Dr. David Dao was forcibly and violently removed from a United Airlines flight after refusing to give up his seat. It’s understood the 69-year-old physician from Elizabethtown, Kentucky, was removed by police from the United Express flight last Sunday at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport after refusing to leave the plane to make room for four airline employees.
– LADbible (@ladbible) April 13, 2017
The Star Tribune reported that Doctor Dao’s lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, has accused United Airlines of getting away with bullying its customers for far too long.
“Are we going to continue to be treated like cattle?”
At a news conference, Demetrio said that Dr. Dao had been released from the hospital but will require reconstructive surgery. Videos show Dr. Dao with a bloodied face being dragged down the aisle of the plane on his back.
Dr. Dao arrived in the United States after fleeing Vietnam by boat in 1975 at the fall of Saigon. Demetrio said that being dragged off the plane was more horrifying and harrowing for Dr. Dao than what he experienced when leaving Vietnam.
Demetrio has indicated that Dr. Dao will be suing United airlines and that for way too long, the industry has bullied passengers by overbooking flights and then bumping people. Now that this incident has occurred, at least the conversation has started.
“I hope he becomes a poster child for all of us. Someone’s got to.”
To make matters worse for United airlines, its CEO, Oscar Munoz, semi-apologized for the incident, but said that Dr. Dao had been “belligerent.”
His statement caused an uproar, and he later added, “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”
– Hollywood Reporter (@THR) April 17, 2017
Munoz has now promised to review the airline’s policies to ensure this type of incident never occurs again. He also said police will no longer be used to remove bumped passengers. In addition, all passengers on the flight would get a refund. Both United Airlines and Munoz himself have stated that they’ve tried to call Dr. Dao numerous times to apologize, but Demetrio said that neither Dao nor his family has received any such calls.
Maybe Dr. Dao already has become a “poster child” for change, as his lawyer predicted. CBS News reported that United Airlines and two other rival airlines have changed their policies in the last few days.
In addition to its promise to no longer involve the police in bumping passengers, United Airlines now say that they will “no longer allow crew members to displace customers already on a plane.”
– Linda Suhler, Ph.D. (@LindaSuhler) April 17, 2017
Delta makes no such promise but has said that it will offer up to $10,000 to entice someone to give up a seat, while American Airlines promises it will “never bump a passenger once the passenger is seated.”
According to Dr. Dao’s daughter, Pepper, her mother and father had been traveling from California to Louisville and had caught a connecting flight at O’Hare. Following the terrifying incident on the plane, Demetrio said Dr. Dao “has no interest in ever seeing an airplane” and will probably be driven to Kentucky.
It’s understood that United airlines unsuccessfully offered $800 in travel vouchers and a hotel stay for customers who would be willing to give up their seats. When this failed, they selected Dr. Dao and three other randomly chosen passengers for removal from the plane.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the airline’s initial response to the adverse publicity over the treatment of Dr. Dao has left it covered in shame.
The video clip being shown around the world last Monday showed a passenger, Dr. Dao, being violently removed from a United airlines plane for refusing to be “voluntarily” bumped from the flight. To add insult to injury, Oscar Munoz, United Airlines’ CEO, responded with the following statement.
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”
United Airlines’ public relations department issued the following explanation.
“After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.”
– Newsweek (@Newsweek) April 17, 2017
Then, on Monday evening, Munoz followed up with a letter to employees, saying that the then-unidentified passenger was disruptive and belligerent.
“Airline agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight.”
It’s also questionable as to whether United airlines had “no choice” but to forcibly eject the passenger because its crew members — who intended to take the places of those passengers selected for removal — could have been transported by a five-hour road trip or by chartering another aircraft.
Still, Munoz claims that “treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are.”
Strangely, the law permits air carriers to overbook flights. Basically, this means they’re allowed to sell more tickets than they have seats for, a situation that clearly benefits the airlines because it ensures every seat will be filled even though some passengers may be left behind.
It’s true that passengers who have been bumped have rights to compensation, but the airlines can set their own rules for bumping travelers. Passengers targeted will typically include those who are not part of a frequent flyer program, those paying the lowest fares, or those who check in late. Passengers who are bumped, leaving them more than two hours late to a domestic destination, are entitled to compensation of 400 percent of their one-way fare, up to $1,350, plus the value of their ticket.
But in practical terms, a two-hour delay in a flight could result in a lost business contract or a missed family event. And for United Airlines, it proves that their passengers are expendable by summoning the police to do their dirty work.
USA Today reported that United Airlines insisted their flight was overbooked, and it had no choice but to contact authorities when Dr. Dao refused to leave the plane.
Videos of the incident on the United Airlines flight last Sunday in Chicago went viral, drawing hundreds of millions of viewers around the world.
Responding to the social media outrage, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz offered a public apology. However, in a letter to his employees, he stated that established procedures were followed when the Louisville-bound flight was overbooked.
“This situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”
Chicago aviation officials have made the following statement.
“The incident on United Flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department.”
In China alone, videos showing the terrifying incident on United Airlines drew more than 200 million viewers, with many Chinese viewers expressing outrage over a possible ethnic bias.
– Binni Shah (@binitamshah) April 16, 2017
Dr. Dao became very upset when approached on the plane, saying he was a doctor who needed to meet with his patient the next morning. After refusing to leave, videos show security officers forcibly removing him from the plane. Somehow, he managed to get back on the flight, but according to passengers, his face was bloodied and he seemed disoriented. Everyone on the plane was shocked and appalled, and children on the flight were reportedly very upset.
It seems that United Airlines has a long road ahead in restoring faith and trust in its flying passengers.
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