United Express Flight 3411 incident

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United Express Flight 3411 incident
N632RW (8025014026).jpg
Date April 9, 2017
Summary Forcible passenger removal
Site O'Hare International Airport, Chicago, Illinois
Aircraft type Embraer 170
Operator Republic Airline dba United Express
Registration N632RW
Flight origin O'Hare International Airport
Destination Louisville International Airport
Passengers 70
Injuries 1

On April 9, 2017, O'Hare International Airport Aviation Security Officers forcibly removed passenger David Dao, a pulmonologist, from United Express Flight 3411, after Dao refused to leave the aircraft as airline staff insisted. Aviation Security Officers were called and dragged him off. Dao screamed as officers pulled him out of his seat, and his face hit an armrest during the struggle. Officers then dragged him, apparently unconscious, by his arms on his back along the aircraft aisle past rows of onlooking passengers.[1] According to passenger eyewitness accounts, the Aviation Security Officers laughed as Dao was dragged off the plane.[2][3] He was later seen with blood around his mouth. Prior to the confrontation, managers offered travel vouchers to passengers to vacate their seats to make room for four airline employees who needed to travel to the destination, Louisville International Airport, but none of the passengers accepted. Four passengers were then selected for involuntary removal from the flight. Three other passengers complied, and Dao was selected to be fourth. Republic Airline operated the scheduled passenger flight on behalf of United Express, a United Airlines regional branch.

Video of the incident recorded by passengers went viral on social media, resulting in outrage over the violent incident. Politicians expressed concern and called for official investigation. U.S. President Donald Trump criticized United Airlines, calling treatment of their customer "horrible".

The next morning United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement which appeared to justify the removal of the unwilling passenger, referring to it as "re-accommodating the customers".[4] Munoz also sent an email to United staff commending the crew's actions for following established procedures, and referring to Dao as "disruptive" and "belligerent".[5] The description of Dao as "disruptive" and "belligerent" completely contradicts passenger descriptions of the incident. Passenger Jason Powell said Dao was not belligerent, saying, "He was very polite, matter-of-fact,"[6][7] In addition, cell phone video by passenger Joya Cummings also contradicts Munoz' description of Dao as belligerent.[6]

Munoz and United were sharply criticized for their initial statements. Two days after the incident Munoz issued an additional statement,[8] apologizing and promising that this type of incident would never happen again on United aircraft. He said, "No one should ever be mistreated this way." In an exclusive interview on Good Morning America, with ABC News Chief Business, Technology and Economics correspondent, Rebecca Jarvis, Munoz was asked, "Do you think [Dr. Dao] was at fault in any way?" Munoz responded, "No. He can't be. He was a paying passenger sitting on our seat in our aircraft."[9] Munoz was denied a previously planned promotion to chairman as a result of the incident.[10][11] Dao reached an "amicable" settlement with United on April 27, the terms of which were not publicly announced.[12][13]


Just before 5:40 p.m. on April 9, 2017, after passengers were seated in the United Express Flight 3411 aircraft but while the plane was still at the gate, the United gate agent announced that they needed to remove four passengers to accommodate four staff members who had to cover an unstaffed flight at another location.[14] The crew members were originally scheduled to take Flight 4448 which was to depart at 2:55 p.m. but that plane was experiencing a significant mechanical delay and had the possibility of being cancelled. The crew was not re-booked to Flight 3411 until 5:21, 19 minutes before Flight 3411's scheduled departure time.[15]

According to passenger Tyler Bridges, the situation quickly became problematic due to the demeanor of airline employees. Says Bridges, "An airline supervisor walked onto the plane and brusquely announced: 'We have United employees that need to fly to Louisville tonight. … This flight’s not leaving until four people get off.'"[16][17] In an interview with CNN, passenger John Klaassen made several statements which corroborates Bridges' testimony. Klaassen said, "after the first offer was made, the United employee left and it escalated... had they just tried some diplomacy, none of this had to take place... they were unwilling to negotiate"[18] Passenger Jason Powell affirms the supervisor's unprofessional conduct and said he didn't understand why the supervisor who handled the situation did so with such an annoyed, belligerent tone. "The tone immediately turned me off," Powell said. "She accelerated the situation. It was poor leadership."[7] In a letter to the editor Powell said, "The disgusting mishandling of the situation included everyone from the rude ticket agent who demanded that this man give up his seat on the flight United overbooked..."[19] Passenger Mary Myers echos these sentiments and faults the gate agent saying, "I really put all of this on her shoulders. She could have made a difference. She could have handled it differently. She’s the one who started it all."[20]

In addition, Myers indicated Dao pleaded with the supervisor not to remove him from the flight and explained that as a doctor he could not miss his return flight home. Myers further stated that the supervisor’s response was not appropriate. “She said, ‘Well, then I’ll just have to call the police and have you escorted off the plane.’ In my opinion, I think any good supervisor would never have let the situation escalate to that point. Honestly, I think I blame her for the whole entire occurrence."[20]

Passengers were initially offered US$400 in vouchers for future travel on United, a hotel stay, and a seat on a plane leaving more than 21 hours later if they voluntarily deplaned. With no volunteers, the offer was increased to $800 in vouchers.[21][22] With still no volunteers, a manager boarded and informed the flight that four people would be chosen by computer. A spokeswoman for United has since stated that the selection is based on specific factors, including priority to remain aboard for frequent fliers and those who paid a higher fare.[22] Three of the selected passengers, a couple and a woman thought to be Dao's wife, agreed to leave. The fourth selected passenger, 69-year-old David Dao, an Asian-American doctor from Elizabethtown, Kentucky,[23][24][25][26] refused, saying he needed to see patients the next day at his clinic.[27][28] United Airlines staff requested assistance from Chicago Department of Aviation security officers, whose powers differ from those of Chicago Police Department officers; they cannot, for example, file arrest reports.[29]

Dao refused to leave his seat, and in the ensuing scuffle, he suffered injuries to his head and mouth when, according to another passenger, a security official threw him against the armrest[30] before dragging him down the aisle by the arms, apparently unconscious. During the altercation, a number of passengers distressed by the incident voluntarily left the aircraft. Four Republic Airline staff then sat in the vacated seats. Shortly afterwards, Dao managed to re-board the aircraft, repeatedly saying, "I have to go home." and "Just kill me." Eventually he collapsed in a seat and was removed from the aircraft on a stretcher.[1] The remaining passengers were then deplaned while blood from the scuffle was cleaned up.[31]

Dao was seen with a bloody face after he was removed from the seat.[32] Other passengers on the flight recorded the event on video using smartphone cameras, which was widely circulated on social media.[1] Another passenger reported hearing Dao say that he had been chosen because of his ethnicity.[33] Dao was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries including a broken nose, loss of two front teeth, sinus injuries, and "a significant concussion" requiring reconstructive surgery according to Dao's lawyer.[34][35]

The flight departed at 7:21 p.m CDT., two hours and two minutes later than scheduled. It arrived at Louisville at 9:01 p.m.CDT, two hours behind schedule.[36]


An April 11, 2017, statement from law firms Golan Christie Taglia and Corboy & Demetrio, who said they represented Dao, indicated that their client's family "wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support".[37][38]

The three officers who responded to the incident were James Long, Mauricio Rodriguez Jr. and Steven Smith. Their supervisor was Sergeant John Moore. Long had just returned to the job after being suspended due to insubordination.[39] Long was placed on administrative leave soon after the incident; Rodriguez and Smith were placed on administrative leave on April 12. Their supervisor, Sergeant John Moore, was then put on administrative leave on April 19.[39][35][40] The Chicago Department of Aviation said that "The incident on United Flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department..."[35] The aviation police receive more training and better pay compared to private security guards, but less training and less pay than officers of the Chicago Police Department.[41]

City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson launched an investigation shortly after the incident.[42][43][42][42][44][43] The OIG released their findings on October 17, 2017 in their Third Quarter 2017 report. The investigation established that three Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) Aviation Security Officers (ASOs) and one Aviation Security Sergeant violated City of Chicago Personnel Rules. Specifically:

  • The first ASO (James Long) violated the CDA Use of Force Policy when he escalated a non-threatening situation into a physically violent one. Long's use of excessive force caused the passenger to hit his face on an armrest, resulting in the passenger sustaining a concussion, a broken nose, and the loss of two teeth.
  • The second ASO (Mauricio Rodriguez Jr.) made misleading statements in two reports and the third ASO (Steven Smith) made material omissions in a report, regarding the first ASO’s forceful removal of the passenger from the aircraft.
  • The Sergeant (John Moore) deliberately removed material facts from the third ASO’s “To/From Report” and approved reports without all essential information.

In response to the Office of Inspector General (OIG) Report, CDA discharged Long and Moore, and issued five-day suspensions to Rodriguez and Smith.[45]

Airport security changes[edit]

On 29 June 2017, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board decertified the Chicago Department of Aviation Police, stating the agency is "in no way" a police agency. They are considered as security, and going forward, the Chicago Police Department will be the primary responders to all airport disturbance calls. The union representing the 300-officer department, SEIU local 73, challenged the downgrade from police to security in an unfair labor practices complaint.[46]

Following a review prompted by this incident, in July 2017 the Chicago Department of Aviation reported that their non-sworn, unarmed airport security personnel were not actually police officers under Illinois law. Their uniforms, badges, and vehicles had been “improperly” labeled “police” due to historical reasons. It promised that the incorrect insignia would be removed within months.[47]

Social media[edit]

External video
@Tyler_Bridges (April 9, 2017). "@united @FoxNews @CNN not a good way to treat a Doctor trying to get to work because they overbooked" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
@JayseDavid (April 9, 2017). "@United overbook #flight3411 and decided to force random passengers off the plane. Here's how they did it" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
@Tyler_Bridges (April 9, 2017). "@united @CNN @FoxNews @WHAS11 Man forcibly removed from plane somehow gets back on still bloody from being removed" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
@kaylyn_davis (April 9, 2017). "#flythefriendlyskies my husband was on that flight. Screw you United!! @united" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 
@kaylyn_davis (April 9, 2017). "#flythefriendlyskies @united no words. This poor man!!" (Tweet) – via Twitter. 

Video footage from passengers who remained on the aircraft throughout the incident was widely shared, and was then picked up by mainstream media agencies. One such video was shared 87,000 times and viewed 6.8 million times in less than a day.[48]

The victim was initially thought to be Chinese American as one of the witnesses told The Washington Post, "He said, more or less, 'I'm being selected because I'm Chinese.'"[49] His daughter Crystal Dao Pepper later said in the press conference that her father was Vietnamese Chinese. The incident thus drew outrage on mainland Chinese and Vietnamese social media, and became the number one trending topic on the Chinese micro-blogging site Weibo, attracting the attention of more than 480 million users.[50][51][52] The incident also outraged Yelp users and low star rating were given to United Airlines in Chicago and other cities including San Francisco.[53][original research?] An article in Foreign Policy noted the racial and political reasons for the wide spread of the video throughout the mainland Chinese mediasphere, where there are heated debates over the nature of America's political system and its relations to China, and asserted that the video would serve the ends of the authorities and critics of America in challenging America's cultural sway in China.[24] Ire in Vietnam grew after it was reported Dao's origins in that country. There was also negative reaction to allegations over Dao's past being reported in the United States, which was viewed as irrelevant and possibly racist.[54] Dao's reported account of feeling racially profiled incited outrage elsewhere in Asia.[55]

The incident had taken place shortly after another controversy in which United refused boarding to two teenage girls wearing leggings.[56] There were calls by social media users across the world, especially those in the United States, China, and Vietnam, to boycott United Airlines.[57] Customers of the airline posted pictures of their United loyalty or credit cards cut into pieces.[58] Another petition called on the U.S. federal government to launch an investigation into the incident, invoking the Black Lives Matter movement by using the hashtag "#ChineseLivesMatters".[59]

Stock market[edit]

Shares of United Continental Holdings (UAL), the parent of United Airlines, closed at $70.88 on April 7. On April 10, the first trading day after the incident, they rose by 0.9% to close at $71.52. [60] Although UAL shares declined by 1.1% on April 11, they closed at $70.71, only $0.17 or 0.2% less than the April 7 closing price. Furthermore, they traded above their April 7 closing price during the April 12 trading session.[61]

Research analysts S3 Partners commented on the effect the incident would have on UAL's future financial performance, saying that "consumers might not have much choice but to fly UAL due to airline consolidation, which has reduced competition over most routes. As a result, with passengers having fewer options these days when it comes to carriers, UAL's revenues may not suffer as much as expected unless passengers opt for longer and more expensive flights."[62] Analysts Wolfe Research and Cowen & Co. were also confident of future performance.[63]

Investor Warren Buffett, a major investor in airline stocks, said that United made a "terrible mistake," and that public perceptions were influenced by the CEO's initial reaction. Buffett said that even though airlines may become "like cattle cars," that reflects the public's preference for cheap flights, which has resulted in high load factors. The result of high load factors is a "fair amount of discomfort."[64]

Consumer preference[edit]

A poll of 1,900 people conducted three days after the incident suggested that all else being equal, 79% of prospective fliers who had heard of the incident would choose a non-United Airlines flight. 44% would choose a non-United Airlines flight even if it cost USD$66 more and took an additional three hours.[65]

Despite calls for a boycott, United Airlines reported 39% greater profits over the previous year in the second quarter of 2017, as well as increased sales. Economist John Kwoka Jr. attributed this to the high level of consolidation of American airlines, with a majority of flights controlled by four corporations—United, Delta, American and Southwest—making a boycott impractical. Additionally, for many travelers, ticket price is the primary deciding factor when booking flights, outweighing other considerations such as customer service.[66]

Industry behavior[edit]

In August 2017, data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that bumped-passenger rates were at their lowest since 1995. The rate "markedly decreased" starting in April 2017 (the same month this incident occurred) from 0.62 per 10,000 passengers, to 0.44 per 10,000 in the second quarter of 2017.[67]


United Airlines[edit]

On April 9, United issued a statement: "Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities."[68][69][70] The company also tweeted "Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate."[71] By April 11, United clarified that the flight was not overbooked, but sold out, and the four employees who needed the seats were considered "must-ride" passengers who had to travel to another city to work as aircraft crew. [72]

United CEO Oscar Munoz stated on April 10: "This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation."[73][74] Munoz's use of the word "re-accommodate" received particular attention and ridicule from social media and commentators.[75][76][77]

Later on April 10, in an e-mail to employees, Munoz praised and defended the crew's actions, while claiming the passenger was "disruptive and belligerent".[78] He stated that this was not a mistake, but "Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this."[79] This led to an online petition calling for his resignation.[80]

In a subsequent public statement released by United in the afternoon of April 11, 2017,[28] Munoz was more sensitive to public opinion. His note described the Dao incident as "truly horrific" and expressed an understanding of the "outrage, anger, disappointment" felt by many. He took full responsibility and apologized, adding that "No one should ever be mistreated this way". He promised to conduct a thorough review and release a report by April 30. The public statement ends with this comment: "I promise you we will do better."[81]

During a television interview on April 12, Munoz announced that effective immediately, United Airlines would no longer use police in involuntary bumping situations: "We're not going to put a law enforcement official... [onto a United aircraft] to remove a booked, paid, seated passenger." He apologized to Dao and his family and said, "That is not who our family at United is. You saw us at a bad moment; this can and will never happen again on a United Airlines flight. That is my promise." Asked if Dao was at fault in any way, he said, "No, he can't be... no one should be treated that way, period."[82][83][84]

In response to a signed petition, Munoz said he did not intend to resign.[85][86]

Three days after the incident, United Airlines elected to provide all passengers aboard United Express Flight 3411 compensation equal to the cost of their tickets.[87] An email obtained by the CNN news agency stated that this compensation was in the form of a $500 voucher toward future travel on United Airlines.[88] On April 13, 2017, United internally announced a policy change to ensure that flight crews are booked "at least 60 minutes prior to departure."[89][90] On April 18, Munoz reported that no one will be fired as a result of the incident.[91][92][93]

On April 21, it was reported that Munoz would not become chairman of the airline, as had been planned, because of the incident.[11] Munoz's employment agreement was amended subsequent to the incident to reflect that he would not be elevated to chairman. In a government filing, United said that the airline was developing a program for 2017 so that compensation was "directly and meaningfully tied to progress in improving the customer experience."[10]

United and Dao reached a confidential settlement on April 27.[12][94] Although the financial terms of the settlement remain confidential, one of the stipulations of the settlement was that Dr. Dao could not sue the City of Chicago.[95][96][97][98] At the same time, the airline announced ten policy changes in response to the incident. These included raising the maximum amount of travel vouchers to passengers "bounced" from flights to up to $10,000 and a $1,500 "no questions asked" fee for permanently lost luggage, and the airline promised to reduce overbooking.[99] As of the Dec 14, 2017 revision of the Contract of Carriage Agreement, United Airlines has not raised the amount for bounced passengers from their previous $1350 maximum.[100]

Public relations professionals[edit]

The handling of the incident by Munoz was described as a "fumbling response" by Bloomberg News, part of a "public-relations disaster" for United.[78] Munoz had been named "Communicator of the Year for 2017" by PRWeek in March 2017.[101] Steve Barrett, Editor-in-chief of PRWeek US, later noted: "It's fair to say that if PRWeek was choosing its Communicator of the Year now, we would not be awarding it to Oscar Munoz … In time, the episode and subsequent response will be quoted in textbooks as an example of how not to respond in a crisis."[102] Public relations expert Rupert Younger, director of the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation, called the handling of the situation "a major disappointment." In Younger's view, Munoz should have moved more quickly and been more genuinely apologetic from the start.[103] Former Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley said: "It's hard to think of a case study that went so compellingly wrong so rapidly."[104]

United Master Executive Council[edit]

On April 13, 2017, the United Master Executive Council, the United Airlines bargaining unit of the Air Line Pilots Association trade union, issued a statement to shift blame from United to Republic Airline, one of the carriers under contract to operate United Express flights, and especially the Chicago Department of Aviation. The statement read in part: "this violent incident should never have happened and was a result of gross excessive force by Chicago Department of Aviation personnel."[105][106]

Other airlines[edit]

Emirates launched an advertising campaign that parodies United Airline's "Fly the Friendly Skies" slogan and Munoz's previous statements about airlines in the Middle East.[107][108] Royal Jordanian put up a picture of a no-smoking sign on its Twitter account with the messages, "We would like to remind you that drags on flights are strictly prohibited by passengers and crew," and "We are here to keep you #united. Dragging is strictly prohibited."[109]

Delta Air Lines increased the amount of compensation supervisors can offer to displaced passengers from $1,350 to $9,950 with gate agents able to offer $2,000, up from $800.[90][110] American Airlines also enacted a new policy: passengers who have already boarded will never be removed to seat others.[111] Southwest Airlines announced they will no longer overbook flights.[112]

United States government[edit]

Executive branch[edit]

Sean Spicer answers questions about the White House's response to the incident.

The White House's "We the People" webpage received 100,000 petition signatures in one day—exceeding the threshold needed for official review—demanding a government investigation into the incident.[113] White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer commented that "It was an unfortunate incident" and added "when you watch the video, it is troubling to see how that was handled."[114][115]

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) said it was reviewing the incident. "While it is legal for airlines to [involuntarily] bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers, it is the airline's responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities," the agency said in a statement.[28] On April 12, the USDOT stated that it was "reviewing the involuntary denied boarding of passenger(s) from United Express flight 3411 to determine whether the airline "complied with the oversales rule."[116][117]

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie asked the United States Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, to suspend allowing airlines to overbook passengers.[118]

U.S. President Donald Trump criticized United Airlines' response to Dao in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He said the airline's treatment of their customer was "horrible" and that the airline should have further increased the financial offer to customers to voluntarily leave the plane, instead of choosing to use force. Trump told The Wall Street Journal: "You know, there's a point at which I'm getting off the plane ... seriously. They should have gone up higher. But to just randomly say, 'You're getting off the plane,' that was terrible."[119]


U.S. senators' letter to Munoz

A bipartisan group of senators on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee described the incident as "disturbing", and wrote to Munoz and the Chicago Department of Aviation. The group sought information about the crew-scheduling mix-up that required passengers to give up their seats, and asked whether United considers bumping a passenger to accommodate employees to be the same as an "oversold" situation. They asked the Chicago Department of Aviation about their security protocols and whether Dao had been passive or threatening during the incident. Both parties were given until April 20, 2017, to respond.[120] United Airlines submitted their response on April 26, 2017.[121]

Separately, twenty-one Democratic U.S. Senators wrote to Munoz to express their deep concern, and asked a range of questions about the incident, requesting a response by April 24, 2017.[122][123]

Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) called for hearings from the House Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) Committee.[124] Dan Lipinski (D-IL), member of the House Transportation Committee's Aviation subcommittee, called on Congress to make legislative amendments to give passengers more rights and to prevent further similar incidents.[125][118] Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said the incident was disturbing and criticized Munoz's "empty apology."[126]

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) is drafting the "Customers Not Cargo Act", which would ban airlines from involuntarily bumping passengers who are already on the aircraft and seated. He previously said United must do more than "apologize", and called for a full investigation.[127][128] Separately, congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) stated she intended to introduce legislation to end involuntarily bumping of passengers, requiring airlines to increase their offer until a customer voluntarily gives up their seat.[129] On April 26, 2017, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill which would change how airlines handle their boarding and bumping policies.[130]

Illinois General Assembly[edit]

Illinois state Representative Peter Breen has introduced the Airline Passenger Protection Act in the Illinois House of Representatives. The act forbids state or local government authorities from removing passengers that are not dangerous or causing a disturbance in non-emergency situations. It also forbids the state of Illinois from doing business with airlines whose policies allow removal of paying passengers to make room for employees traveling on non-revenue tickets.[131][132]

Chicago City Council[edit]

Chicago City Council's Aviation Committee held hearings starting April 13 to investigate the incident. Committee Chairman Mike Zalewski said the incident had damaged the reputation of Chicago and O'Hare International Airport. Zalewski wanted responses from United, Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans and from the union representing aviation police, SEIU Local 73.[122]

An April 12 statement by the Chicago Department of Aviation offered these comments about their security staff: "While they do have limited authority to make an arrest, Sunday's incident was not within standard operating procedures nor will we tolerate that kind of action. That is why we quickly placed the aviation security officer on leave pending a thorough review of the situation. The action we have taken thus far reflects what we currently know, and as our review continues we will not hesitate to take additional action as appropriate."[28][83][133]

Chicago Police Department[edit]

Chicago Aviation Security were instructed to remove the word "police" from their uniforms in January 2017, but they disobeyed this instruction.[134] As a result, there was confusion as to who responded to the event with some thinking that the Chicago Police Department responded. The Chicago Police Department Office of Communications stated that Dr. Dao fell—a statement which contradicts what is seen in both videos.[135] When questioned about this, the Chicago Police Department's chief spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said, "CPD didn't release an official statement on it. We were not involved. Dept. of Aviation has everything you will need."[135] When pressed further about why CPD issued a response about an incident in which they were not involved, Guglielmi said this, "A takeaway for me is to ensure the department's press office is more consistent in referring to appropriate outside agencies for incidents in which CPD is not the acting or involved agency."[135]


Dao's personal injury lawyer asked the Cook County Circuit Court for an order requiring United and the city of Chicago to retain all video, cockpit recordings, and other reports from the flight, including personnel files of the Aviation Department officers who pulled Dao from the plane.[136][137] United and the city of Chicago agreed, forgoing a court hearing.[138]

Through his lawyers, Dao described his ordeal as "more horrifying" than his experience of the Fall of Saigon during the Vietnam War.[139]

On April 24, Dao's attorney announced that Dao intended to file a lawsuit against United.[140][141] Three days later, United and Dao reached a confidential settlement.[12][13]

In April 2018, one of the Aviation Department officers, James Long, filed a lawsuit against United Airlines and the Chicago Department of Aviation alleging that he was not properly trained to handle misbehaving passengers, he was unfairly fired and slandered.[142]

Third-party legal commentary[edit]

Early reports and United Airlines initially characterized the incident as a consequence of overbooking, leading some experts to question whether that was the case.[143] John Banzhaf, a professor of law at the George Washington University Law School, states that United was "citing the wrong federal rule to justify its illegal request to force a passenger already boarded and seated to disembark," since the regulation cited only covers denial of boarding, and not removing a passenger after boarding.[144]

Another observed that while United has asserted a right to remove passengers after boarding, none of the reasons for doing so specified in the airline's contract of carriage applied in this situation.[145] One attorney pointedly stated United "had absolutely no right to remove that man from the airplane"[146] and described the incident as "assault and battery."[144]

Chicago City Council alderman Michael Zalewski questioned whether the Chicago Airport Police even had the legal authority to enter the aircraft.[147]

A partner at Kreindler & Kreindler, a law firm specializing in air disaster litigation, concluded, "United, if they're smart, will quickly and quietly settle the case."[148]

Cultural impact[edit]

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel criticized United Airlines and its handling of the incident in a five-minute segment of Jimmy Kimmel Live! that aired on April 10, 2017, and included video of the actual incident.[149] Kimmel, referring to the word "re-accommodate" used by Munoz, said, "That is such sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility, corporate BS speak."[150]

The incident has been discussed on numerous other comedy shows, including Conan, Ellen, and Saturday Night Live.[151] In an SNL sketch, Jimmy Fallon's character Doug proposes marriage to Cecily Strong's Jen after admitting he made "one of the biggest mistakes a person can make". Jen replies, "No, Doug! You dragged a man off a plane this week!"[152][153]

The cover of the New Yorker May 22 issue depicted former FBI director James Comey, who had just been fired, being dragged down the aisle of an airplane by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.[154]

American actor Will Ferrell mentioned the incident in his May 2017 commencement address to the University of Southern California’s graduating class. Referring to his honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree awarded on the same day, he quipped:[155]

The next time I’m flying and they ask if there’s a doctor on board, I can now confidently leap to my feet and scream, ‘I’m a doctor, what can I do? Yes, no problem, I can absolutely deliver that baby.’ Hopefully it will be on United Airlines, in which case I will be immediately be subdued and dragged off the aircraft, which we all know will be recorded on someone’s iPhone and put on YouTube.

Similar incidents[edit]

A passenger on a United Airlines flight who bought a full-priced first-class ticket from Lihue (Hawaii) to Los Angeles was told to get off the plane because "they needed the seat for somebody more important." [156] According to the passenger, the gate agent rudely stated, "We have a priority list, and you’re at the bottom of it."[157] The gate agent then threatened him by saying he would be arrested and put in handcuffs. He is now considering legal action against United.[158]

A family on a Delta Airlines flight was removed from the aircraft and threatened with jail time and loss of custody of their children by Delta Airlines staff for not giving up a seat that they had purchased for their teenage son who was not flying on the flight. Delta refused to provide any compensation or lodging for the family.[159]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Victor, Daniel; Stevens, Matt (April 10, 2017). "United Airlines Passenger Is Dragged From an Overbooked Flight". The New York Times. Retrieved April 11, 2017. 
  2. ^ https://nypost.com/2017/04/13/cop-laughed-as-man-was-dragged-off-flight-witness/
  3. ^ http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/united-passenger-cops-laughed-dragged-doc-flight-article-1.3051239
  4. ^ Response to United Express Flight 3411, April 10, 2017
  5. ^ Mccann, Erin (April 14, 2017). "United's Apologies: A Timeline" – via NYTimes.com. 
  6. ^ a b https://mic.com/articles/174007/united-airlines-new-video-suggests-dr-david-dao-was-not-belligerent-before-removal#.7JLMcrSIl
  7. ^ a b https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2017/04/11/male-hs-teacher-aboard-united-flight-didnt-need-happen/100319308/
  8. ^ Statement from United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz on United Express Flight 3411, April 11, 2017
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External links[edit]