David Dao, who has retained a high-powered personal injury lawyer, asked the Cook County Circuit Court for an order requiring United and the city of Chicago to keep all video, cockpit recordings and other reports from the flight, along with the personnel files of the Aviation Department officers who pulled Dao from the flight.
The request was filed less than two hours after United CEO Oscar Munoz put a human face on the airline’s apology over the incident, saying in an interview with “Good Morning America” that he felt “shame” when watching viral videos of Dao being dragged down the plane’s aisle.
Munoz previously had addressed the incident in written statements on the airline’s website.
“This will never happen again on a United Airlines flight,” Munoz said on TV, apologizing to Dao, his family, passengers on that flight and United’s customers and employees. He said he took full responsibility for the situation but has no plans to resign.
Munoz had issued a statement Tuesday night apologizing for the incident, in which Dao was dragged down the aisle of a plane, after United’s initial apology had added more fuel to the backlash. Asked Wednesday why his initial remarks failed to mention that sense of shame, Munoz said he wanted to first “get the facts and circumstances,” but that his earlier remarks “fell short” of expressing what he felt.
Criticism of the incident and United’s initial response has included calls for Munoz’s resignation, but the United CEO said he’s not going anywhere. “I was hired to make United better, and we’ve been doing that. And that’s what I’ll continue to do,” he said.
Munoz also said he doesn’t think Dao was at fault in the incident. “He was a paying passenger sitting in our aircraft. No one should be treated that way,” he said.
Dao, who has retained lawyer Thomas Demetrio, was in a Chicago hospital undergoing treatment for his injuries Tuesday, according to a statement from Demetrio.
Asked what Dao deserves from United after the incident, Munoz said, “certainly an apology.” The airline has tried to contact him, unsuccessfully, Munoz said. “From that point on, we’ll have to see,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Demetrio’s firm said they were not available to comment Wednesday.
Munoz also said United already has decided it will no longer call on law enforcement to remove passengers from oversold flights once on board.
“To remove a booked, paid, seating passenger, we can’t do that,” he said.
Munoz said the airline needs to give its employees more latitude to be flexible in trying to resolve situations like the one on the Sunday flight without resorting to calling in law enforcement.
Munoz on Tuesday promised a thorough review of United’s policies for handling situations where it has sold more tickets than seats available, including how it offers incentives to customers to take a later flight, and how United works with airport authorities and local law enforcement.
Dao was one of four passengers involuntarily bumped from a United Express flight from Chicago to Louisville, Ky. after airline employees failed to find volunteers willing to switch to a later flight. When Dao repeatedly refused to leave his seat, employees called in security personnel from the city’s Aviation Department, who dragged him off the aircraft.
United’s programs for incentivizing people to volunteer to switch to a later flight, typically in exchange for vouchers that can be redeemed for future travel, work well at the gate, Munoz said.
More than 90 percent of passengers bumped from a flight on a major U.S. airline last year volunteered, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
But once passengers are in their seats, “that incentive program needs to change,” Munoz said. “We need to expand and adjust those policies to allow common sense.”
United already gives employees some discretion when it comes to taking individual passengers’ situations into account or deciding how much compensation to offer when trying to recruit volunteers, said United spokesman Charlie Hobart. But since deviating from procedure can cause additional problems down the line, the airline is reviewing ways to help employees strike the right balance between sticking to the playbook and being flexible to solve a problem.
United did not plan to make Munoz available for additional interviews Wednesday, Hobart said.
In a Tuesday blog post, PRWeek U.S. Editor-in-Chief Steve Barrett panned the airline’s initial response as “tone-deaf,” and expressed second thoughts about the decision to give Munoz a Communicator of the Year award just last month.
“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,” Barrett wrote.
Dragged United passenger, in step toward potential lawsuit, seeks court order to save records – Chicago Tribune