Fly United! (‘We can do this the hard way, or the harder way.’)

By Colonel Mike Angley

Okay, now that EVERYONE in America has dissected, chopped up, sliced, diced and analyzed the case of Dr. Dao and his removal from a United flight out of Chicago last week, I’ll offer my two cents, or maybe three. I come at this from a law enforcement perspective as well as a frequent flyer.

First, let’s dispense with the chaff and flares that have been fired to distract and confuse the issue. Dr. Dao has a troubled past. A very troubled past that includes a loss of his medical license, felony convictions, and gay sex. Want to know how much that matters to how he was treated? ZERO. Yup. Nada.

That’s the kind of crap people sympathetic with United would dig up to make him less likeable, less of a real victim. If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear someone hired the Democrat Party’s opposition research SWAT team to find as much ickiness as possible about Dr. Dao and get it out there at the speed of heat. It didn’t work.

I have heard all the pro-United arguments that are draped in more legalese than the fine print on a timeshare sales contract. Things like: every ticket stipulates that it can be changed at the airline’s discretion, or, the airline reserves the right to refuse service to anyone, etc. Yada, yada, yada. All are valid arguments, by the way, won’t deny that. But everything legally right about how United handled the situation gets lost in…well…how United handled the situation.

No one, especially not a 68-year old man, should be ejected from a plane for any reason and: suffer a concussion, receive a broken nose, and lose two teeth. He may have been verbally belligerent, but that does not justify the brutality he received.

Where’s the sense of proportionality anymore? The airport police or security people (have heard them called both) escalated the testosterone simply because they were challenged. Do they not receive training in how to deescalate a situation? If you’re ever taken hostage in Chicago, just pray these guys aren’t on the negotiation team.

When I heard about the case, I was reminded of Eric Garner, the man who was caught selling ‘loosies,’ individual black market cigarettes, on a New York City street. His real crime was evading the tax stamps the cigarettes require, thereby depriving the Big Apple of a few bucks in tax money it otherwise would have collected had the cigarettes been sold through a state-approved store.

Garner was belligerent with the cops, refused to comply with their orders to stop selling cigarettes, and resisted arrest. When they took him down, they placed him in a choke hold which killed him. Garner broke some laws for sure, and the police were right to enforce the law, even arrest him, but was the original crime of tax evasion serious enough to warrant deadly force, even if accidental?

Let’s get back to Dr. Dao, who committed no crime at all. He was just guilty of being a poor slob who was chosen randomly to lose his seat. We heard immediately that the flight was ‘overbooked’ which prompted the airline to begin searching for volunteers to eject. It turns out the flight wasn’t overbooked at all.

United bumped four passengers to make room for United employees it needed to get to another airport in order to crew-up other flights. It was not overbooked by cash-paying customers; they all had seats. The chaos was all due to poor scheduling and management by United personnel who didn’t plan the movement of employees far enough in advance.

I guess that happens frequently, or so I’m told. At least that’s what the people who are sympathetic to the airlines claim as a way to compel the public to be more understanding when they screw up something. Apparently only customers are expected to plan their travel, not airline employees. But then, maybe that’s WHY United doesn’t plan employee movement, because it’s accustomed to strong-arming customers, so why even bother?

Could Dr. Dao have handled it better? Sure. He could have exited the plane, complied fully with the crew, and then hired a lawyer to fight for his rights later. But we’d not be talking about it today, would we?

I’m not saying his actions and his suffering were worth it, but do you think the airlines would really change if he had been acquiescent? We’re told this situation happens hundreds of times a day, so compliant passengers who file complaints and hire lawyers haven’t exactly been able to get the industry’s attention.

As a former law enforcement officer, I hate stories like this. Use of force is more an art than science, and in this case it went horribly wrong. The premise for his removal was hollow to begin with – giving United employees priority over cash-paying customers – and despite his belligerence, he did not deserve the physical assault. It was as disproportionate to his perceived offense as Eric Garner’s was to his minor crimes.

Again, Dr. Dao was wrong in how he conducted himself. When law enforcement personnel (if that’s what these guys really were) give an order, folks need to comply. But police have responsibilities too, and one is not to beat the tar out of old men simply for arguing with them. Especially disagreements over an airplane seat to which he had a greater right than United employees.

United lost the PR war on this one. It continues to lose capital as its share price has plummeted since the debacle. It stands to lose much more when Dr. Dao’s lawsuit reaches United’s unfriendly skies.


Colonel Michael (“Mike”) Angley is retired from the United States Air Force, a published thriller author, and a conservative writer who fashions himself as Attila the Hun with a laptop. Mike wrote for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government and Big Peace blogs before the Breitbart consolidation, receiving superb feedback and kudos for typically weaving in pop culture references with his far right perspectives. He enjoys writing about military affairs, national security issues, and politics and is an avid Second Amendment advocate. When he’s not writing, he’s busy annoying liberals with FaceBook posts and Twitter tweets that point out the obvious flaws and fallacies of the left.

During his 26-year USAF career, the Colonel was a Special Agent with the Office of Special Investigations (OSI). The OSI is a sister agency to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and has an identical mission that includes felony-level criminal, fraud, and narcotics investigations as well as counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations. His USAF experiences spanned multiple regions around the globe with five command assignments and duties at foreign, regional, theater and national levels.

He is a seasoned counterintelligence and counterespionage officer from the Cold War era, and if you ask him he’ll tell you the spy-vs-spy days were indeed the heady, glory era of espionage. During the latter half of his career he focused on counterterrorism missions in the Middle East and the Far East and operationalized many of today’s concepts for this unique arena while working the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and a few other “choice” locations. When Colonel Angley retired in 2007, he was a Senior Supervisory Special Agent and was in command of all worldwide OSI matters at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, CO.

Mike Angley is also a published, award-winning author of three thriller novels in the “Child Finder” trilogy. His debut novel, “Child Finder,” received a glowing review from the Library Journal which placed it on its Summer Reading list in 2009. “Child Finder” and its companion sequel novels all won various awards from the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) and the Public Safety Writers Association. In 2012, Mike was named MWSA’s “Author of the Year,” largely for work on his third novel, “Child Finder: Revelation.”

As an avid user of social media, Mike can be found and friended on Facebook (mike.angley) and followed on Twitter (@MikeAngley). His website is www.mikeangley.com. Following his USAF retirement, Mike and his family stayed in Colorado Springs, CO where they enjoy daily, majestic views of Pikes Peak and the Rocky Mountains.

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