If I Have To Give A Few Thoughts On The United Incident…

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I’m currently on “vacation” until next Wednesday at a Pesach program at the Four Seasons in Whistler, Canada. Though my vacation consists of giving 4 lectures/presentations here at the program, the out-of-this-world food, service, and entertainment make it an awesome experience.

At any rate several people have asked why I haven’t written about United incident with Dr. David Dao. There are even conspiracy theories on DDF and people asking why I bashed Delta and not United.

1. I’ve been enjoying some time offline this week.

2. Obviously the videos were horrific.

I am definitely sympathetic towards Dr. Dao. Nobody should be treated as he was. There is no excuse for that. But while some blogs have had dozens of breathless posts on the topic with flip-flopping opinions, I don’t find it all that interesting from an aviation perspective.

At the end of the day the Delta meltdown was a systemwide failure and was exacerbated by their own arrogance and greed while the United incident was a single isolated incident. Obviously the United videos were painful to watch and generated much more coverage, but the Delta meltdown impacted hundreds of thousands of people…does that make me callous?

3. United could have avoided this entire situation by empowering their employees to hand out higher value travel vouchers. It makes zero sense to limit voluntary denied boarding compensation to $800 in travel vouchers when they will have to pay out $1,350 in cash in an involuntary denied boarding situation.

There is no excuse for this. This incident doesn’t happen with employees that are properly empowered to fix situations like this by raising the compensation to a level that would entice volunteers to leave the plane.

4. I do think that one good thing from this incident is that all airlines will increase their gate agent’s ability to offer higher denied boarding compensation when the situation calls for it.

When I was single I’d spend days in airports getting bumped from flight to flight and wind up with thousands of dollars in vouchers and an upgrade to first class. But when traveling with small children it would take an awful lot to get me to give up my seat.

5. The memes making fun of United are hysterical, but for the 2nd time in a month, United winds up on the short-end of the reporting. Last month social media went nuts that girls in leggings were denied boarding by United. But as they were flying on employee buddy passes they would have known that they needed to follow the dress code if they wanted to fly for free and that means you can’t wear spandex as pants. Is that a fair rule? I don’t know, but if you’re trying to travel on an employee pass then you don’t have much choice in the matter. Violating those rules will cause headaches for the employee.

Every airline involuntarily denies boarding, and yes, sometimes that happens on the plane. Most people know that if you don’t follow crew instructions on a plane that you’re going to be arrested. Obviously you don’t expect to be knocked unconscious and lose 2 teeth in the process, but I’m not sure that United is worthy of all the hate sent their way. Pretty much every airline would do and have done the exact same thing by getting the authorities involved.

6. Many people seem to think that it was United agents that directly caused bodily harm to Dr. Dao, but it was the Chicago Aviation police force agents that did the real dirty work here. Why isn’t there more outrage directed at the Chicago Aviation police force for how they dealt with the situation?

7. Pro tip if you don’t want to wind up being kicked off a flight: Check-in to your flight online 24 hours in advance and make sure you have an assigned seat. If you aren’t an elite member, traveling on a full fare ticket, or traveling with small children, then United will likely prioritize who they deny boarding to based on their time of checkin. Last to checkin, especially if they don’t have a seat assignment, will be the first to lose their place on the plane.

8. We will see fewer cases of involuntary denied boardings because of this incident, and that’s a very good outcome. So we all owe some thanks to Dr. Dao, who will likely get a nice retirement nest egg settlement from United very soon so that they can bury this story without a drawn out court case.

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94 Comments On "If I Have To Give A Few Thoughts On The United Incident…"

All opinions expressed below are user generated and the opinions aren’t provided, reviewed or endorsed by any advertiser or DansDeals.


Dan, ur obviously getting paid advertisement from united!
Why else would you stick up for them?

Unless, it’s all about you.
Because Delta is personal, because you will lose out with all the devaluation they do.
Yet united, well they have not yet “dragged you off a plane yet”..


How are the Kushner’s?


I love your website & the forums but this is a lousy article to be honest. United deserves the hate they got & more, where does Delta come into this picture. Delta is Delta & they deserve their hate, AA is awful in their own way but this is physical violence triggered by United. Call it what you want. Seems like you are in bed with them. At least from the article.


Dan, you’re the man. Thank you so much. I was waiting for this.


@Dan: You’re with them?


@robert Was 9/11 Uniteds fault as well?


In the near future fly united because realistically they will be going out of their way to create positive PR. So personally I plan on increasing my united travel not​ the reverse 🙂


You had me at Four Seasons Whistler… Ivanka fever


@Dan: just a bunch o’ haters.


I guess in addition to breaking gutiars United breaks noses too. As far as Delta goes it happens too many times with them. We were 17 people traveling to Florida on Jet Blue. They cancelled the flight due to “bad weather”. Yet the next gate had a flight to the Bahamas. Since deregulation the airlines feel they have a right to abuse passengers. The worst offender is the medicaid airline a/k/a spirit. Absolute the worst would walk rather than fly with those bums.


Sorry this wasn’t involuntary denied boarding, he was seated on the plane and right before takeoff United need 4 more seats so it was done through a random lotto who to pull off.

Monsey mom

Dan- any thoughts of any “flight sales” or price drops coming from united ?

Mitzvah Yingel

I see wher you are coming from, but I’m not sure that any airline would forcefully remove a seated passenger in order to make place for their employees…

Mordechai Braun

A lot of the hate to United is not meant to go to United only, it is meant to go to the whole industry that somehow does not yet obey the rule of “Customer is always right”, and they constantly deal with their customers like father – child… (Except for ppl who never fly economy…).

And why are they at all allowed to overbook flights all the time?


I’m just curious how he can get so much money in a suit with united if they did everything legally and only the cops did something wrong@David:


They are authorized to go up to 1200 to bump customers but they chose to only go to 800. If they know they have 4 crew members to fly they should reduce the capacity by 4 or be prepared to raise the offer. Everybody has a price. There is no excuse for physical force. I sm curious can they separate families with their random selection.


@realdonaldtrump we have a major security breach right here. Do you think Jared will bruk on achron shel pesach?


@Izzy: they don’t seem to have much rest here with so much going on in DC


I Don’t quite agree. Yes Delta affected many more but seriously United agents stood there and condoned their brutality in the name of vacating for a United employee. Honestly it was terrible that should happen in today’s society. I hope he gets the $200+m that he is suing for. United should have taken a much more apologetic stance. What does it help to comp the other pax tix?!

Anyway has Jared or Ivanka been to any of your talks?


@Mitzvah Yingel: I agree. Don’t say anyone would have done it. It obviously hasn’t Happened before.

Aay B.

Any restrictions on the other guests because of the VIP guests?
Did you manage to talk to them? I know you’re not much of politician (take it as a compliment..) but it would be interesting to get your take on them from watching them so closely


Dan, I find your summation clear and honest

Go Cubs

Do you anticipate a juicy CC points offer from United as a result of this incident?


Was there no place to stick them in business or even g-d forbid first rather than kick people off ?



You’ve seen them kick people who were already boarded off? They’re pretty clearly not even contractually allowed to under their contract of carriage, and I’ve certainly never thought they could. https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-13/united-broke-its-contract-with-frequent-flyers


Nice to se that i wasn’t the only “crazy” person thinking the same way. Thumbs up.


When he refused to leave he had the legal status of a common trespasser, and was dealt with accordingly. If Walmart asked him to leave after the store had closed, would anyone blame them for forcibly removing a stubborn customer? Don’t make the mistake of mixing the facts of the first part (overbooking, not offering enough money) with the facts of the second part (removing a common trespasser)


@ Dan how do you think united does this random lotto to see who gives up there seats?


What I can’t understand is why no one notified the pilot, or if the pilot was notified, why he didn’t get involved before the violence began. Had the pilot given the passenger the order to disembark, even the doctor’s lawyer – with whom he was on the phone, apparently – would have told him to get off, since the pilot is in charge of the plane, period.


Nice work, Dan.
This has been fun from an internet amusement perspective, but I agree with everything you’ve said.


Thanks, as usual, for your level headed analysis.


IN all intellectual honesty its preposterous to assert you feel “respected” by thier mileage program. Seriously?! Here is a violent situation where a doctor was bullied by United for not complying with thier ridiculous whim. YES,ITS United’s fault for contacting the police for such a petty reason,subhey fail to apologize immediately


@Dan: In all intellectual honesty its preposterous to assert you feel “respected” by thier mileage program. SERIOUSLY?! Here is a violent situation caused by united. Yes by united. Stop excusing united and blaming police. United knows very well calling the oolice willnlikely tyrn violent with a goid willed passenger not complying with thier stuoid whim

Agent Orange

@JimBobMcduggar: @JimBobMcduggar:
JimBob: How can a consumer who paid for a ticket be ejected by force ?? Are his rights meaningless ?? Can I eject someone at the Super Bowl from his fully paid for seat ?? Would that fan be a “common trespasser” ?? If so, what is it worth to “buy a ticket”.


Following point 7, if you’re single and like collecting vouchers, you should check in late, right?
Btw, why didn’t you ask for cash? Is that much harder?


“Check-in to your flight online 24 hours in advance and make sure you have an assigned seat.”

Are you sure he didn’t do that?

alyssa t KAPLAN

This wasn’t a traditional overbooking situation. According to the information we have, the flight was not oversold — United wanted to get its employees to Louisville to staff another flight. While it was in United’s best business interest to get them there, passengers should not be held accountable for the airline’s lack of planning. Frankly, Chicago is a United hub, and if it really needed to get employees to Louisville, it could have flown an extra plane to get them there.
This wasn’t a denied boarding. The passenger already boarded and was in a seat that he paid for. United’s Contract of Carriage dictates when a passenger can be refused transport, and nowhere does it state that United can de-board you because it wants to fly its own employees. I bet United will try to say that the passenger didn’t comply with crew member instructions, but that is bogus — why even have rules if a flight attendant can decide, without cause, to kick anyone off the plane? I can see this passenger’s mindset that he had to get home and did not violate the Contract of Carriage, so he shouldn’t have to get off.
This was inhumane treatment. Period. According to witnesses, he hit his head on the armrest and was then brutally dragged off the plane. Even if he hadn’t hit his head, why would you want to drag him off the plane? Shouldn’t medical personnel have been called to assist at that point? Not only that, but after he was escorted off (then presumably a security and health threat) he somehow got back on the plane — bleeding! That clearly is a poor security and medical response to allow the passenger to get back on the plane. According to reports, at least one of the officers has been placed on leave. Clearly, the blame here is on United because it could have done any number of things to avoid this situation — like offering more compensation, sending its employees via another plane, airline or even limousine (not our problem to worry about its employee logistics). I also think the culture of having airport police handling customer service issues (like an overbooking) is out of control, and clearly the security officers were incompetent and excessive in their use of force for a passenger that did nothing wrong but simply sit in a seat that he paid for.


Thanks Dan for saying it the it is. Putting emotions asside I am sure you will get a lot of flack for that. I will continue to fly United. Their millage program is still very lucrative and continues to be one of the best out there.
Gut Moed to all.
As for the Dr. Enjoy your retirement you deserve it!


I totally agree. At the end of the day, I’d loudly object to being asked to leave but I would go peacefully if asked to do so. It’s the same as being stopped on the highway; no matter how wrong the officer might be, the time to protest is later in court in front of the judge, with your lawyer at your side. While the United policies and process were clearly shortsighted, Dr. Dao would have been well advised to pick himself up and object later, through the same lawyer, but minus the concussion, broken teeth and allegations of mental instability. It’s a bad situation and one that United wishes they were not in and was probably caused by someone not thinking this through properly. But, the next time Dr. Dao gets stopped on the highway by a police officer, I’d advise him to put both hands on the wheel instead of quickly pulling one hand out of his jacket with his black cell phone in his hand.; if you know what I mean… 🙂


I couldn’t disagree more.

1) “Every airline would do the same” is no excuse for anything.

2) The ability to deny boarding, even because of overbooking, while legal, is pure evil. If airlines want to take advantage of overbooking, it should be their responsibility to increase their compensation with no limits, until someone agrees. They should not be allowed to deny a confirmed passenger. Period.

3) Overbooking very rarely (if at all) results in the removal of a seated passenger. The very fact that he has a seat would give him priority over others who don’t. The practice of removing a passenger in order to give his seat to an employee, whether legal or not (I don’t know), is a whole new level of evil.

4) The police are not at fault. Who says they knew what was going on? As far as they are concerned, this could be a criminal. It was the responsibility of United, even if they decide to use police, to inform them that the passenger is innocent and that they should behave accordingly.

5) Then comes United’s response. First give out some insensitive generic message. Then accuse the passenger, until a video proves you a liar. And then still have the arrogance not to step down.


Wow…. never thought you would be a United apologist. Must still be mad at AA.

Mimi K.

@Mordechai Braun.
American is no better.
All the airlines suck, especially when it comes to them power tripping in their uniforms and spouting non existent FAA regulations. I was yelled at and embarrassed by a united employee a few weeks ago for no reason. (The manager apologized because A) he was being ridiculous. B) i was a full price first class seat.
And 2 years ago on AA i was threatened with being escorted off with security because i didnt want to check my handbag (after i found place and stuffed it in) because ” I already said all handbags not yet stowed are going under!”
Its not “the customer is always right”
Its ” the man with the badge is always right”
I learnt that the hard way.


Dan, if you allege that United “were likely as horrified as the other passengers” then how do you explain the apology of the CEO right after the incident: On Monday, the airline’s official Twitter account posted a statement from United’s CEO Oscar Munoz, who called the event “upsetting” and apologized for “having to re-accommodate these customers.”* Is he serious! the situation is merely “upsetting???” and furthermore, look at that apology. instead of apologizing to Dr. Dao and to his family for the atrocities that we caused to him on their domain and for the embarrassment he faced – they apologize about re-accommodateing these passengers – SAD!

*[From fox news: http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2017/04/10/police-violently-drag-man-from-united-plane-after-airline-reportedly-overbooked-flight.html ]


I have to disagree with you on this one. When a United agent calls security to remove someone they are just doing their job. They don’t know if this guy is drunk bomb threat or similar. When a united agents asks to remove a person from a flight they will remove that person regardless of his resistance. It is up to the agent at the gate to determined if they should be called or not. Since agents are not trained or empowered enough they made the call and would suffer the consequences.
As far as this incident I am very happy. Not because someone was harmed, but rather since change will be coming. Passengers as you know in the USA have very little rights when it comes to flying. This hopefully would result in greater costumer rights which ultimately would result in a looser market for competition to enter. I dont think it would happen overnight, but this would be a good start.


Wow. Some comments here are really from the bottom of the barrel. Dan is 100% right. Delta messed up thousands of people because of their arrogance. Everyone forgot about that because some police beat some guy up.


@Dan Just heard on the radio that Delta has upped their agents power to give up to $2,000 in vouchers and supervisors (if need be) can offer up to $9,000 as a result of the United incident. Looks like ur prediction is right on target….


@Dan: It’s hilarious how everyone here is ragging on you as if UA is gonna spend a single cent paying off bloggers to write lightly critical posts. The second any incident happens everyone becomes an expert with their half baked ideas. Thanks for offering a level headed approach after all the information has come to light instead of rushing to get those sweet eyeballs without any concrete info like all the other blogs out there.

Also it’s hilarious because you so often call out UA for their stupidity but everyone here has the memory span a goldfish so they rush to judge as soon as you say something they don’t immediately understand or agree with.


I think both Delta and united deserve any hate they get, the airline industry is probably the worst industry in the US


@Dan: This may just blow back in their face. wouldn’t this encourage people not to give up their seat for anything less than the full 9k?


Yup,ATLANTA: Delta is giving airport employees permission to offer passengers up to almost $10,000 to give up their seats on overbooked flights.


@JimBobMcduggar: How is he a trespasser if he had a ticket and boarding pass?


at the end of the day, the airlines (no diff than most businesses in this country), care about one thing only, their bottom line profits. The process is completely governed by their internal rules and regs. no deviation by an employee is permitted for fear of additional cost. If the airlines could replace their entire staff with automatons, that follow these orders to the T, I am confident they would.

Unfortunately, it is only after outrageous and unnecessary physical harm and injury to someone (UA case, who physically caused the harm is irrelevant) or egregious and beyond comprehension disruption of the travel plans of 1000’s (Delta case) that results in incalculable monetary losses and personal suffering to passengers, their employers, their families, is there a possibility that there may be some change in protocol or procedure by the airlines to avoid a similar occurrence. And why is this change likely again, because now the damage they have caused will affect their future business and therefore once again their bottom line.

Yet one thing at the end of the day disturbs me about the UA case. We plane passengers are not automatons and have free will. Many passengers were witnessing these tragic events as they unfolded and no one volunteered to inconvenience themselves for $800 to save this person who challenged the airline. All simply watched, videoed, complained and ultimately simply stood by. Of course they r not obligated to do so and bear no blame, but where was the mensche on this plane… why is offer more money to prevent this from happening again the answer.

J in NY

Dan, I was at the speech you gave and it was wonderful. The 3 things I took out of it most is you have lived 1000 dreams so far , you should stop being late to your own parties and your wife is cooler than you 🙂 !!!!

The VIP guests are very nice and respectful of everyone and everything. They wait in line for food like everyone else, day camp minyan etc… as Dan said. pesach on the mountain is off the grid in regards to major programs and that’s what makes it so special. I feel sorry that someone leaked where they are as they are entitled to some peace and quiet as well.
P.S. having secret service at camp with the our kids is an added perk.


and thats why i fly spirit:)


United needed the seat for their workers it’s a outrage to prefer him over a paying customer , Singapore airlines zurich station manager got fired because he preferred the airlines CEO son over a paying customerZurich, Besides the fact that overbooking can accur while in the gate , But litterely throwing off a seating passenger for a worker that’s a outrage and should be condemned and frankly overbooking should be illegal


Dan thanks for you opinion. I don’t think anybody deserves hate. Hate never solves anything. I personally think that the united CEO reaction was the worst. And the united personnel and the other people on the flight for letting the security agents act the why they did.


what are the other 3 people who got kicked off getting?


@sam: Well one thing is for sure, they are not getting their heads knocked into an arm rest resulting in a concussion. O and humiliated beyond…


Delta approves offers of up to $10,000 to flyers who give up seats on overbooked flights after United scandal
Delta has raised the maximum amounts that its employees can offer flyers
Internal memo says gate agents can offer up to $2,000, up from $800
And supervisors can offer up to $9,950 on overbooked flights, up from $1,350
Comes as United continues to suffer fallout from passenger dragged off flight

In an internal memo, Delta says gate agents can offer up to $2,000 in compensation, up from a previous maximum of $800, and supervisors can offer up to $9,950, up from $1,350.


I generally agree with your post, however, I think you missed an important distinction. The Flight was not over booked. The flight was exactly booked and they were giving preferential treatment to its own employees. I believe that is not legal, and if it were, would have significant ramifications. They were removing passengers so they could get a crew out so as not to cancel a flight. Theoretically, they would be able to remove a paying customer for one that pays more, or has a higher status.


@Agent Orange: @jimbobmcwhatevrr Apparently you got your law degree from the same Walmart you used to make such a ridiculous comparison between a paid passenger and someone who walks onto private property, has no legitimate reason to remain on it and refuses to leave when the owner’s agent directs him to do so.


This article explains very important legal points: https://www.yahoo.com/news/why-united-legally-wrong-deplane-134223391.html

1) United was not denying boarding because they had already granted him boarding. Once boarding is granted the airline actually has a greater level of obligation to provide transport.
2) So United was actually “refusing transport” which they are only allowed to do under very specific circumstances, and making room for United employees is not one of them.


You omitted the most infuriating part of the story and that makes your thoughts upsetting and nonsense. The most infuriating part of what happened is not dragging off of Dr Dao from the plane, but United initial reaction to it.
By cherry picking the least controversial parts of the story, you can give comments like “Pretty much every airline would do and have done the exact same thing by getting the authorities involved.”, which are correct but do not connect with the heart of issue. The heart of issue is not that United called low enforcement, but that it was not bothered even after seeing how brutally they were in removing the customer. This inhumane ignorance is cornerstone of what happened. Omitting that and then saying “Pretty much every airline would do and have done the exact same thing by getting the authorities involved” makes your thoughts ridiculous.


Airlines do what people want and by and large they want cheap fares. If people want to fly on an airline that does not oversell, then the prices on that airline will be higher. If they want to fly on a flight that never gets cancelled due to a mechanical problem then the airline could have a standby plane and crew always at the gate next door. Then guess what, prices will be higher. Sure, it was not good that he was dragged off the plane. The outrage over taking four paying passengers off a plane so that a whole other flight doesn’t get cancelled is dumb. Airline dilemma: cancel flight of a plane full of passengers, or remove four people? Not a hard choice.

Jack out of the box

They could have avoided the whole situation by sending the employees or some passengers by taxi for 5 hours. Probably wouldn’t have been so bad.


its unbelievable how folks are taking it a little extreme against united.
the over booking while not nice is legal. the brutality is not acceptable but its done by aviation police. its not united crew who did it.
please are used to sueing or have hatred towards corporations. this is ridiculous attitude.
i do agree that they should have been more sensitive about initial statement.

this is not a war against captalism or corporate industry. people need to see facts for what it is.


Regarding how he got chosen, I thought i read somewhere that the doctor first volunteered to get off until he learned that the next flight wasn’t until afternoon the next day. At which point he changed his mind and said he had to get back to his patients. Sorry, I don’t have a link to where i read that.


Why weren’t the crew able to “randomly” chose someone else after he explained he was a doctor and needed to be on this flight?
Perhaps the crew are partially to blame by abusing their authority instead of being a compassionate human?


honestly, that guy’s treatment’s nothing compared to what they’ve done to me.
they gave him a little back massage and sent him on his way (then apparently huge payment.)



hey guys here is the deal.while we can debate this incident until the cows come home,the outcome and Consequences for United Continental Holdings Inc,will be determined by the court of public opinion,hence the reason they will settle. while you and i may understand this incident thoroughly ,the average person thinks that united has knocked somebody’s teeth out.therefor leaving united with egg on their face,regardless of your level headed,logical and true explanation.


whats your take on this united customer that claimed a scorpion stung him during a flight?………will it affect the airline even more?


To me the most criminal act was the chicago police department putting out a statement defending the police by saying that the passenger fell on his own and injured himself. This is pretty typical of police coverups for crimes they’ve committed and made even more offensive by the fact that they all saw people video taping the incident and still felt safe to make that ludicrous statement. Just goes to show what police will lie about when there are no cameras around. Here is the statement.

“At approximately 6:00 p.m., A 69-year-old male Asian airline passenger became irate after he was asked to disembark from a flight that was oversold. The passenger in question began yelling to voice his displeasure at which point Aviation Police were summoned. Aviation Officers arrived on scene attempted to carry the individual off of the flight when he fell. His head subsequently struck an armrest causing injuries to his face. The man was taken to Lutheran General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Ongoing investigation.”


United didn’t drag him off, the police did. United did what every airline does. This passenger had the chance to get off peacefully and he chose not to. He even talked about suing and being dragged off before he was dragged off. Until my wife started working for an airline, not United, we probably would have thought the way most other people who just does not know how the system works. Can’t speak for United, but the airline my wife works at first asks for volunteers with compensation. If not everyone shows up and these volunteers are not needed which happens more often than not, then there is no longer a need for volunteers. If no one volunteers, then the airlines have to wait until the 15 minutes before the plane is due to leave to allow everyone to check in. By this time everyone who is there has boarded. So, if overbooked at this point and no one still volunteers then the airline has to start asking those who checked in last that they are being involuntarily bumped. If it’s a child or handicapped person who checked in last, they are not bumped. So, it’s the last qualified person who checked in last that has to get off. As far as compensation, my wife’s airline gives 4 times what the passenger paid for his ticket up to $3,000 or $3,500 cap. So, if he paid $100 for his ticket, he would have gotten $400. If he paid $1,000, he would have gotten the max. As far as allowing the airline employees to fly instead of passengers, the airline industry, and rightfully so, believes it’s better to inconvenience 1 passenger versus 100’s. They were on their way to work because the crew on the plane these employees were going to had probably timed out or were sick or whatever. It’s an unfortunate situation that did not need to happen.


Dan- I agree with everything you said if I were to look at this incident as an isolated incident. I think the issue caught fire with the public because there is a feeling out there that the airlines are screwing us. You’ve been posting for years about how the airlines are raising mileage awards, limiting choice, taking away seemingly popular flights. That’s not even including taking away leg room, paying for baggage, seat assignments, front of plane seat assignments, no middle row seat assignments, snacks, drinks, etc, etc. The public reaction was just a giant moan against the entire airline industry.