We don't know how much United Airlines has paid Dr. David Dao in a settlement over a video that shows him being dragged off of a plane, announced today. We do know he was probably paid handsomely (this report calls it "amicable").
And, we don't know if the airline will change their rules about overbooking passengers. (Southwest recently announced they will not continue this aggressive practice.)
However, we do know one thing: It will change the airline industry for the better.
Already, there are rumblings about passenger rights. In another incident today, a passenger who went to the bathroom just before takeoff was forced off the plane. Smartphones can record not just blurry, incoherent video--they can record in high-fidelity with exceptional sound, and that is going to change how we fly.
First off, I'm siding with the passenger in the UA incident. I know many people who say flyers should follow the rules, but the videos speak volumes about how much latitude the airline industry has over this preferred method of business travel. I've been on flights where it seemed like the staff made a snap decision over a passenger--including one involving a dog that would not stop barking--that seemed inappropriate and rude.
Now, that's about to change.
For starters, if you're sitting quietly in your seat with a printed boarding pass and you've been fully vetted by security, there is no reason you should be asked to leave. Imagine that happening in the hotel industry. You're in a room, laying on the bed, and there's a knock on the door. The manager says they've overbooked the room and you have to leave. Would you call the police over that? I'm not sure. If they dragged you from the room, I imagine you'd at least call a lawyer. My sense--after flying hundreds of times in the last 30 years or so--is that there needs to be a better balance.
The customer is always right...unless they are flying United.
My guess is that every airline will start changing the rules about overbooking.
A second trend we'll see is related to reaching your destination. Airlines can hand out cash to willing participants, but the unwilling kind should have more rights about flying no matter what--overbooking or not overbooking. If I'm supposed to be in Austin to give a talk in the morning, and I'm following the rules, the airline should do whatever is necessary to get me there on time, no excuses (except the weather).
Why is this happening? Because everyone has a smartphone, and everyone is able to capture footage. It means: My rights as a passenger, as long as I follow the rules, begin the minute I book a flight and end when I'm safely on the tarmac at my destination.
Now, we'll see if that happens.