United Airlines has taken fresh action to resolve a public relations crisis after a passenger was beaten and removed from a flight earlier this month. The airline announced changes to ten policies as well as a legal settlement with the beaten passenger, Dr. David Dao.
The trouble for United began on April 9th, when four flight attendants needed to board a plane to Louisville, KY in order to be position to service another flight, when no passengers excepted United’s compensation offers for voluntarily leaving the flight, the crew selected four passengers – already in their seats – for involuntary de-boarding. Three of the four selected passengers left, but when Dr. Dao refused, airport police were called. Those officers flung Dao’s head against an armrest, causing a concussion and broken nose. Once unconscious, the body of Dr. Dao was dragged from the flight.
Other passengers posted smart-phone recorded videos of the incident, which proceeded to quickly go viral across social media and the internet. What was already a bad situation was made worse, when the following day United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz referred to Dao’s treatment as “re-accommodating a passenger” and praised the conduct of the flight crew. The subsequent uproar caused Munoz to reverse his position and apologize for the incident.
The policies that United identified as needing changed include only asking for law enforcement personnel if there is a safety or security concern, prohibit the bumping of passengers once they are seated on the plane, increase the compensation that can be offered to induce voluntary not boarding a flight, and an improvement in the empowerment and training of employees.
The airline also announced that it had settled the legal claims of Dao today as well. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed. With personal injury settlements generally in the range of three to four times the amount of medical bills, Dao would ordinarily stand to receive no more than $500,000, but with United Airlines anxious to settle and put the matter behind them, he almost certainly received a settlement in the millions of dollars.