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CEO of United Airlines Says No One Will Be Fired Over the Dao Dragging Incident

— April 20, 2017

The CEO of United Airlines said nobody would be fired after the forceful eviction of a passenger took the media by storm.

Chief executive officer Oscar Munoz said he takes full responsibility for “making this right,” promising more details and plans towards the end of the month.

The airline lost over $1 billion in stock through Tuesday as stockholders and social media personalities took an aggressive stance against United. The American carrier’s response to the manhandling of a doctor told to de-board an oversold flight has been termed a “PR disaster.” United had initially termed the Dao incident a “re-accommodation” as videos depicting him being dragged down the plane aisle began showing up on YouTube and in the news.

Boeing 787-8 'N45905' United Airlines; photo by Alan Wilson, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.
Boeing 787-8 ‘N45905’ United Airlines; photo by Alan Wilson, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, no changes.

David Dao, who is 69 years old, refused to get off a United flight which had been oversold. The airline needed to remove four passengers to make room for employees needed at another airport. Dao, upon being randomly selected, said he was a doctor and had patients to see in the morning.

Rather than attempting to find a peaceful way to resolve what had become a tricky situation, flight attendants called security at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Black-clad officers boarded the airplane and took hold of Dao’s arms, dragging him to the front as passengers recorded his brutal treatment. Several people on the flight allegedly asked United staff and security personnel if they were “proud” of what they were doing.

CNN reported last week that David Dao and his wife had “initially agreed to get off the plane.”

“But once they found out that the next flight wasn’t until Monday afternoon, he demurred and sat back, saying he was a physician who needed to get to work the next day,” wrote Emanuella Grinberg and Holly Yan of CNN.

Flight attendants had tried to prompt passengers to volunteer to be “bumped” with offers of $800 flight vouchers – a figure which falls a way below what United is obliged to offer individuals who are involuntarily denied boarding due to oversold flights.

The result of a dispute that should have been solved diplomatically was Dao being removed from the flight with his face covered in blood. He also suffered a concussion and broken teeth, as well as a broken nose. The physician was recovering in a Chicago hospital a week after it happened.

Munoz’s handling of the incident was widely criticized at first. He has since vowed to ensure that all United customers are “treated with dignity.”

In a meeting Tuesday, Munoz was asked whether he’d considered firing anyone, including management, over Dao’s treatment.

“I’m sure there was lots of conjecture about me personally,” Munoz responded. An online petition which has gathered tens of thousands of signatures has called for his removal.

“It was a system failure across various areas,” he continued. “There was never consideration for firing an employee.”

Although United shareholders and high-end flyers have reaffirmed their faith both in the company and its CEO, David Dao and his legal counsel are preparing for a lawsuit against the airline. Last week, Dao’s attorneys demanded in court that United and Chicago O’Hare International Airport preserve video evidence and documents pertaining to the incident.


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