Hours After Defending Employees, United Airlines CEO Apologizes in Case of Doctor Dragged off Flight

What to Know

  • The shocking video of a passenger being dragged over an overbooked United flight at O'Hare has caused international backlash
  • United Airlines' parent company CEO Oscar Munoz sent a letter to employees saying he stands behind them, but lessons should be learned
  • The ensuing fracas has brought questions about travelers' rights on flights to the forefront of national conversation

Hours after he defended employees who dragged a passenger off a United flight following an international firestorm over the videotaped fracas, United Airlines President and CEO Oscar Munoz has apologized.

"No one should ever be mistreated this way," Munoz wrote in a memo to his team.

The apology came the same day an internal letter from Munoz to United employees was leaked that acknowledged the disturbing nature of the footage, but said, in part, "employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right."

Later Tuesday, Munoz pledged to "take full responsibility" and vowed United would "work to make it right."

"I promise you we will do better," he said, and apologized directly to David Dao, a Kentucky doctor who has been identified as the man seen in the video screaming as horrified passengers watch him removed from the plane.

Munoz promised the airline would review crew movement and policies for incentivizing volunteer passengers, as well as how it handles overbooked flights and how it works with airport authorities and local police. Munoz says he'll release the results of that review by April 30. 

A passenger recorded the now globally viewed video that showed security officers dragging Dao off a sold-out United Express flight at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Sunday. United has described the flight to Louisville as overbooked, but all the passengers were boarded until United tried to make room for four employees of a partner airline, meaning four people had to get off the flight.

There stood the passenger who had been dragged, now identified as Dao, on his back to the front of the plane, appearing dazed as he spoke through bloody lips and blood that had spilled onto his chin.

"I want to go home, I want to go home," he said.

According to records from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, Dao went to medical school at the University of Medicine of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, graduating in 1974. He was licensed in Kentucky with a specialty in pulmonary disease. 

Airport officials have said little about the Sunday's events and nothing about Dao's behavior before he was pulled from the jet that was bound for Louisville, Kentucky. Likewise, the Aviation Department has said only that one of its employees who removed Dao did not follow proper procedures and has been placed on leave.

No passengers on the plane have mentioned that Dao did anything but refuse to leave the plane when he was ordered to do so.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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