United Airlines is correcting a couple key details in an incident Sunday evening that has led to international outrage directed at the company, and the CEO is now changing his tone.
On a flight from Chicago to Louisville, embattled Kentucky doctor David Dao was one of four passengers selected to be removed from a flight United originally said was overbooked in order to make room for four crew members who needed to get to Louisville for a later flight.
The airline had offered anyone on the plane up to $800 and a free hotel stay if they would volunteer for a different flight, but no one did.
After Dr. Dao refused to leave his seat, he got into a shouting match with airline employees, leading them to call authorities for help. Three aviation officers arrived and had to forcefully yank Dao out of his seat, resulting him in getting injured and being dragged unconscious down the aisle by the officers, much to the dismay of horrified passengers.
Now United Airlines is clarifying a few things, according to USA Today.
First, United Express Flight 3411 was operated by their regional affiliate Republic Airlines.
Second, the flight was not actually overbooked. All 70 seats were filled by ticketed passengers. However, when the need arose for four crew members to be transported to Louisville, the airline had to select four passengers to give their seats to.
Third, the passengers selected for removal were not chosen purely at random. Based on United’s contract, they were selected through a combination of factors like their check-in time, lack of connecting flights, frequent-flier status, and ticket type.
Two other people, Dr. Dao, and his wife were asked to leave the plane, and all but Dr. Dao did.
Dr. Dao is currently being treated for his injuries. His family has made little comment to the media but say they appreciate “the outpouring of prayers, concern, and support they have received.”
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has defended how Republic Airlines employees handled the situation, saying to them, “I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right."
But now he’s taken a more apologetic tone, according to Washington Post, admitting that he continues “to be disturbed by what happened” and deeply apologizes “to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard.”
“No one should ever be mistreated this way,” he continued. “We are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again.”
Aviation security officials have also made it clear that at least one of their officers acted outside “standard operating procedure.”
On one side of the international debate that has arisen over this are those who stand by the airline for simply following their policies and doing the right thing when Dr. Dao became belligerent and uncooperative.
Others are upset at the airline for putting passengers in the situation where some of them had to be kicked off the plane for no fault of their own.
Still others say that whoever was right or wrong, it’s very bad press for United and they should have offered passengers on the plane more than a $800 incentive before they started forcibly removing them.
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