United Airlines sparks outrage for the treatment of a passenger who was physically dragged off a plane the airline had overbooked. David Pollard reports.
UNITED Airlines has finally apologised for forcibly removing a passenger from a flight, saying “it’s never too late to do the right thing”.
It came as shares in the airline fell about 3 per cent overnight, wiping $US600 million off the value of the company.
After being criticised for his tone-deaf comments in the wake of the incident where a man was dragged off a flight from Chicago, United chief executive Oscar Munoz made another attempt at an apology.
“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,” he said. “Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.
United CEO Oscar Munoz: I’m sorry. We will fix this. https://t.co/v8EPGsiDCi pic.twitter.com/eOPiYcagvo
— United (@united) April 11, 2017
“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 incentivising volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement.”
Mr Munoz said the results of the review would be available on April 30.
“I promise you we will do better,” he finished off his statement by saying.
FLIGHT CLUB: Why United Airlines is copping flak again
The lawyer for the family of the passenger, identified as 69-year-old grandfather Dr David Dao, has also released a statement, saying they are appreciative of all the support and are focusing on his medical treatment before making any public statements.
“The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received,” Stephen L. Golan, one of the attorneys representing the Dao family, said in a statement, according to CNBC.
During the incident, Dr Dao claimed he was being targeted because he is Chinese.
Meanwhile, new revelations show that Dao was convicted of trading prescription drugs for sexual favours.
Dao was arrested in 2003 and was afterwards suspended from practising medicine for five years.
Video of the violent incident posted on China’s popular Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo had been viewed more than 210 million times by late Tuesday.
Many have responded with outrage over perceived ethnic bias against the passenger and some called for a boycott of the US-based airline.
“Rubbish!” writer Su Danqing posted on Weibo. “When they were treating this Asian man, they never thought of human rights, otherwise they wouldn’t have done it that way.”
“Damn it! This airline must be boycotted!” said a posting from Liu Bing, a telecommunications company worker.
State-run media fuelled the anger with reports that noted the unidentified victim was an “Asian passenger.”
United does considerable business with Chinese passengers and a consumer boycott could cause serious pain.
United says it operates more non-stop US-China flights to more cities in China than any other airline.
Rowdiness has long been associated with air travel in China, including passengers getting into fights with crew members and a vicious assault last year in which an enraged customer smashed an airline check-in clerk in the head with a brass plaque.
The United incident appeared to feed into such customer frustrations — only this time the tables were turned and the passenger was cast as victim.
United executives struggled to control the public relations damage.
OVERBOOKED FLIGHTS: What are your rights?
Airline CEO Oscar Munoz originally said Dao had become “disruptive and belligerent” after he was asked to leave the plane to make room for several employees of a partner airline who wanted a seat on the flight.
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0
— United (@united) April 10, 2017
When the man refused, officers from the Chicago Aviation Department came in and first tried to reason with him before pulling him from his seat by force and dragging him away, according to another passenger, Tyler Bridges, whose wife later posted a video of the altercation on Facebook.
Dr Dai is reportedly a father-of five; four of his children are also doctors.
The internet responded to the United incident with a bunch of memes ridiculing the airline’s approach, with some saying that rival Southwest Airlines should adopt the following slogan.
This is what you call insightful, timely and clever marketing. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos pic.twitter.com/SrscgTKVFT
— Snober Abbasi (@snobers) April 11, 2017