Passenger dragged off United Airlines flight settles with carrier
Just weeks after he was carted off an overbooked United Airlines flight, physician David Dao on Thursday settled with the carrier, which is also instituting major changes in how it treats customers.
Attorneys for Dao would not disclose the settlement amount. The 69-year-old Kentuckian refused to give up his seat on a United jet at O'Hare International Airport to accommodate a flight crew.
"Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adoption of changes which will certainly help improve the lives of literally millions of travelers," lawyer Thomas Demetrio said.
Dao's nose and teeth were broken when Chicago Department of Aviation security officers yanked him from the flight to Louisville April 9. Three officers and a sergeant have been suspended as a result.
And on Thursday, CDA Aviation Security Assistant Commissioner Jeffrey Redding was fired, city officials said.
"What happened to him should never happen to any human being," Dao's daughter, Crystal Dao Pepper of Barrington, said at an April 13 news conference.
Demetrio had called the officers "storm troopers" and castigated United but on Thursday praised CEO Oscar Munoz for implementing new rules.
"Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing and he has," Demetrio said.
Munoz announced United won't call in police in the future unless it is an issue of safety and won't ask people already on the plane to relinquish their seats unless there is a security concern.
The airline also agreed to raise the maximum compensation it offers to encourage volunteers to give up their seats to $10,000.
Fallout will continue from the debacle in that the city of Chicago is still reviewing it and passenger-rights legislation is pending in Congress.
Lawyers were conducting discovery in the case, but Dao had not filed a lawsuit.
Videos of Dao being dragged went viral, touching a nerve among travelers fed up with crowded, delayed flights and subpar service.
"Travelers have spoken loudly that once a customer is seated, that person should never be asked to exit due to a denied boarding situation. The new measures make this a centerpiece of United's policy," DePaul University aviation expert and professor Joseph Schwieterman said.
"Giving gate agents the authority to offer larger sums of money when soliciting volunteers on oversold flights is critical to avoiding situations like that occurring a few week ago at O'Hare," Schwieterman added. "I suspect that involuntary denied boarding will now fall to virtually nothing -- that's a big change for an industry that is known for overbooking."
Munoz fell on his sword in a letter to customers Thursday, saying "our procedures got in the way of our employees doing what they know is right."
He promised to eliminate red tape with permanently lost bags by implementing an automatic $1,500 replacement policy, and to give employees an app to enable them to provide miles, travel credits and other perks to dissatisfied customers.
"You can and ought to expect more from us, and we intend to live up to those higher expectations in the way we embody social responsibility and civic leadership everywhere we operate," Munoz wrote.
Redding is a former Illinois tollway toll operations chief. He left the agency in August 2015.