On Sunday, a man was dragged violently off a United plane at O’Hare airport when several employees notified crew that they’d need seats on the “overbooked” flight. One man, Dr. David Dao, was randomly selected to “volunteer,” and when he refused, saying he had patients to see the next morning, was violently dragged out of his seat. United has responded by saying sorry not sorry.
An email from CEO Oscar Munoz to staff at United following the drama was leaked and shared by the Independent. Munoz makes it very clear that though he regrets the footage has gone viral, the blame for what happened must be directed at the responsible party—the guy bleeding from his mouth:
Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville.
While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.
As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help.
Our 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.
I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.
In the report included by Oscar Munoz on the circumstances of the man’s removal, there is even more emphasis on how the customer set up his own fall because he “raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions” and as they demanded he leave again and “became more and more disruptive and belligerent.”
There has been some question of who the men dragging this guy down the aisle were associated with, United or the Chicago police department. Munoz names them as Chicago aviation security officers, and at least one of those three officers was suspended pending an investigation. Despite the fine print and corporate doublespeak that United is using to shift blame, The Guardian reports that the US Department of Transportation has opened an investigation on United Airlines overbooking practices, quoting a representative who explained, “While it is legal for airlines to involuntarily bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers, it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities.”
Involuntarily bump is one way to put it.
Oscar Munoz has released another apology, according to USA Today, in which he seems horrified by the attack on Dr. Dao and also unaware that he already wrote a laughable awful statement to staff on the matter:
Statement from United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz on United Express Flight 3411
The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.
I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.
It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.
I promise you we will do better.
The switch could be attributed to the hundreds of millions of dollars United has already lost in the face of their terrible decisions and godawful PR. This note is also accompanied by the news from The Washington Post that spokespeople have confirmed the flight was never overbooked. It was simply “disrupted to transport off-duty crew.”