By now, most folks have probably heard about the incredible situation that occurred on April 9 in which a United Airlines passenger on a flight out of Chicago was forcibly removed from his seat and physically dragged off the airplane. The passenger wasn’t causing trouble; neither was he a threat to air safety. He simply refused to be “bumped” from the flight – to give up his seat, which he bought and paid for – in order to make room for four United employees whose travel the airline insisted was more important. Yes, in their opinion, more important than its customers.
The entire incident was caught on camera, filmed by other passengers using their cellphones. A lawyer for the passenger who was removed – a doctor from Kentucky named David Dao – said the man was physically injured in the altercation, suffering a broken nose and two broken teeth, as well as being publicly humiliated.
United initially claimed the flight was overbooked. Gate crew asked passengers prior to boarding to voluntarily give up their seats in exchange for vouchers and other incentives. However, once the passengers were on the plane, the flight crew announced four people still needed to volunteer to give up their seats. Eventually the airline resorted to a random lottery, selecting passengers that would be required to deplane. When Dr. Dao refused to leave the plane, saying he had to work the next day, Chicago aviation police officers forcibly removed him as he screamed, eventually dragging his body down the aisle and off the plane in front of other horrified passengers.
Making matters worse, it later came to light that United was requiring passengers – its paying customers – to give up their seats to off-duty United flight crew, whose schedules were apparently more important to the airline.
Video of the incident quickly went viral online, sparking international outrage. United CEO Oscar Munoz offered a ludicrous and insulting initial “apology,” in which he said the airline was sorry for “having to re-accommodate these customers,” fanning the flames of indignation and causing United stock to plunge. On April 11, Munoz finally issued a statement calling the event “truly horrific,” pledging to take full responsibility and make things right with its customers, as well as announcing an internal investigation into the incident.
Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who are ranking members of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, called for United and the Chicago Department of Aviation to provide an explanation for the events leading to the forcible removal of the passenger to their committee by April 20. Rather than meeting that deadline, Munoz sent a letter to the senators saying its internal investigation is still underway, and promised answers by April 27. Ginger Evans, Commissioner of the Chicago Aviation Department, says her department will have its own report ready April 26. The senators answered by saying the delay is “unacceptable.”
It is hard to believe either the airline or the aviation department will come up with an acceptable explanation for these recent events, no matter how much time they are given to do so. United did settle with Dr. Dao last week by paying a confidential amount in settlement of all claims.
Sources: The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Washington Post, BoardingArea.com
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