Airlines chief apologises again after passenger dragged from plane

United under fire after man forcibly removed from overbooked flight in Chicago

United Airlines struggled to contain spiralling fallout over a passenger's forcible removal from a flight as efforts at damage control fell flat.

Chief executive Oscar Munoz made another attempt at saying he was sorry. On Tuesday, he offered his "deepest apologies for what happened" and said the airline would conduct a review of its procedures and policies to be completed by April 30th.

“No one should ever be mistreated this way,” he said in a statement, calling the event “truly horrific”.

Recordings of the incident posted on social media spread quickly around the globe and sent people into a rage. They showed officers pulling a passenger from a flight Sunday evening after he refused to give up his seat and then dragging him down the aisle as travellers yelled at them to stop.


The chilling scene was turning into a public-relations disaster for United, whose fumbling response only served to demonstrate how a normally routine consumer interaction can expand into a brand-damaging event in a world of smartphones and Facebook.

The passenger, David Dao, was receiving treatment in a Chicago hospital for his injuries, according to a statement from lawyers at the firms Golan Christie Taglia and Corboy and Demetrio who said they represent him.

His family “wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support”, the statement said.

Nearly $1 billion of the company value was erased in trading on Tuesday.


Mr Munoz initially apologised for “having to re-accommodate these customers” but the CEO called the passenger “disruptive” and “belligerent” in a subsequent message to employees.

“It was probably the most tone-deaf response I’ve seen to this type of issue – possibly ever,” Scott Galloway, a professor of marketing at New York University, said.

“It’s as if they literally sat around and thought, ‘How could we make a bad situation worse.”’

United’s statements illustrate its “callousness toward the travelling public with the permission of the federal government”, New Jersey governor Chris Christie said in a statement.

He called for the US Transportation Department to immediately suspend rules that allow carriers to overbook and remove passengers.

United said initially that the flight was overbooked, its staff chose him and he did not want to get bumped. But the airline later said it needed room for its own employees to keep other flights on schedule.

United was the butt of jokes by late-night comedians and in China the incident was even a focus of social media and a government editorial. The hashtag #UnitedForcesPassengerOffPlane was the top trending item on Sina Weibo, the equivalent of Twitter, with more than 270 million views.

The man who was removed appeared to be of Asian descent. China’s state mouthpiece the Global Times questioned in an editorial if “the victim’s Chinese ethnicity potentially made a difference” in how the passenger was treated.

Video posted to Facebook and Twitter showed Mr Dao being dragged out of his seat and down the aisle of Flight 3411 to Louisville, Kentucky, from Chicago. He said he was a doctor and had to be in Louisville on Monday for work, according to a Twitter account by a passenger who said he was on the flight.