United Airlines is facing a PR nightmare after a passenger was forcibly removed from one of their planes this past Sunday. In a video of the incident taken by a witness, other passengers reacted with shock and horror when a passenger was knocked out by authorities and dragged off the plane, and multiple videos of the incident quickly went viral.
After passengers finished boarding Flight 3411 from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago destined for Louisville, Kentucky, four United crewmembers approached the gate needing seats on the plane. They needed to reach Louisville as they were scheduled to operate a flight there the next morning.
Since the crewmembers arrived after the flight was already fully boarded, United began asking for four volunteers to leave and take a different flight later. United first offered $400 per passenger in compensation, and increased to $800 after there were no volunteers. After there were still no volunteers, passengers were picked at random to leave the plane and make room for staff. The first three passengers complied and left the plane, but the fourth passenger selected to leave, 69-year-old Dr. David Dao, refused, stating that he had patients to see the next morning.
Three aviation department security officers then came on the plane, and after attempting to reason with the passenger, grabbed Dr. Dao out of his seat, who began screaming. His head was then hit against an armrest and he fell unconscious. The security officers then dragged the man off of the plane with blood visible from his lip. Another video taken later shows Dr. Dao running down the aisle with blood on his face, repeating that he “needed to go home”.
The flight took off after a three-hour delay, without Dr. Dao on board.
United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, responded to the incident in an email to employees stating that the passenger was “disruptive and belligerent” and lauded employees for following “established procedures”. He also issued a public statement, apologizing for having to “re-accommodate” passengers. After backlash from the public, Munoz issued another apology, stating, “no one should ever be mistreated this way”.
The Chicago Department of Aviation Security has put the man who grabbed Dr. Dao on leave pending a thorough review of the situation. “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,” Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride said.
Dr. Dao told WLKY Tuesday that he is recovering in a Chicago hospital and that he wasn’t doing well. According to the family’s attorney, Stephen Golan, “The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received. Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao’s medical care and treatment”.