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United Airlines won’t forget Dr. David Dao.
The company’s chief executive, Oscar Munoz, said Monday that Dao’s forced, bloodied — and viral — removal from a flight that he had paid for last week would serve as a “watershed moment” for the airline.
"The incident that took place aboard Flight 3411 has been a humbling experience and I take full responsibility," Munoz said in a statement accompanying its better-than-anticipated first-quarter earnings report. "This will prove to be a watershed moment for our company."
Dao, 69, suffered a broken nose, a concussion and he lost two front teeth after refusing to leave the April 13 flight from Chicago to his home state of Kentucky.
The airline had said that it needed room on the sold-out flight for four additional crew members, and it randomly selected Dao and three others to leave the plane in exchange for $800 vouchers.
Dao refused, and cell phone video showed Chicago Department of Aviation officers dragging him from his seat. Dao, dazed and bloodied, reportedly returned to the airplane, explaining that he needed to get home because he was a doctor with patients to treat.
What happened to Dao, however, is just one in a string of recent publicity nightmares for the airline.
Last month, after a United gate agent at Denver International Airport barred female passengers from boarding because their leggings violated the airline’s clothing policy, an angry witness accused the company on Twitter of policing women’s clothing.
The outrage was swift, especially on social media, where people called the company sexist and clamored for a boycott.
United, meanwhile, said it was merely enforcing stricter clothing rules for so-called “pass riders” — or passengers traveling as friends and family of the airline.
“There is a dress code for pass travelers as they are representing UA when they fly,” the airline said.
Last week, a scorpion fell out of an overhead bin on a flight between Houston and Calgary, stinging a man and leaving him with non-life threatening injuries, and on Saturday, a couple traveling to their wedding in Costa Rica were booted them from their flight after a dispute over their seats.
Back at United HQ, Munoz insisted that the company will rehabilitate its battered reputation.
“We are more determined than ever to put our customers at the center of everything we do,” his statement said. “We are dedicated to setting the standard for customer service among U.S. airlines.”