Signature Assignment Journalism





United Airlines Passenger Removal

Brooke Slade

Utah Valley University














The news has been overtaken with the current United Airlines fiasco.  A man was dragged off one of the airlines flights after he refused to give up his seat for other passengers that needed the seats.  The man, later identified as Dr. Dao was selected at random to leave the flight.  He refused to leave, stating that he had to get to his work at a hospital the next day and needed to stay on the flight.  Many of the news sources that reported on this story had the same details about the event.  There were some discrepancies in the stories however.  Each news source sided with the passenger, Dr. Dao, they victimized him while they villainized United Airlines, this was done in varying degrees but each news story was on the same page in doing this.  

 Some of the news sources such as BBC reported mainly on the passenger and the passenger’s family and their point of view on the situation.  They mentioned that the family was grateful for prayers and the support of the many people who are reacting to this situation.  The Airline is mentioned in this article from BBC as well.  There is a lot of positive and negative coverage about the airline, there are mostly negatives when it comes to how the news sources are portraying the airline.  Most of the news sources sided with the victim, Dr. Dao.  There was not a strong bias but there was a slight tilt towards the ‘victim’. 

The fact that the man who was taken off the plane was of Asian descent was pointed out by a few of the news sources.  They stated that many Chinese websites that are similar to twitter, were flooded with angry messages about what they saw.  This shows how race is playing into this story.  The victim was an older Asian man and he was also a doctor.  This image played into how the public took this news story and also how it was represented by the news.  The New York Times wrote a very factual article when the incident first happened.   They represented both sides and wrote simply what had taken place and they did not have a lot of emotion in their article.  They stated that a spokeswoman for United had said that there were staff members that needed seats and the company followed procedure for these types of situations… (Creswell,2017). 

In every article, especially the live news stories like from New York Times, there were disturbing images of the passenger being pulled off the plane.  In the news cast, there was the clip of Dr, Dao being taken off the plane and you could hear and see him yelling and the officials becoming more aggressive.  These images add to the story.  They create a sympathetic view of the passenger (Creswell, 2017).  This supports the outrage that many readers and viewers are expressing.  Euronews was one of the news sources that sided more heavily with the passenger.  They showed some of the memes that readers had posted and poked fun at the airline for their seeming mistreatment of this man (Bertrand, 2017). 

In every case, the “victim” which is the passenger, is portrayed as injured and disheveled.  The news stories all talk about how Dr. Dao was pulled out of his seat and dragged, screaming, down the aisle. He is later seen with blood on his face.”  (BBC,2017).  All of the news stories line up on this front.  They all portray the airline as the aggressor and the passenger as the victim, to some extent.  This may be because, the audience wants to hear about the ‘under-dog’.  They want to side with the poor man who was dragged off the plane when he needed to get to his patients at the hospital he was employed at.  In the articles, such as the Euronews article, the opinions of the public are shown.  They are all outraged about the way Dr. Dao was treated.  They want something to be passionate about, someone to harbor negative feelings towards.  It is as though, pulling a big corporation down, lifts viewers up, together (Bertrand, 2017).

This was a common theme in each of the sources.  It is as if the big news corporations knew that if they did not side with the general public in pressuring United Airlines to apologize, and recognize the severe mistreatment of the passenger, they would lose their audience and people would not be happy with them.  All the news sources such as Euronews, used graphic pictures of Dr. Dao.  They used stills from the videos submitted.  These freeze frames were of this man’s limp body being dragged by the arms down the narrow plane isle, and of his bloodied head as he looks dazed standing on the plane after the incident (Bertrand,2017).  This was a similar theme for all the news sources.  They used these disturbing images to invoke feelings in the viewer, these feelings were to be turned against the airline and the mistreatment of this man who simply wanted to get home.  The news used these powerful images to show where they stood in this case.  If they sided with the airline they would have shown a completely different side. 

  The story evolved as the day went on.  Some of the media took the story and did a piece on how United Airlines responded.  NBC was one of the news sources that did this continued coverage as the story unfolded.  They changed over to a more neutral side and tilted even more towards siding with the Airline.  They pointed out Dr. Dao’s spotted past and also how United Airlines had apologized for this wrong.  They showed the clip of a woman from the Flight Attendants Association and she said that this man had been treated poorly and she agreed it needed to be fixed.  This spin made the Airline look good and Dr. Dao look a bit like a trouble maker and as though he might have also been in the wrong (NBC,2017).

Many of the news sources began to release updated articles on what was new in the story.  These articles all seemed to take a neutral approach as they discussed that the Airline had apologized and there was an investigation going on.  They did not want to sound overzealous in giving out new information that was not totally confirmed true or untrue.  Instead, they focused on the events that had happened and they spun off from there.  In some cases, such as in the case of NBC news, they dug up seemingly unrelated facts about Dr. Dao’s past and made them seem like they related to this incident and what was going on.  They helped shape how viewers took in and analyzed the story. 

Everything from the passengers’ ethnicity, the noises and voices on the video, the images of blood and the response from United Airlines has shaped this story as it has grown and new details have come to light.  The news took off with the story and many Asian countries took this story hard and there was a viral uprising.  At first, the media took the video and replayed the most horrible sounding parts and the most disturbing images.  Then they moved to getting more factual information and creating stories out of what the airlines rules are and how Dr. Dao might have already agreed once to leave the plane.  The media then began to dig into Dr. Dao’s past and come up with more elements to keep viewers interested in the story, they used facts that were not very related to the incident on the plane, just to help shape the viewers’ idea of the parties involved.  The news used images, words and persuasive representing of these things, in order to make the viewer see and think what the news sources wanted them to. 









  1. (2017, April 11). United Airlines boss sorry for ‘horrific’ passenger removal. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from

Bertrand, P. (2017, April 11). United faces global backlash after dragging passenger from plane. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from /united-faces-global-backlash-after-dragging-passenger-from-plane

Creswell, J. (2017, April 11). United Apologizes for Removing Passenger: ‘No One Should Ever Be Mistreated This Way’. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from

  1. (n.d.). Footage emerges of passenger before he was dragged off United flight. Retrieved April 12, 2017, from .html
  2. (n.d.). United Promises Investigation After Outrage Over Booted Passenger. Retrieved April 11, 2017, from -919062083682jj   Signature Assignment Journalism