A United Airlines passenger who was on the same flight as Dr. David Dao said that an officer laughed as he and others dragged the man down the aisle and off the plane.
The passenger, a high school teacher traveling with seven of his students, penned a letter for the Chicago Tribune in which he described how he and other United Airlines flight 3411 passengers reacted to the now-infamous scene.
According to Jason Powell, a teacher at Louisville Male High School in Louisville, Kentucky, the overbooking situation was not handled well by United Airlines staff. In his letter, Powell suggested that while video clips of a bloodied Dr. Dao being dragged from his seat were distressing, it was so much worse for those who were actually at the scene.
“The disgusting mishandling of the situation included everyone from the rude ticket agent who demanded that this man give up his seat on the flight United overbooked, to one of the officers laughing in the midst of the incident, to the violent, abusive way the passenger was dragged off the plane by the officer.”
The video of Dao, a 69-year-old physician of Vietnamese descent, being violently removed from the United Airlines flight quickly went viral on Monday. In it, Dao can be seen being lifted off his window seat and dragged by his arms off the United Airlines plane.
In a second video from the flight, Dao can be seen ashen and injured, with blood pouring from his mouth. It was later confirmed that after being forcibly removed from his seat, during which he hit his head on an armrest, the United Airlines passenger had somehow managed to free himself and run back inside. He was again removed and taken to a hospital.
Social media outrage immediately hit the airline, with people demanding answers and seeking justice for Dao.
In his letter, Powell said that he was “appalled” at how the United Airlines staff handled the situation. In an interview with the Courier-Journal, Powell said that during the encounter, he decided to remove his students from the plane rather than let them witness the horrific abuse. Other United Airlines passengers also got up and left. According to Powell, a father who was trying to console his 8-year-old daughter told an officer, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself!”
Powell also reported that some United Airlines passengers audibly protested David Dao’s removal from the aircraft and that some attempted to interfere.
“This didn’t need to happen,” Powell said.
“I’m sure he didn’t expect it to happen to him; I wouldn’t have expected that to happen to me.”
The United Airlines passenger also said that Dao was “very polite.”
“I could hear pretty clearly. He was acting appropriately annoyed. I was 100 percent with him. I wouldn’t have gotten off the plane either.”
Powell said that while he knows that the airline had to remove some passengers, he couldn’t understand why the situation was not remedied before boarding. He also noted that the United Airlines supervisor who was handling the overbooking had a “belligerent” tone.
“The tone immediately turned me off,” Powell said.
“She accelerated the situation. It was poor leadership.”
“It was the worst possible model for my students, and frankly, was traumatizing to many of us who watched this from such close proximity,” he wrote.
On Wednesday, Dao’s lawyers took the first steps toward a future lawsuit, asking that surveillance video and other evidence from the scene be preserved. They also revealed that Dao had suffered a concussion, a broken nose, and damaged sinuses because of the violent encounter. He had also lost two front teeth.
Since Monday, United Airlines has been dealing with a public relations nightmare that was exacerbated when CEO Oscar Munoz called Dao “disruptive and belligerent” in an email to employees. The backlash led to a plunge in United Airline’s market valuation, a petition for Munoz’s removal, and even a call to end the practice of overbooking.
On Wednesday, Munoz spoke about the incident and said that cops would no longer pull United Airlines passengers from overbooked flights. “This could never, would never happen again on a United Airlines flight,” he told ABC News’ Good Morning America.
“We are not going to put a law enforcement official to take them off the aircraft. To remove a booked, paid, (seated) passenger — we can’t do that.”
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]