World | North America

April 28, 2017

United Airlines Reaches Settlement With Passenger Who Was Dragged Off Plane

David Dao, the doctor who was seen being dragged off a United Airlines jet this month in videos that sparked widespread outrage, has reached a settlement with the airline for an undisclosed amount, his lawyers said on Thursday.

The April 9 episode had stoked the fears and frustrations of airplane passengers everywhere and became a public relations nightmare for United.

On Thursday, both sides welcomed what they hoped would be the end of the ordeal.

“Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing, and he has,” Thomas A. Demetrio, one of Dr. Dao’s lawyers, said of Oscar Munoz, United’s chief executive. “In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened on Flight 3411, without attempting to blame others, including the City of Chicago. For this acceptance of corporate accountability, United is to be applauded.”

Charles Hobart, a United spokesman, confirmed the settlement.

“We are pleased to report that United and Dr. Dao have reached an amicable resolution of the unfortunate incident that occurred aboard flight 3411,” he said in an email. “We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do.”

Earlier on Thursday, United announced several steps to prevent such episodes from recurring and said that passengers who had arrived on an aircraft shouldn’t have to give up their seats. The airline said it would create a new check-in process that would allow passengers to volunteer to give up their seats for compensation, and increased the limit of that compensation to $10,000 from $1,350.

United had previously announced that it would no longer ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from its planes over booking issues, and that crew members would not replace boarded passengers.

“I hope other airlines will follow United’s lead,” Mr. Demetrio said in an interview on Thursday. “I have gotten an amazing number of emails from people with tales of woe, and it was not limited to United Airlines. So passenger service is an industrywide issue, and here United has laid the groundwork for the other airlines on what needs to be done.”

“I’ve read enough of people’s issues with the airlines to see that it’s real simple if the passengers are just treated kindly, even if they’re not always right,” he added.

Faced with a public relations crisis, United has offered a series of intensifying apologies since Dr. Dao suffered a concussion and a broken nose, and lost two teeth, as he was forcibly removed from a flight he had paid for. United said it needed the seat for an airline employee.

Mr. Demetrio said that Dr. Dao is planning to have surgery on his nose. He also said that he believed that United never had any legal basis to remove Dr. Dao from his seat.

A United report released on Thursday suggested the airline needs to become more customer-friendly. The company said it plans to reduce how many flights it overbooks — a common airline practice that ensures there are as few empty seats as possible — and create a call center to handle overbooking problems.

It also said it would pay customers $1,500 if it loses their bags.

The uproar may have cost Mr. Munoz a planned promotion to the role of chairman of the company that runs United Airlines. United Continental Holdings said last week it would adjust its compensation program for senior executives to make it “directly and meaningfully tied to progress in improving the customer experience.”

Text by The New York Times
 

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