Following a controversial altercation with one of its passengers, a United Airlines spokesperson revealed to USA Today that the Louisville flight wasn’t overbooked, as the airline had previously stated attempting to explain the event.
Sunday evening on an allegedly “overbooked” Louisville-bound United Airlines flight, a passenger was forcibly dragged from his seat in an altercation that left him bleeding and limp. The incident swept social media and sparked outrage among passengers and non-United customers alike. Customers cut up United cards and posted pictures online in defiance of the airline’s treatment of the passenger, and United lost $1.4 billion of their $21 million in market cap value, with stocks dropping 4 percent.
United Spokesman Jonathan Guerin spoke out Tuesday, revealing that all 70 seats on Flight 3411 were in fact filled, but the flight had not been overbooked.
The airline felt that the four crew members without seats were “needed in Louisville the next day,” leading to the removal. Passengers were reportedly selected according to a mix of criteria including “frequent-flyer status, fare type, check-in time and connecting flight implications.”
The forcibly removed passenger, Dr. David Dao of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, remains hospitalized in Chicago. When Kentucky station WLKY-TV reached out to Dao questioning what his injuries were, he replied “everything” and mentioned he was not doing well. Stephen L. Golan, Dao’s attorney, said in a statement to CNBC: “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. Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao’s medical care and treatment.”
— United Airlines (@united) April 11, 2017
In his third apology, United CEO Oscar Munoz states that he “continue[s] to be disturbed by what happened” and “deeply apologize[s] to the forcibly removed customer and to all the customers aboard.” While Munoz now claims that “no one should ever be mistreated this way,” he painted a different picture in a memo to United staff just a day before, describing Dao as “disruptive and belligerent.”
— Ryan Ruggiero (@RyanRuggiero) April 10, 2017
Dao’s family will refrain from making any public statements until Dao’s release from the hospital. Eric Schiffer, CEO of Reputation Management Consultants, a service dedicated to “repair existing damages, clear your reputation and safeguard against new attacks,” condemned the incident.
“When you go onto a United flight, you shouldn’t have to be concerned there will be blood or you will get slammed in the face,” said Schiffer. “I think you will see an effect on sales from those who are disgusted by the gruesome action. And it’s catastrophic for a brand’s trust.”