not even mention Dao’s name in his apology letter. The airline was clearly more concerned about its image than the health of a battered and abused customer.

Although overbooking is often unavoidable, United should handle these situations more carefully and with more respect. The airline should first carefully account for all its staff and the seats needed for them, but if more seats are still needed, the airline should make exceptions for passengers that have legitimate reasons to stay on the flight such as Dao did.

Above all, United Airlines and all other businesses should focus on encouraging respect and care to their customers. The aggression from the airline based on Dao’s race is simply unacceptable.

It is our duty to protest against these companies and hit them where it hurts: their bottom line. By boycotting companies such as United, we can make a statement about what Americans value most.

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