United CEO Apologizes to Kentucky Doctor Dragged Off Flight; Doctor's Family Thanks Supporters

Late Tuesday, 21 senators signed a letter of inquiry to the CEO of United Airlines' parent company, demanding answers about the incident

The CEO of United Airlines' parent company, Oscar Munoz, apologized on Tuesday to the passenger dragged off a flight over the weekend, amid a massive backlash that had cut into the company's bottom line.

"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," Munoz wrote in a memo to his team. "No one should ever be mistreated this way."

The passenger has been identified as Dr. David Dao, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky. An attorney for the Dao family released a statement Tuesday saying Dao was being treated for injuries in a Chicago hospital, CNBC reported.

"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," the statement reads.

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.

Late Tuesday, 21 senators, including Brian Schatz (D-Hawai'i), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), signed a letter of inquiry to Munoz, demanding answers about the incident.

Among the many questions are "Has United Airlines implemented any policy changes as a result of this incident?" and "Is it the policy of United Airlines to use taxpayer-funded law enforcement to forcibly remove paying passengers for non-security reasons?"

The letter concludes: "Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. Please provide a response no later than April 24, 2017."

It was released after Munoz released a memo sent to his team in which he apologizes to Dao. 

"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 said it's unlikely the federal government will launch a separate investigation.

Spicer noted that local authorities and United are reviewing the incident and said he's sure Trump has seen the video but that any comment from the president could influence a potential outcome of the investigations.

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

The ranking Democrats on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and House Subcommittee on Aviation also sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao requesting a review of the event, NBC News reported.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it is reviewing Sunday's events to see if United violated rules on overselling flights.

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 event stemmed from a common air travel issue — a full flight. United was trying to make room for four employees of a partner airline, meaning four people had to get off.

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

Three people got off the flight, but the fourth said he was a doctor and needed to get home to treat patients on Monday. He refused to leave.

Three Aviation Department police 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.

One of the 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," Bridges said. "We were stuck there. You can't do anything as a traveler. You're relying on the airline."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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