In the latest of his statements, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has asserted that no one will be fired over the abuse of David Dao, a passenger on a United Airlines flight two weeks ago.
As many may remember, Dao was the victim of a grievous abuse of power by airport officials on a United Airlines flight from Chicago’s O’ Hare airport to Louisville, Kentucky, two Sundays ago. After the airline overbooked the flight the 69-year-old doctor was on, they resorted to asking for volunteers to leave the plane. With no takers, airline staff offered an $800 incentive and promised that those who gave up their seats would be re-boarded on the next available flight. When that didn’t work either, United Airlines selected four passengers “at random” to vacate their seats. Dao was one of those passengers. While the other three obliged, Dao remained, indicating that he was a doctor and had patients that couldn’t wait. Airline staff then called aviation police to escort Mr. Dao off the plane. That “escort,” however, ended up becoming more of a forced removal that left the elderly Vietnamese man with a broken nose, two missing front teeth, and badly damaged sinuses. Video from onlookers shows the man being forcibly dragged out of his chair and down the center aisle of the plane. After screaming for some time, his body seems to go limp and lifeless.
Those who viewed the now viral videos around the world were livid, with several Chinese citizens even calling for a complete boycott of the company. The actions taken by the airline were considered by many to be racist, discriminatory, and inhumane. Comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon both produced skits mocking the actions of the $18 billion aviation powerhouse, as did many others. Reports even indicate the value of the airline dropped more than $1 billion the very next day.
CEO Oscar Munoz’s first response was to support his airline, with sources claiming the 58-year-old even went so far as to rebuke the actions of the passenger in an in-house letter he sent to his employees. He claimed the airline “followed protocol” and did nothing wrong. Later, after allegedly watching the video for the first time, Munoz retraced his steps and issued an apology to Dao, his wife, and United Airlines customers. He also claimed that he was “deeply ashamed” of the actions taken by the airline, and that the world had seen the company at one of its darkest moments. In what seemed like an effort to make amends, the CEO then refunded every passenger that had been on that flight for the full cost of their trip. Though skeptics claimed the apology was staged and insincere, United Airlines gained a bit of ground back.
Now, with Dao’s new statement, it seems he’s changing his tune yet again. Calling the incident nothing more than “a system failure,” Munoz indicated that no one person would be punished for their actions, though policies would be changed to prevent a similar occurrence in the future. He then claimed that he would be traveling to China in an effort to talk the situation over with officials and customers from the country of over 1 billion.
Sources suggest Munoz is playing a dangerous game by straddling the fence between his company and the victim. Reports indicate David Dao has been contemplating filing a lawsuit against United, and it seems like most of the world is on his side. With shares of parent company United Continental still steadily dropping (records show they dropped 4 percent on Tuesday alone), the CEO must decide who to support, and quickly.
Several of the airline’s customers have voiced concerns about whether or not they’ll ever fly United again.
[Featured Image by Richard Drew/AP Images]