United settles with passenger violently taken off Chicago flight
The Kentucky doctor who was violently removed from a United Airlines flight reached a settlement with the airline Thursday, less than a month after cellphone video footage of the incident made international news.
Lawyers for Dr. David Dao said the settlement was reached at the same time that United issued changes to improve customer service. A provision in the settlement requires its dollar amount to remain private.
United issued a statement on its website highlighting 10 changes it will make to improve customer service. The first is limiting the use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
On April 9 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, United Express Flight 3411 was overbooked, and airline managers had asked passengers to give up their seats to allow the last-minute travel of four airline employees to Louisville International Airport. When no passengers acquiesced, the managers chose four at random. Three complied, but Dr. Dao refused.
Airline managers directed airport security personnel to forcibly remove Dr. Dao. He bloodied his face on an armrest during the struggle, and he was dragged apparently unconscious through the plane as cellphones captured the incident on video.
Dr. Dao’s lawyers said he suffered a concussion, injury to his sinuses, a broken nose and two broken teeth.
A failure by United CEO Oscar Munoz to properly address and apologize for the incident drew condemnation from the public, media and government officials.
“Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing, and he has,” Dr. Dao’s lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, said in a statement. “Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adoption of changes which will certainly help improve the lives of literally millions of travelers.”
“Our review shows that many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: Our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what’s right,” Mr. Munoz said in a statement.
One change United introduced Thursday directs managers to offer passengers up to $10,000 in compensation to voluntarily give up their seats. The federal Transportation Department requires airlines to offer a maximum compensation of $1,350, but the Flight 3411 staff offered only $800 and the cost of meals and hotels.
In the immediate aftermath of the April 9 incident, Delta Air Lines said it would offer $10,000 compensation to passengers on overbooked flights. Other changes at United include:
● Reducing the amount of overbooking.
● Not forcing seated passengers to give up their seats unless safety or security is at risk.
● Creating an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.
● Ensuring staffers are booked onto flights at least an hour before departure.
● Eliminating the red tape on permanently lost bags by adopting a “no questions asked” policy on lost luggage.
In addition, United said it will provide more training for employees and empower them to resolve customer service issues in the moment. The airline also will set up a “customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination.”
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement saying “our policies got in the way” in regards to Dr. David Dao’s forceful removal from a plane April 9 in Chicago.