United Airlines changes policy on staff taking overbooked flights after scandal

Airline provoked outrage after a 69-year-old was dragged screaming from the plane

Caroline Mortimer
Monday 17 April 2017 13:08
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United Airlines passenger is dragged off plane because airline overbooked

United Airlines has changed its policy on giving staff last-minute seats on full flights following the fallout from it dragging a screaming passenger from a plane.

Dr David Dao lost two front teeth and suffered a broken nose after he was forcibly removed from the overbooked flight from Chicago to Kentucky last week so a member of staff could take his seat.

Footage of the incident, where several security officers dragged Dr Dao’s hands and legs from the plane, was shared widely on social media.

A leaked letter to employees by United’s chief executive Oscar Munoz revealed the crew had been trying to make space for four employees of a partner airline.

He said the staff had first asked for volunteers to get off the plane and offered $1,000 in compensation, but when no one volunteered they approached individual passengers to deny them boarding.

Three agreed to leave but Dr Dao, who said he needed to return to Kentucky to treat patients the next day, refused and told them they would need to drag him off.

Mr Munoz claimed Dr Dao had been “disruptive and belligerent” but made no mention of the use of excessive force in the initial email.

The 69-year-old's lawyer said he will need to have reconstructive surgery and has announced he plans to sue the airline.

His daughter, Crystal Dao Pepper, later told a news conference in Chicago that the family had been “sickened” by the incident and his lawyer described it as worse than what he had experienced while fleeing Vietnam.

The airline has now said in future that any crew members that needed to travel would be allocated seats at least an hour before departure.

The company said the move was aimed at improving its customer service.

Mr Munez later apologised for the incident after online petitions calling for his resignation reached thousands of signatures.

In a statement he said: “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologise for having to reaccomodate these customers.”

He said he felt “shame and embarrassment” and it would never happen again.

Everyone who was on board the flight has been offered full compensation.

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