Family of Passenger Dragged Off United Flight Issues Statement - NBC Bay Area
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Family of Passenger Dragged Off United Flight Issues Statement

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    NEWSLETTERS

    New video captures the moments before a doctor was dragged off a United flight in Chicago. Chris Hush reports.

    (Published Tuesday, April 11, 2017)

    For the first time since video of his violent removal from a United Airlines flight went viral, the family of of the passenger dragged from the plane has released a statement. 

    "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," said Chicago attorney Stephen L. Golan of Golan Christie Taglia, who along with Chicago aviation attorney Thomas A. Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio, represents the Dao family.

    "Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao’s medical care and treatment," the brief statement continued.

    Dao, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, remained in a Chicago hospital on Tuesday, where he is being treated for his injuries, CNBC reported.

    A passenger recorded a video watched around the world that showed security officers dragging Dao off a sold-out United Express flight at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Sunday. United described the flight to Louisville as overbooked, but on Tuesday said it was sold out - not overbooked, according to USA Today.

    The passengers were boarded when United tried to make room for four employees of a partner airline, meaning four people had to get off the flight.

    Another snippet of video showed an even more troubling scene.

    There stood the passenger who had been dragged, now identified as Dao, on his back to the front of the plane, appearing dazed as he spoke through bloody lips and blood that had spilled onto his chin.

    "I want to go home, I want to go home," he said.

    On Tuesday, United Airlines' parent company CEO Oscar Munoz released a memo sent to his team in which he apologizes to Dao. 

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    "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," he wrote.

    "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."

    A spokesman for President Donald Trump says it was "troubling" to watch the video. But White House press secretary Sean Spicer says it's unlikely the federal government will launch a separate investigation.

    Spicer notes that local authorities and United are reviewing the incident in which a man was forcibly removed from a full United Express flight at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Videotape of the confrontation spread across social media.

    Spicer says he's sure Trump has seen the video but that any comment from the president could influence a potential outcome of the investigations.

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    Spicer adds that he thinks everyone who has seen the video can agree that the situation could have been handled better.

    Dao's treatment prompted outrage and scorn on social media, and anger among some of the passengers on the flight as the man was evicted. As passengers threatened to boycott the airline, its shares slid by more than three percent Tuesday.

    The furor arose from a common problem.

    At first, the airline asked for volunteers, offering $400 and then when that didn't work, $800 per passenger to relinquish a seat. When no one voluntarily came forward, United selected four passengers at random.

    Three deplaned but the fourth, a man who said he was a doctor and needed to get home to treat patients on Monday, refused.

    Three men, identified later as city aviation department security officers, got on the plane. Two officers tried to reason with the man before a third came aboard and pointed at the man "basically saying, 'Sir, you have to get off the plane,'" said Tyler Bridges, a passenger whose wife, Audra D. Bridges, posted a video on Facebook.

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    One of the security officers could be seen grabbing the screaming man from his window seat, across the armrest and dragging him down the aisle by his arms.

    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."

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

    Munoz late Monday issued a letter defending his employees, saying the passenger was being "disruptive and belligerent."

    While Munoz said he was "upset" to see and hear what happened, "our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this."

    Chicago's aviation department said the security officer who grabbed the passenger had been placed on leave.

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    "The incidence 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,' the department said in a statement.

    After a three-hour delay, United Express Flight 3411 took off without the man aboard.

    Airlines are allowed to sell more tickets than seats on the plane, and they routinely overbook flights because some people do not show up.

    It's not unusual for airlines to offer travel vouchers to encourage people to give up their seats, and there are no rules for the process. When an airline demands that a passenger give up a seat, the airline is required to pay double the passenger's one-way fare, up to $675 provided the passenger is put on a flight that arrives within one to two hours of the original. The compensation rises to four times the ticket price, up to $1,350, for longer delays.

    When they bump passengers, airlines are required to give those passengers a written description of their compensation rights.

    Last year, United forced 3,765 people off oversold flights and another 62,895 United passengers volunteered to give up their seats, probably in exchange for travel vouchers. That's out of more than 86 million people who boarded a United flight in 2016, according to government figures. United ranks in the middle of U.S. carriers when it comes to bumping passengers.

    ExpressJet, which operates flights under the United Express, American Eagle and Delta Connection names, had the highest rate of bumping passengers last year. Among the largest carriers, Southwest Airlines had the highest rate, followed by JetBlue Airways.