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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Defending United Airlines: Law professor Andy Martin defends United Airlines from recent social media criticism

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Andy Martin defends United Airlines and says the obstreperous doctor who caused a flight disturbance in Chicago should have been removed from a United flight

Andy says social media are corrupting common sense and public discourse to the point of anarchy

Andy says the offending Kentucky doctor should be arrested and charged for resisting a law enforcement officer

Andy also says the Chicago Police Department or airport security acted lawfully and properly

Andy says the United Airlines “leggings controversy” was also more social media-inspired nonsense

(Near the Winter White House, Palm Beach, Florida) (April 11 2017)

Dear American:

I may be the only person in the entire United States defending United Airlines and the Chicago police or O’Hare Airport security, but I believe the airline acted lawfully and properly in removing an obstreperous passenger from a Chicago-Louisville flight on Sunday. As someone who is both familiar with United and its policies I think the firestorm of criticism on social media is just so much blather. Social media and the morons who pop and toot without any information, let alone informed information, are creating social anarchy in our public square.

We’ve had arguments at my own home over the removal incident which has received widespread publicity on cable TV and other mainstream media. But when the New York Times started printing the opinions of morons who should know better, I felt and feel it was time for some sanity to be injected into the debate.

I am an active member of several frequent flyer programs, including United’s, and fly regularly, particularly now that President Trump is on a regular Washington/Florida schedule. I also used United’s “buddy passes” for many years and am familiar with the corporate programs affording friends of employees reduced fares.

Let’s start with the crazy doctor who thinks he is the most important person in the world.

There have been many cell-phone videos posted on the Internet, shown in an endless loop on cable TV, with whackos in the background screaming “Oh God” even though they were not threatened. But one of the passengers, perhaps the individual closest to the unruly passenger, confirmed on, I believe, CNN that airline staff acted courteously, and Chicago police or airport security staff also acted with extreme restraint and courtesy before removing the passenger. When the passenger started acting belligerently, police or security staff had every right to remove the individual from the plane.

First, some background for those who do not fly regularly or ignore the messages given at the beginning of every flight. Federal law requires all passengers to obey crew instructions. A commercial airliner is not a democracy and it is not a public forum where people have “rights” to make fools of themselves or conduct protests. One moron who should know better, Andrew D Gilman of CommCore Consulting Group, was quoted in the New York Times as saying “it was my seat.” Uhh, no. It is the airlines’ seat.

Second, overbooking used to be a major problem. But airlines today have refined and sophisticated their reservations programs to the point where overbooking is a rare issue. I seldom hear airline employees asking for “volunteers” because flights almost always have sufficient seats for those who actually show up. But when the aviation system is disrupted, as it was last week because of strange weather patterns, problems arise (Delta Airlines, not United, had the worst). Nevertheless, it is critical to keep in mind we are dealing not with a widespread problem but rather an extremely unusual one.

Third, federal law gives airline employees virtually dictatorial powers because of the inherent dangers and closeness of air travel. A plane’s “captain” is called a captain for a reason. Aviation law derives from maritime law.

Fourth, when a crew member seeks assistance from local law enforcement (I am not sure whether the guards were Chicago Police Officers or airport security officers) law enforcement has a duty respond. In every state of the United States, refusal to obey a law enforcement officer is grounds for the officer to physically remove someone from a premises. Usually people go willingly. But when they do not, such as by going “limp” to obstruct an officer during a protest, force may be employed.

The doctor in question acted as though he was the law and everyone was answerable to him, not vice versa. That is simply not the case. There is no question that air crew and the police initially acted courteously and with restraint. But once he refused to move after a request to do so, he could be removed forcibly and he was. His display of crazy behavior marks him as someone who should not be allowed on an airplane ever again.

Fifth, what do I think should happen? The doctor should be criminally charged and prosecuted for his outrageous behavior and disruption. If he is senile that should be taken into consideration, but then why is someone with such an emotional response pattern allowed to practice medicine in Kentucky?

The Chicago police and the airline staff should be commended for their initial restraint.

The airline has a right to randomly chose passengers for removal when flight conditions mandate urgent action. Perhaps United Airlines should review whether staff should have been allowed to keep “upping the ante” until some passenger grabbed at the opportunity for free travel (I’d support that approach. Whenever an airline announces my own fight is looking for “volunteers,” I always volunteer, though I set a high dollar point for reimbursement.)

I would urge the public to stop responding like idiots to every video posted on social media. The videos of the crazy passenger did not carry with them any disclosure that the crew and security staff had initially acted with restraint and with extreme courtesy to all passengers. It was only when the crazy doctor provoked the police that direct action was taken as a last resort.

Finally, this is not the only social mediagasm United has experienced in recent weeks. When two guests of the airline traveling on a “buddy pass” were removed from the flight there was another firestorm of stupidity and misleading commentary. Because I flew for many years on discounted United passes I know all about the matter.

Every airline gives free travel to family members of its employees, as well as offering a limited numbers of “passes” to employees so friends can join them. One of my pilot buddies flew for United and while he was a pilot every year he offered me use of some of the discounted passes. I don’t remember the exact amount but the airline offered either an 85% or 90% discount from regular fares as well as other very liberal benefits (e.g. free upgrades). But, United Airlines has a dress code. When you travel on an employee pass, you are subject to the airlines dress code for discounted travel. Seems like a “fare” deal to me.

From the firestorm of moronic social media criticism of United you would have thought the airline was imposing a draconian dress code on all of its passengers. Since when did it become bad form for a business to impose reasonable conditions on a discounted employee benefit?

Social media are creating a situation where every minor matter gets escalated into a national hysteria without any factual basis or application of common sense.

I am not against all social media. Phone cameras and social media have pioneered in exposing police brutality and other forms of abuse. But if social media are allowed to create a bogus conflagration every time some public or airline employee acts properly in response to a recalcitrant passenger, the use of social media will be degraded and ultimately curtailed.

United Airlines, its employees and the Chicago Police (or airport security) are entitled to an apology from the millions of know-nothings and media jerks who have sensationalized boorish and unlawful behavior by the Kentucky crazy doctor and others who were taking advantage of airline “buddy pass” benefits.

There are two sides to every story. Sadly, social media and mainstream media following in the wake of social eruptions, often provide only one perspective, a mistaken and misleading one.


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Andy Martin is a legendary New Hampshire, New York and Chicago muckraker, author, Internet columnist, talk television pioneer, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. With forty-nine years of background in radio and television and with five decades of investigative and analytical experience in Washington, the USA and around the world, Andy provides insight on politics, foreign policy, intelligence and military matters. For a full bio, go to:; also see

Andy has also been a leading corruption fighter in American politics and courts for over fifty years and is executive director of the National Anti-Corruption Policy Institute. See also;

He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).

He is the author of “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” [] and produced the Internet film “Obama: The Hawaii’ Years” []. Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” blogging at and

Andy’s family immigrated to Manchester, New Hampshire 100 years ago; today his home overlooks the Merrimack River and he lives around the corner from where he played as a small boy. He is New Hampshire’s leading corruption fighter and Republican Party reformer.


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