United Airlines has been slammed since a pre-takeoff video of an April 9 flight went viral, showing a passenger being removed from the plane.
Dr. David Dao, who was traveling from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, KY, was selected to be removed from the flight when it became clear that there were not enough seats on the plane.
Initial reports indicated that the flight was overbooked, but United later clarified that the seating shortage was the result of a deadheading crew (airline employees who were being shuttled to Louisville in order to make the flight they were scheduled to work) that needed placement at the last minute.
Legally, that crew took priority over passengers due to federal law and union regulations that govern rest periods for pilots and flight crews.
Once Dao was chosen – after the airline tried to incentivize the necessary number of passengers to leave voluntarily – the flight crew informed him that he had to leave the plane.
When he repeatedly refused (an act that is governed by the FAA and punishable by up to $25,000 in fines for each offense), the airline called for security.
Chicago Aviation Police officers then boarded the plane, once again informing Dao that he needed to vacate his seat — but by then, he was on the phone.
A video taken by the passenger seated behind Dao captured the following conversation:
Dao: I won’t go. I’m a physician. I have to work tomorrow, eight o’clock.
Police: They want to remove you …
Dao: I tell you … make a lawsuit against United Airlines …
Police: It’s just something we have to …
Dao: No, I’m not going.
Police: Sir …
Dao: I’m not going.
Police: Well … have to drag you …
Dao: Well, you can drag me. I don’t go, I’m not going. I’m staying right there.
Police: So this can be a lot harder …
Dao: Yeah. I’d rather go to jail.
The police continued to try to resolve the issue without force, but it did become clear that Dao, who explained that the delay was too much, was not going to willingly leave his seat.
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has issued a public apology for the incident, saying that this will never happen again on his airline.