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Is the business of air travel bad for the business of airlines?

By now, the story of United Airlines versus David Dao has permeated the public consciousness with Facebook posts, tweets, memes, and endless news coverage. Millions have watched the viral videos taken by the Kentucky doctor’s fellow passengers. Footage documented his refusal to leave an airplane and his subsequent and violent removal.

It all started when United had asked for volunteers to deplane the “overbooked” flight so four crewmembers could get to Kentucky for a connecting flight. After money and a hotel stay did not entice them, a computer selected four passengers, including Dao.

The rest is social media history.

Several days later, the story has evolved into David Dao now going after United Airlines with a lawsuit. According to Tom Demetrio, Dao’s attorney, his client suffered a concussion, lost two front teeth and required reconstructive surgery for a broken nose.

Three aviation officers involved in the melee were placed on leave. The government is conducting their own review of the event.

At an April 13 press conference, Demetrio announced that legal action is moving forward to “stand up for passengers going forward,” claiming that airline carriers in general “have treated us less than we deserve.”

As if the countless cell phone videos were not enough, Dao has formally requested that United and the city of Chicago to preserve all footage, audio recordings, and various reports material from the flight.

The story has placed a spotlight on United’s “Contract for Carriage,” a tacit agreement that passengers agree to upon purchase of a ticket. The pact allows United to deny passengers from boarding if a flight is overbooked and no one steps forward to give up their seat.

Yet, Dao had already boarded the plane. Removing him violated the deal, and perhaps the physician’s rights.

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