United Airlines admits “many things went wrong” the day a passenger was violently dragged from a flight in a report released Thursday that details the incident and changes the airline says it will make to prevent similar problems.
The report offers the airline’s fullest account yet of the incident, in which Asian-American Dr. David Dao was battered, bloodied and then dragged by his hands from an overbooked flight at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. It also outlines 10 changes to how it flies, serves and respects its customers — including changes to rebooking policies and increasing compensation for seated passengers who are asked to rebook their flights to up to $10,000.
Dao’s lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, said Dao sustained a concussion, broken nose and lost two teeth.
Video of the assault posted to Twitter and Facebook by other passengers sparked outrage, as did United’s initial response. Rather than apologize, the airline’s first comment was to say it was sorry for having to “re-accommodate” passengers.
The airline has since apologized, and repeated those sentiments in its Thursday report, calling the incident aboard flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville a “shameful” event.
“We deeply apologize for what happened. I apologize, though sorry simply doesn’t go nearly far enough to address the shocking way one of our passengers was treated that day and for our response that followed,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement.
The report lays out its failures — its decision to rebook a flight even after passengers were seated because the airline needed to get four crew members to Louisville to prevent flight cancellations. It also regretted the decision to use law enforcement to involuntarily deboard a passenger when safety or security was not an issue — something the airline said it would no longer do.
United is using the opportunity to learn from the experience, Munoz said. The report details changes the airline has already made or plans to make within the year to "avoid putting our customers, employees and partners into impossible situations" and "become a more customer-focused airline."
United said it would increase training, limit the use of law enforcement to safety and security issues, require crews be booked at least 60 minutes prior to a flight’s departure and offer compensation up to $10,000 for customers who are denied boarding, among other things.
One of the failures identified in the April 9 incident with Dao was that passengers were only offered an $800 travel voucher in addition to meals and hotel compensation to voluntarily rebook their flight.
“This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline. Our customers should be at the center of everything we do and these changes are just the beginning of how we will earn back their trust,” Munoz said.
United just can’t seem to get away from bad press these day. The airline drew the ire of celebrities and feminists when it barred three young teenage girls from boarding a United flight because they were wearing leggings — attire deemed inappropriate by the gate agent. The incident with Dao followed two weeks later, then on Wednesday the airline was again under fire after a 10-month-old giant rabbit died on a United flight from Britain — the rabbit was going to O’Hare, too.