United Airlines is facing backlash after a videos went viral of a doctor who was assaulted before being forcibly dragged off the plane, after he refused to give up his paid seat. The backlash against United sparked boycotts and dropped hundreds of millions of dollars from the company’s stock price.
Dr. David Dao was left bleeding and disoriented, after being forcefully pulled across the seat dividers and dragged down the aisle of the plane as shocked passengers looked on with several expressing disbelief on the incident as it was happening.
Dao, 69, of Elizabethtown, Ky., was one of four passengers picked to be bumped from an April 9 flight from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, Ky., to make room for airline employees who were added to the flight shortly before it departed.
According to another passenger on Flight 3411 from Chicago to Kentucky, the airline needed seats on the fully booked aircraft to reposition four crew members for another flight. The crew announced that the plane could not take off until four passengers voluntarily deplaned. When it didn’t have enough volunteers, even after offering $800 and a next day flight, the airline selected the man and several other passengers to deplane.
When he refused to leave, saying he had to see patients at a hospital in Kentucky early the following morning, multiple Chicago Department of Aviation security officers dragged Dao through the aisle, bloodying him. Dao then tried to run back on the flight and was forcibly removed a second time.
United CEO Oscar Muñoz initially defended the company’s actions but later apologized, calling the incident “horrific.” United Airlines said it will fully refund the tickets of all passengers on board the flight. Chicago’s Aviation Department has said that four officers involved in the beating had been placed on leave.
Dao, who was hospitalized in Chicago, suffered a concussion, a broken nose and lost two teeth in the ordeal. In preparation for a civil suit, lawyers for Dr. Dao filed an emergency request requiring United and the city to preserve records of the incident and the personnel files of the Aviation Department officers who pulled Dao from the plane.
The airline has said it is reviewing its policies regarding oversold flights. They already announced that they will require United employees traveling for work to book seats at least an hour in advance to avoid displacing customers already on board an aircraft.