United, Chicago aviation leaders fall on swords over man dragged from plane
If one clear thing emerged from a Chicago committee hearing on how a United Airlines flyer was bloodied and bruised when security dragged him off a full flight, it's that everyone is really, really sorry.
United is sorry it wanted to shoehorn four airline crew members onto Flight 3411 from O'Hare International Airport to Louisville and bump four passengers, including Dr. David Dao.
Chicago's aviation department is sorry its security officers yanked the protesting 69-year-old out of his seat and dragged him by the arms down the aisle. And Chicago aldermen presiding over an aviation committee meeting Thursday are sorry about the black eye the city received, as well as an expected lawsuit.
Attorneys for Dao will likely file suit after the physician's nose and teeth were broken and he suffered a concussion Sunday when aviation security officers removed him from the plane after he refused to get off when told he'd been bumped.
Did anyone tell Dao about the repercussions of his refusal, Alderman Edward Burke asked United officials at an aviation committee hearing Thursday. Was he "told he could be dragged off and have his teeth broken?"
"There's no script for this," United executive John Slater told Burke.
The situation spiraled on Sunday as the airline sought to obtain volunteers to leave the aircraft to accommodate a flight crew that needed to go to Louisville.
When no one was tempted by $800 vouchers, gate agents picked four people to be bumped, including Dao.
"I've never seen a situation like this," Slater said. "Most are handled at the gate."
Also under scrutiny were aviation security officers. The auxiliary force of unarmed officers typically works to ensure people accessing secure areas at O'Hare have proper identification.
Burke cross-examined Deputy Commissioner of Security Jeffrey Redding on whether the officers were trained in the use of force. Redding told Burke he'd need to check.
Meanwhile, Alderman Nicholas Sposato asked that a video in which Dao said, "No, I am not going" be displayed. Videos with footage of the Kentucky doctor being dragged off the flight with bruises and bleeding from the face went viral. "When you're at the airport, you don't mess around," Sposato said.
Alderman Daniel Solis objected to seeing "an Asian man being dragged like a sack of potatoes" and Chairman Michael Zalewski asked United if "dollars were so precious" that it would subject customers to such treatment.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson told aldermen the situation constituted "senior abuse" and said Dao "could have been killed."
United officials said it prioritizes who gets bumped, choosing people who are not frequent fliers and considering ticket cost and when flyers checked in. They denied any racial component.
Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said the department is reviewing its security procedures and staff but also came under fire for why one of the officers had a badge saying "police" on it.
Typically, security officers don't go on planes if there is a customer service issue, Redding said.