Why I Changed My Mind About the Passenger Dragged Off the Airplane

“A gain putting the blame on the passenger… He was not IDB, he was boarded so why should he give up his seat? Not complying to crew instructions? Where in this whole story was this man a threat to security? Why can a man not stand its grounds and say: you boarded me, you have my money, this is my seat. I would have also refused to give up my seat, especially in this situation.”

Why I Changed My Mind About the Passenger Dragged Off the Airplane

I have read again what Tim — who is a reader of The Gatecommented in contradiction to what I wrote in this article pertaining to how there is plenty of blame to go around; and in light of the events which followed — including this apology and taking full responsibility for the incident by United Airlines — I must agree with him.

I initially wrote in the aforementioned article that “…the unidentified passenger in question for not simply following the directions of members of the flight crew; and supposedly creating enough of a scene which prompted someone from United Airlines to call in law enforcement — rather than leave the airplane quietly and voice concerns with employees of the airline.” Pertaining to this specific incident, I was wrong.

Had the passenger done exactly what I said, this would not have been an issue which escalated to unbelievable proportions. He most likely would have missed his flight and received little in compensation or consolation from United Airlines.

Instead, his rebellious response has now led to forcing Oscar Munoz to review policies currently in place at United Airlines; and figure out how to improve those policies so that an incident such as this one will never happen again.

I am not about to comment on the questionable past of the passenger; nor will I call him a hero…

…but one thing he did do is help to raise awareness — and that ultimately showed a multibillion dollar corporation that the world can indeed get together; call for change for the better; boycott and protest against the brand to the point where it lost significant value; and actually possibly get that change.


I still believe that there is a time and place for everything; but I also believe in rebellion when necessary — and sometimes the wrong time and place is the best time and place. Deciding when that should happen is incredibly difficult and not without trials and tribulations…

…but standing one’s ground has been proven throughout history to work and effect change as a result; and I hope that it continues in order to help improve mankind in general…

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

20 thoughts on “Why I Changed My Mind About the Passenger Dragged Off the Airplane”

  1. J smith says:

    Getting taken off the plane has nothing to do with social resistance. This post is quite possibly one of the dumbest things I have ever read on the Internet.

  2. Christian says:

    Sometimes there is no right time or place to rebel. All you can do is try and hope. After all, rebellions are built on hope.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I do not believe that the passenger in question boarded the airplane with the specific purpose of rebelling, Christian.

      Sometimes, it just happens — right or wrong…

    2. James says:

      Nice Rogue One reference 😉

  3. Kenneth McClintock says:

    Airlines proceed to board passengers 30 minutes before flight time. I believe the airline is fully within its rights to bump a passenger who has paid the fare, been assigned a seat by the airline and been issued a boarding pass until the passenger has been invited by the airline to board. However, once the passenger has boarded, and taken possession of the seat which he or she has paid and was assigned, the airline’s right to bump, absent a safety consideration, vanishes.

    If the airline wants to accommodate a crew member it needs at the destination city for operational reasons, the minimum it can demand of that crew member as a condition to bump a passenger is that the gate agent of the same airline be informed at least 30 and preferably 45 minutes in advance of departure that a seat must be made available for that crew member. A passenger who is informed that he or she will be involuntarily bumped while still at the gate does not have the same expectations of flying as one who has settled into his plane seat.

    Or do the airlines reasonably believe that their right to bump is absolutely unlimited? Do they think that they can recall a plane waiting its turn to take off, bring it back to the gate and bump someone, recall a plane which has just taken off to circle back for a switch in passengers? I think the line should be drawn at the point that the passenger boards, and United went far past that line.

    If United bumped the passenger that stood his ground it is because, as most airlines, it is severely understaffed, with no reserve crews or equipment even in major hub cities as ORD is for United, because their Ops team is uncoordinated (for example not displaying delays when it is obvious that a late arriving plane that has not begun to board 15 minutes before flight time is obviously delayed).

    If the affected passenger sues, and United doesn’t settle, I hope that judge and jury impose a significant penalty on the airline so the they can invest in reserve crews, additional equipment, correction of operational deficiencies that will minimize involuntary bumping.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I completely agree, Kenneth McClintock.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  4. Hkhhg says:

    Fuck off you credit card whore

  5. Rich says:

    Wheather his past is questionable or not what relevance does it have to him being dragged off the plane and bein treated worse than an animal? You won’t speak of it? Thanks for being so gracious not to speak of it?

  6. James H says:

    You won’t call him a hero…because of his “questionable past”?
    He did something that few other FFers or travel bloggers will do — take a stand. It may result in revised policies and better treatment of passengers. I think he damn well should be commended. Based on what other passengers said — that his behavior was no issue until ejected — his past has absolutely zilch to do with this, despite your judgy comments.

    Oh, as you say… changed your mind because you were wrong.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I said I will not call him a hero, James H.

      I never said that he should not be commended. The whole point of the article was that I now believe that he was right to take a stand.

      Where exactly is the disagreement here?!?

      1. James H. says:

        Saying you WON’T call him a hero…implies you still question his actions. And you stated that right before mentioning his “questionable past…”
        before going on to your “make the world better” drivel.

        What you don’t realize is that simply raising his “past” acknowledges those who wrongly believe it is relevant. It is not. Yet, you chose to mention it. Maybe you didn’t intend to imply that. Or maybe it was a Freudian slip.

        1. Brian Cohen says:

          I absolutely did not intend to imply that, James H. — and never did intend to imply that.

  7. bigbird says:

    You made a remarkably dumb initial post and this one is dumber! Gee….”I am not about to comment on the questionable past of the passenger; nor will I call him a hero…”

    what does his past have to do w/anything? United handled this horribly. It was 100% United’s fault. Your not commenting on something this doctor did more than a decade ago comments on it—and with respect, you just doubled down like United did. Though it took United 3x to get it right. How many times do you need? Yeesh

    1. Brian Cohen says:


      …what you stated is one reason why I did not comment about his past, bigbird?!?

  8. J Baker says:

    This incident has been an eye opener. I have been reading all the bloggers on boardingarea up to now. I now have three blogger I know I will never read again, and one of them is the gate.

  9. Aston says:

    Keep on backpedaling there champ!

  10. Bluebird says:

    I used to read all your posts. With your post on the United bump gate, I won’t follow you anymore. I am sure I won’t be the first and won’t be the last one. Bye!

  11. doublejade says:

    You comment on this is just dumb. I stopped clicking on your post after you made that comment on uber female only car. And this time again, it proved that how dumb you are.

  12. Mark says:

    So hopping around as a newbie from Colombia to Europe! My wife and I are planning a trip to Europe and I’d seen your blog (started with a post on Bogota) and ended up here. Lake Bled and Lake Como I’d heard about from a few other travelers and travel dating has been a thing for my wife and I. I imagine this is just a short list of what’s truly out there. Excited to explore the continent with my love! Thanks for some ideas.

  13. Jake says:

    Hey Brian,
    My newsfeed has been filled with this “news” and the one about backpackers begging in Asia. Apparently I’ve liked to many travel related articles on Facebook and can’t get away from them. Too be honest this is the first article I read about it and it looks like I need further background. Going now to the FB feed to check some one. Standing ground has lead to change and I’m sure United is going to have to move in the direction of change. Crazy how news like this goes viral. Thanks for your thoughts.

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