WASHINGTON – The doctor who was dragged off a United Airlines plane this month has reached a settlement with the company, his lawyers said on Thursday.
Dr. David Dao’s attorneys did not disclose the financial terms of the settlement.
The April 9 incident has been a public relations disaster for United. Videos shot by passengers as Dao was being removed from the plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport went viral. Thousands of people criticized United on social media, with many vowing to boycott the airline.
The situation was exacerbated when United CEO Oscar Munoz was widely criticized for not quickly apologizing to Dao but instead defended his employees.
Munoz did eventually apologize and vowed that no such incident would happen again.
Thomas Demetrio, one of Dao’s lawyers, praised Munoz on Thursday.
“Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing, and he has,” Demetrio said. “In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened … without attempting to blame others, including the City of Chicago.”
At least three police officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation removed Dao from the aircraft. The department said on April 12 that three officers had been placed on administrative leave until further notice as a result of the incident.
On April 13, the airline’s pilot union said its members were infuriated by the incident and blamed the aviation police, calling their response “grossly inappropriate.”
Demetrio had said on April 13 that Dao probably would sue the airline. Dao suffered a concussion, broke his nose and lost two teeth, and had spent three days in the hospital, Demetrio said. Dao is seen with blood streaming down his face in videos.
The lawyer also had said that his client compared his ordeal to fleeing Vietnam.
“He said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced leaving Vietnam” in 1975 when Saigon fell.
“Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adoption of changes which will certainly help improve the lives of literally millions of travelers,” Demetrio said in a statement.
United had Dao removed from the plane to accommodate four crew members who needed to get to St. Louis, Mo. After none of the passengers accepted offers of $800 apiece to voluntarily take another flight, passengers were randomly selected to deplane.
Dao, who was traveling with his wife, refused to get off the plane because he said he had patient appointments the next morning.
Munoz has apologized for the incident and vowed it won’t happen again. United has since promised it will no longer use officers to forcibly remove paying customers from flights. The airline also said it would reimburse all passengers on the plane for their tickets.
The news about the settlement came on the same day that United announced it was making 10 policy changes “to improve customer experience.” Among the changes are:
- Passengers can be offered up to $10,000 to give up a seat on an overbooked flight.
- Passengers will not be asked to deplane once they are already on board in the event of an overbooking.
- Law enforcement will be used only for safety and security issues.
- Airline employees must check in for a flight at least an hour before departure.
United said some of the changes are effective immediately and others will be implemented by the end of the year.
In a letter to senators Wednesday that was sent in response to inquiries about Dao’s removal, Munoz said the airline will “empower its personnel to make decisions and find solutions that make sense for both customers and employees.”
The settlement caps off a tumultous month for United. On the same day that Dao was removed from the plane, a Canadian man sitting in business class on a United flight from Houston was stung by a scorpion that fell from an overhead bin as he was eating lunch. Medical personnel met the plane upon its arrival in Calgary. Richard Bell was treated at a local hospital and released.
On April 19, a huge rabbit that was being shipped on a United flight from London to a new owner in the U.S. was found dead shortly after arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare International – the same airport where the incident with Dao occurred.
The airline’s parent company, United Continental Holdings, said in an April 21 public filing that Munoz had asked that his employment agreement be changed to remove terms that would have made him chairman of the board of directors next year. Munoz, who is currently a board member, was scheduled to take on the role of chairman at the company’s 2018 stockholder meeting.
This story was first published by Talk Media News. It is republished with permission.
Regina Holmes has more than two decades of experience as a journalist –editing and reporting for news dailies including the Miami Herald, Newsday and the Baltimore Examiner.