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Man pulled off of overbooked flight UA3411 (ORD-SDF) 9 Apr 2017 {Settlement reached}

Man pulled off of overbooked flight UA3411 (ORD-SDF) 9 Apr 2017 {Settlement reached}

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Old Apr 13, 18, 1:33 pm   -   Wikipost
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Statement from United Airlines Regarding Resolution with Dr. David Dao - released 27 April 2017
CHICAGO, April 27, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard flight 3411. We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do.
DOT findings related to the UA3411 9 April 2017 IDB incident 12 May 2017

What facts do we know?
  • UA3411, operated by Republic Airways, ORD-SDF on Sunday, April 9, 2017. UA3411 was the second to last flight to SDF for United. AA3509 and UA4771 were the two remaining departures for the day. Also, AA and DL had connecting options providing for same-day arrival in SDF.
  • After the flight was fully boarded, United determined four seats were needed to accommodate crew to SDF for a flight on Monday.
  • United solicited volunteers for VDB. (BUT stopped at $800 in UA$s, not cash). Chose not to go to the levels such as 1350 that airlines have been known to go even in case of weather impacted disruption)
  • After receiving no volunteers for $800 vouchers, a passenger volunteered for $1,600 and was "laughed at" and refused, United determined four passengers to be removed from the flight.
  • One passenger refused and Chicago Aviation Security Officers were called to forcibly remove the passenger.
  • The passenger hit the armrest in the aisle and received a concussion, a broken nose, a bloodied lip, and the loss of two teeth.
  • After being removed from the plane, the passenger re-boarded saying "I need to go home" repeatedly, before being removed again.
  • United spokesman Jonathan Guerin said the flight was sold out — but not oversold. Instead, United and regional affiliate Republic Airlines – the unit that operated Flight 3411 – decided they had to remove four passengers from the flight to accommodate crewmembers who were needed in Louisville the next day for a “downline connection.”

United Express Flight 3411 Review and Action Report - released 27 April 2017

Videos

Internal Communication by Oscar Munoz
Oscar Munoz sent an internal communication to UA employees (sources: View From The Wing, Chicago Tribune):
Dear Team,

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville. While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I've included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.

As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.

Oscar

Summary of Flight 3411
  • On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United's gate agents were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight.
  • We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation) and when we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.
  • He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.
  • Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight. He repeatedly declined to leave.
  • Chicago Aviation Security Officers were unable to gain his cooperation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist - running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.
Email sent to all employees at 2:08PM on Tuesday, April 11.
Dear Team,

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.

I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.

I promise you we will do better.

Sincerely,

Oscar
Statement to customers - 27 April 2017
Each flight you take with us represents an important promise we make to you, our customer. It's not simply that we make sure you reach your destination safely and on time, but also that you will be treated with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect.

Earlier this month, we broke that trust when a passenger was forcibly removed from one of our planes. We can never say we are sorry enough for what occurred, but we also know meaningful actions will speak louder than words.

For the past several weeks, we have been urgently working to answer two questions: How did this happen, and how can we do our best to ensure this never happens again?

It happened because our corporate policies were placed ahead of our shared values. Our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right.

Fixing that problem starts now with changing how we fly, serve and respect our customers. This is a turning point for all of us here at United – and as CEO, it's my responsibility to make sure that we learn from this experience and redouble our efforts to put our customers at the center of everything we do.

That’s why we announced that we will no longer ask law enforcement to remove customers from a flight and customers will not be required to give up their seat once on board – except in matters of safety or security.

We also know that despite our best efforts, when things don’t go the way they should, we need to be there for you to make things right. There are several new ways we’re going to do just that.

We will increase incentives for voluntary rebooking up to $10,000 and will be eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags with a new "no-questions-asked" $1,500 reimbursement policy. We will also be rolling out a new app for our employees that will enable them to provide on-the-spot goodwill gestures in the form of miles, travel credit and other amenities when your experience with us misses the mark. You can learn more about these commitments and many other changes at hub.united.com.

While these actions are important, I have found myself reflecting more broadly on the role we play and the responsibilities we have to you and the communities we serve.

I believe we must go further in redefining what United's corporate citizenship looks like in our society. If our chief good as a company is only getting you to and from your destination, that would show a lack of moral imagination on our part. You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate. I hope you will see that pledge express itself in our actions going forward, of which these initial, though important, changes are merely a first step.

Our goal should be nothing less than to make you truly proud to say, "I fly United."

Ultimately, the measure of our success is your satisfaction and the past several weeks have moved us to go further than ever before in elevating your experience with us. I know our 87,000 employees have taken this message to heart, and they are as energized as ever to fulfill our promise to serve you better with each flight and earn the trust you’ve given us.

We are working harder than ever for the privilege to serve you and I know we will be stronger, better and the customer-focused airline you expect and deserve.

With Great Gratitude,

Oscar Munoz
CEO
United Airlines
Aftermath
Poll: Your Opinion of United Airlines
Poll link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KP68GYG
Results link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/results...Q6B2B/instant/
Reference Material

UA's Customer Commitment says:
Occasionally we may not be able to provide you with a seat on a specific flight, even if you hold a ticket, have checked in, are present to board on time, and comply with other requirements. This is called an oversale, and occurs when restrictions apply to operating a particular flight safely (such as aircraft weight limits); when we have to substitute a smaller aircraft in place of a larger aircraft that was originally scheduled; or if more customers have checked in and are prepared to board than we have available seats.

If your flight is in an oversale situation, you will not be denied a seat until we first ask for volunteers willing to give up their confirmed seats. If there are not enough volunteers, we will deny boarding to passengers in accordance with our written policy on boarding priority. If you are involuntarily denied boarding and have complied with our check-in and other applicable rules, we will give you a written statement that describes your rights and explains how we determine boarding priority for an oversold flight. You will generally be entitled to compensation and transportation on an alternate flight.

We make complete rules for the payment of compensation, as well as our policy about boarding priorities, available at airports we serve. We will follow these rules to ensure you are treated fairly. Please be aware that you may be denied boarding without compensation if you do not check in on time or do not meet certain other requirements, or if we offer you alternative transportation that is planned to arrive at your destination or first stopover no later than one hour after the planned arrival time of your original flight.
CoC is here: https://www.united.com/web/en-US/con...-carriage.aspx
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Old Apr 19, 17, 11:12 am
  #6256  
 
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Originally Posted by nitzer View Post
This thread has been an interesting read.
And so was your post. Welcome to FT.
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Old Apr 19, 17, 11:14 am
  #6257  
 
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
....Do we know this to be true, or is this just well-grounded speculation? .....
Speculation. But lets be real here. To think that this company after its actions, especially considering the memos and how its handled to PR have your best interests in mind going forward as an employee in this situation? They could make you the scapegoat causing irreperable harm. The United attorneys could make you say whats is in their best interest then the CEO could get on the stand after and crucify you saying its all your fault. At that point you have 0 leverage. Yes, every single person has hired private council I have no doubt. With a "severance package deal" in writing both are covered. The people on the plane also have council for other reasons ($$$$)

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Apr 19, 17 at 1:22 pm Reason: repaired quote; please provide quote attribution
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Old Apr 19, 17, 11:19 am
  #6258  
 
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Originally Posted by LHR/MEL/Europe FF View Post
Yeah... he might 'mention' Qualified Immunity at 10.25... but it gets lost for several more minutes as he gets distracted.

From what I could gather he seems to be saying that UA has the absolute right to remove anyone they wanted as they are a private company, with private property, and it amounts to trespass if the the passenger doesn't go.

I thought there was other legal opinion to the contrary?
Keep in mind this was very shortly after the first video(s) came out. The poster asked about Qualified Immunity, and I presented a lawyer's perspctive on it. This was making the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that the Dr was being removed on the basis of trespass laws, but irrespective what was being addressed was Qualified Immunity and whether or not it would be defendable.

It has not yet been disclosed under what basis the Dr was being ejected. He was already boarded, so the VDB and IDB process in DOT terms does not apply as it must be done either at check-in or the boarding area.

I could have offered a later starting point but I feel it would have lost context. I guess I don't get bored easily!

Leonard French also did two follow up videos shortly afterwards, one after it was revealed by theor employer that the officers had not followed procedure, and the second going through the CoC. One is a couple of minutes, the other is about six.


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Old Apr 19, 17, 11:57 am
  #6259  
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Surely it should be possible to reassure major corporate contract customers that their people won't be subject to IDBs. AFAIK it could even be written into the contract. Government fare passengers already can't be given IDBs/
I don't see how they could identify these customers, unless there is a special fare bucket and that is programmed into the IDB selection software. Most of my UA business travel is under a corporate contract, and I am never greeted with "thank you and X company for your business" though there is a special corporate checkin desk @sfo (which I never use as I don't check bags and it's located in the domestic terminal).

I don't think corporate customers are asking for special privileges. I think the bigger concern (as an employer) is to ensure the safety of my employees when they travel. Which UA utterly failed to do.

Originally Posted by spin88 View Post
He is wrong. Dao is an invitee, and his and UA's rights are per the CoC. If the CoC allows Dao to be removed in the circumstances of this incident UA is within its rights. My read is the CoC does not cover what happened to Dao, and United breached its contract in removing him for the reasons they removed him. I have not seen a reasonable counter argument (no "act of god" does not apply...)

Notably, AA's CoC would have allowed a removal in this situation, but they just changed to to take away that right from themselves (they made it more passenger friendly).
I agree that the CoC may not specifically cover this situation as it was not IDB or VDB but rather forcible ejection of a paid customer who had already boarded and was not a safety issue. Admittedly biased but I'd be comfortable ruling that UA breached the contract as a matter of law and the only issue for the jury is damages. Of course, that is a separate claim from the tort claim for personal injuries that directly resulted from UA's direction to LEOs to forcibly eject the passenger.

Originally Posted by nitzer View Post
Every single person on that plane has already hired a private lawyer. Passengers, crew, gate attendant, police. All of them. The employees of United's private lawyers are already negotiating their "severance" package in return for cooperation with United on what to say. Those packages will probably range around 5-10 million each depending on what they know. All you have to imagine is that the GA can just go up and say "Well yes we are told in training we will only give $800 max and after that we have the right to forcefully remove him and it will be determine later why. I was just following company procedure." That right there would be destruction at its finest.
I would not be so sure though UA or more likely the union has likely retained separate counsel to represent each employee. There is no way UA will offer a $5-10 million severance package to each employee, as that would instantly destroy their credibility. So it's in UA's interest to keep them in the fold. Moreover the employee's primary defense is that they were following UA's rules and Oscar has already admitted that.

Originally Posted by spin88 View Post
My guess is that Dao ends up at around $10M gross. I think the risks to UAL presented by discovery as to "other similar incidents" as well as depositions of key policy makers such as Oscar will cause United to settle quickly, before they happen.
I think the over/under is $1 million. Remember the actual damages will be limited to the cost of medical treatment, pain & suffering, lost wages, etc. Of course punitive could go much higher but that is limited as well by SCOTUS precedent.

It is not at all clear that the court will permit discovery of unrelated incidents. For the same reason I do not think that a class action will be feasible as the factual circumstances of and damages resulting from Dr. Dao's ejection were rather unique. Though perhaps one could try a class action on behalf of all similarly ejected customers that did not go through the VDB or IDB process.
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Old Apr 19, 17, 12:32 pm
  #6260  
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Originally Posted by Boraxo View Post
I don't see how they could identify these customers, unless there is a special fare bucket and that is programmed into the IDB selection software. Most of my UA business travel is under a corporate contract, and I am never greeted with "thank you and X company for your business" though there is a special corporate checkin desk @sfo (which I never use as I don't check bags and it's located in the domestic terminal).

I don't think corporate customers are asking for special privileges. I think the bigger concern (as an employer) is to ensure the safety of my employees when they travel. Which UA utterly failed to do.



I agree that the CoC may not specifically cover this situation as it was not IDB or VDB but rather forcible ejection of a paid customer who had already boarded and was not a safety issue. Admittedly biased but I'd be comfortable ruling that UA breached the contract as a matter of law and the only issue for the jury is damages. Of course, that is a separate claim from the tort claim for personal injuries that directly resulted from UA's direction to LEOs to forcibly eject the passenger.



I would not be so sure though UA or more likely the union has likely retained separate counsel to represent each employee. There is no way UA will offer a $5-10 million severance package to each employee, as that would instantly destroy their credibility. So it's in UA's interest to keep them in the fold. Moreover the employee's primary defense is that they were following UA's rules and Oscar has already admitted that.



I think the over/under is $1 million. Remember the actual damages will be limited to the cost of medical treatment, pain & suffering, lost wages, etc. Of course punitive could go much higher but that is limited as well by SCOTUS precedent.

It is not at all clear that the court will permit discovery of unrelated incidents. For the same reason I do not think that a class action will be feasible as the factual circumstances of and damages resulting from Dr. Dao's ejection were rather unique. Though perhaps one could try a class action on behalf of all similarly ejected customers that did not go through the VDB or IDB process.
I'm assuming that UA corporate contract fares are identified by a designator appended to the fare code. I know that's true for DL corporate contract fares, at least for the ones that include a discount from the standard fare using the same fare code. So it should be very easy to identify them. Even if the "IDB selector algorithm" doesn't sort on the presence or absence of a corporate contract, GAs could be instructed to look for the designator and skip Oliver any corporate customers. This assumes that the corporate designator codes can easily be identified as being different from type way that bulk and consolidator fares are identified in the designator attached to the fare code.
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Old Apr 19, 17, 12:34 pm
  #6261  
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Originally Posted by Howard Long View Post
Keep in mind this was very shortly after the first video(s) came out. The poster asked about Qualified Immunity, and I presented a lawyer's perspctive on it. This was making the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that the Dr was being removed on the basis of trespass laws, but irrespective what was being addressed was Qualified Immunity and whether or not it would be defendable.

It has not yet been disclosed under what basis the Dr was being ejected. He was already boarded, so the VDB and IDB process in DOT terms does not apply as it must be done either at check-in or the boarding area.

I could have offered a later starting point but I feel it would have lost context. I guess I don't get bored easily!

Leonard French also did two follow up videos shortly afterwards, one after it was revealed by theor employer that the officers had not followed procedure, and the second going through the CoC. One is a couple of minutes, the other is about six.

Update on United Flight 3411: Man removed by Force - Statement by Chicago Aviation Police? - YouTube

Did United Airlines BREACH their Contract of Carriage by forcing man off plane? - YouTube
How is qualified Immunity impacted in view of the security people not actually being police officers?
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Old Apr 19, 17, 12:45 pm
  #6262  
 
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Originally Posted by Boraxo View Post
I think the over/under is $1 million. Remember the actual damages will be limited to the cost of medical treatment, pain & suffering, lost wages, etc. Of course punitive could go much higher but that is limited as well by SCOTUS precedent.

It is not at all clear that the court will permit discovery of unrelated incidents. For the same reason I do not think that a class action will be feasible as the factual circumstances of and damages resulting from Dr. Dao's ejection were rather unique. Though perhaps one could try a class action on behalf of all similarly ejected customers that did not go through the VDB or IDB process.
There will be damages for assault, and don't think for a moment that you can't get $500K-1M for "pain and suffering" I do think there is a cap, but it is not $100k in compensatory damages x10 for punitive damages.

We can debate the possible verdict, but on discovery? It would be clear error not to allow discovery as to Punitive Damages Issues. No Judge would cut that off, Dao will be able to fully search dragnet style for evidence relevant to UA's prior treatment of others and what policies it has set. The standard is very loose.
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Old Apr 19, 17, 12:48 pm
  #6263  
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Originally Posted by robinhood View Post
I agree. Perhaps I should be wearing a tinfoil hat for this, but I do think it is very suspicious that while everyone else is focusing on IDB compensation, United's first policy change (that we know of) is the 60 minute restriction on booking crew travel. There must be something very inappropriate about how this was done that they would focus on this even before adjusting their VDB compensation guidelines.
That is the first I had heard about the 60 minute restriction. Even if under this, they didn't realize it until they had started boarding c. 20-30 minutes before departure.

So if the crew were 10-15 minutes later, they would have missed the flight- and then?

United seems to have played fast and loose with everything on this.
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Old Apr 19, 17, 12:53 pm
  #6264  
 
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Originally Posted by nitzer View Post
This thread has been an interesting read. Lots of theory's, police are the ultimate power in the universe etc.

...

The possible list of charges criminal and civil will be brought to bear on United and the city of Chicago will be long. Very Very long. It also could get longer. I'll give you a couple examples.

...

If they refuse.....

They get dragged through the mud for the next year and all their little secrets that allow them to push the consumer around get aired out in the open. THEY ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WANT THIS. The damage to reputation and cost of regulation changes will go beyond recover mode. Secrets need to remain secrets.

United will be the first case. After that comes the City of Chicago. If they settle a LOT of United employees will have to testify in the City of Chicago Criminal and Civil trials. A lot of dirty laundry is still going to be aired out. There is a maximum liability for the police. The tax payers won't pay more than that. Probably like 300k. I suspect they will ask before trial settlement 40 million. City will say no. They don't have customers per sey or are publicly traded. United will make a phone call and pick up the tab just so their employees don't have to get on the stand and air out the dirty laundry and also to ensure that the Police of Chicago and the taxpayers love United. 240 million + attorney's fees + CEOs bonus total is pocket change. Drop in bucket.
...
From your lips to God's ear. This post hits so hard.
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Old Apr 19, 17, 12:53 pm
  #6265  
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Originally Posted by Boraxo View Post

It is not at all clear that the court will permit discovery of unrelated incidents. For the same reason I do not think that a class action will be feasible as the factual circumstances of and damages resulting from Dr. Dao's ejection were rather unique. Though perhaps one could try a class action on behalf of all similarly ejected customers that did not go through the VDB or IDB process.
Dao lawyer already hinted at a class-action by saying that other people have been contacting him. How willing is United to open up to that liability on the whim of how a judge will rule?
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Old Apr 19, 17, 1:07 pm
  #6266  
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Originally Posted by PushingTin View Post
That is the first I had heard about the 60 minute restriction. Even if under this, they didn't realize it until they had started boarding c. 20-30 minutes before departure.

So if the crew were 10-15 minutes later, they would have missed the flight- and then?

United seems to have played fast and loose with everything on this.
My understanding is that the must fly crew *were* booked onto UA 3411 about 60 minutes before the flight's scheduled departure. Assuming that this is true, the new UA rule would not have any effect.

However, this leaves open the question of why the GA didn't do four (or some, if jumpseats could have been used or if it wasn't clear how many customers would actually board the flight) VDBs or IDBs before boarding. Was the GA aware for the four must fly crew when she started boarding or not? If she wasn't aware, when did she learn about the problem and who was responsible for this information not getting to the GA working the flight?
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Old Apr 19, 17, 1:35 pm
  #6267  
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
Surely it should be possible to reassure major corporate contract customers that their people won't be subject to IDBs. AFAIK it could even be written into the contract.
If that became explicit policy, it would be the absolute end of United's business from a vast cohort of business fliers / healthy spenders who are not part of a corporate contract. Talk about adding insult to injury. Buy full Y or F at the last minute... and be told you're at higher risk for trip disruption than the corporate flyer whose company paid far less.

Who would do that?
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Old Apr 19, 17, 1:58 pm
  #6268  
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Volume and to some extent guaranteed spending come with the corporate contracts. It's the same reason they give good discounts in exchange for signing the corporate travel contracts.

The "no IDB for you" policy could be implicit or it could be a confidential provision of the individual contract.

Government fares are discounted and still have the no IDB provision. Others seem to accept it, if they're aware, including on routes that are heavy with government travelers.
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Old Apr 19, 17, 2:20 pm
  #6269  
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Originally Posted by PushingTin View Post
Dao lawyer already hinted at a class-action by saying that other people have been contacting him. How willing is United to open up to that liability on the whim of how a judge will rule?
The lawyer would have a separate and equal obligation to each client to pursue appropriate recourse. UA's liability is already fixed for these customers, it is simply a question of whether they have a claim and wish to pursue it.

The class action makes sense when you have a large number of victims where the facts and damages are very similar if not identical, i.e. a bank that charges hidden forex conversion fees that were never disclosed to the customer. It does not work so well for personal torts, which is why for years asbestos cases were tried individually even though many victims worked for the same company or used the same product. Again, my view is that class certification would likely fail, but that depends on a number of factual issues that are not yet known (though I am pretty certain few people were physcially dragged off planes like Dr. Dao or we would have heard about it).
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Old Apr 19, 17, 2:31 pm
  #6270  
 
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Originally Posted by Boraxo View Post
... Again, my view is that class certification would likely fail, but that depends on a number of factual issues that are not yet known (though I am pretty certain few people were physcially dragged off planes like Dr. Dao or we would have heard about it).

But could there be action taken under the theory that United did not disclose what compensation individuals might be entitled to for denial of boarding, instead implying the most folks would get would be United vouchers rather than cash? Isn't there a requirement for a written document be provided to passengers about their rights ... I wonder if most gates even have copies of this document available to the GA? Was Dr. Dao told before he was dragged off that he would be entitled to compensation other than the $800 vouchers he had previously refused and is this a common occurrence?
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