The world was shocked this April when footage emerged of aviation officers forcibly removing a paying customer from an overbooked United Airlines flight in Chicago. Sixty-nine-year-old Dr David Dao received multiple injuries as a result of the incident.
According to the Office of the Inspector General at the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA), “the use of excessive force caused the passenger to hit his face on an armrest, resulting in a concussion, a broken nose, and the loss of two teeth.” When Dr Dao was asked to leave the flight, he refused because he had patients to see the next day. One of the officers who dragged him from the flight reported that he said, “I’m not leaving this flight that I paid money for. I don’t care if I get arrested.” In the wake of the incident, the officers who removed Dr Dao claimed that they had used force because he had been displaying threatening behavior, but these claims have since been rubbished – with video evidence showing that Dr Dao did nothing wrong. “There was nothing he did that caused, that should have caused United to bring in the stormtroopers that came in,” Dr Dao’s lawyer said. Lauren Huffman, deputy commissioner of communications for the Aviation Department, said, “The department is taking every action in our power to ensure that an incident like this never, ever occurs again.” Following a lengthy investigation, it emerged last night that two of the four officers involved in the incident had lost their jobs. One of the two aviation officers who dragged Dr Dao from the plane was fired for escalating the situation into violence, and the other was fired for omitting facts about the incident when a report was made. A further two security officers were also involved, and they have been suspended for five days. None of their names have been released. “There is a lesson to be learned here for police officers at all levels,” said Thomas Demetrio, Mr Dao’s lawyer. “Do not state something that is clearly contrary to video viewed by the world.” United Airlines has suffered considerable damage to its reputation as a result of the incident, especially its CEO Oscar Munoz. In a leaked email, he agreed with his staff’s initial claims that Dr Dao was”disruptive and belligerent” and that the officers had “followed established procedures.” The incident prompted other airlines to reconsider their policies for overbooked fights. Southwest said that none of its flights would be overbooked, and Delta said they would offer volunteers up to $10,000 to give up their seats. It later emerged that the flight Dr Dao was forcibly removed from was not even overbooked. Dr Dao received compensation from United Airlines for an undisclosed amount of money in late April. United Airlines was praised for taking full responsibility for the incident, despite initial claims that Dr Dao was to blame. “United Airlines has taken full responsibility and has acted accordingly,” Dr Dao’s lawyer said. “I praise Mr Munoz and his people for not trying to throw the city under the bus or pass the buck. He stood in front of the world and has stated that, ‘We, United, take full responsibility.’” “I hope corporate America notices when you goof up people respect you a heck of a lot more when you admit it, instead of making people go through three years of depositions, motions, court hearings.” We wish Dr Dao all the best as he continues to recover from this shocking incident.
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