United CEO apologizes for 'horrific event' after passenger dragged from plane

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 06:30PM
Joe Torres has more.

CHICAGO - United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has issued an apology after video showing a passenger on a United Airlines flight was seen being dragged off a plane Sunday evening has sparked outrage.

Munoz called the incident "truly horrific" and that he offers his "deepest apologies."

As the flight waited to depart from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, officers could be seen grabbing the screaming man from a window seat, pulling him across the armrest and dragging him down the aisle by his arms. The airline was trying to make room for four of its employees on the Sunday evening flight to Louisville, Ky.

RELATED: United Airlines faces outrage, scorn after bloodied doctor dragged off flight

Other passengers on Flight 3411 are heard saying, "Please, my God," ''What are you doing?" ''This is wrong," ''Look at what you did to him," and "busted his lip."

An initial statement in response to the incident said the flight was "overbooked." The airline clarified Monday, calling the problem a "crew-positioning issue."

United needed to get a four-person crew for Republic Airlines, which was operating the United Express flight, to Louisville Sunday. Otherwise, United would have had to cancel flights out of Louisville Monday.

The passenger, who later identified himself as Dr. David Dao, released a statement Tuesday through his attorney.

"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. Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao's medical care and treatment," said Chicago attorney Stephen Golan of Golan Christie Taglia, who along with Chicago aviation attorney Thomas Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio, represents the Dao family.

Passenger Audra D. Bridges posted the video on Facebook. Her husband, Tyler Bridges, said United offered $400 and then $800 vouchers and a hotel stay for volunteers to give up their seats. When no one volunteered, a United manager came on the plane and announced that passengers would be chosen at random.

"We almost felt like we were being taken hostage," Tyler Bridges said. "We were stuck there. You can't do anything as a traveler. You're relying on the airline."

RELATED: Did United Airlines have right to remove passenger?

A Chicago Dept. of Aviation statement on Monday said, "The incident on United flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department. "That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation."

The statement did not release the officer's name and it was not immediately clear which of the three men seen in the now-widely seen video taken by another passenger which one was placed on leave.


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. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.

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 incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We'll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.

I promise you we will do better.
(Copyright ©2018 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.)