United Quickly Settles With Dragged Passenger
United Airlines has reached a settlement with Dr. David Dao, the bumped passenger who was dragged off a Republic Airlines regional flight (operating as United) after having his nose broken and losing two teeth in the process. The cellphone video of the incident and subsequent backlash has focused discussion on how everyone behaves in the aluminum tubes and likely made the doctor from Louisville, who was trying to get home from Chicago on April 9, a wealthy man. Of course the first term of the settlement is nondisclosure but Dao’s lawyer Thomas Demetrio said he’s hopeful it will result in more than a pot of cash for his client. “Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adopting of changes which will certainly help improve the lives of literally millions of travelers,” said Demetrio, one of Dao’s two lawyers. “I sincerely hope that all other airlines make similar changes and follow United’s lead in helping to improve the passenger flying experience with an emphasis on empathy, patience, respect and dignity.”
For its part United seemed to agree with that general theme and announced policy changes resulting from the event in which it cited the limited power of its employees to resolve involuntary bumping situations on that day and that rules had become more important than its customers. “This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline,” chief executive Oscar Munoz said in a statement. United and other airlines have now increased the maximum cash compensation for bumping to $10,000 (Dao was offered $800 and a fellow passenger who offered to take his place for $1,000 was turned down).
Whether United’s hugely expensive mea culpa will be enough to quell concerns in Congress is another matter, however. A bill introduced in the Senate on Wednesday would require an examination into overbooking and perhaps set limits on the number of seats an airline can sell on each flight. Other airlines, who briefly took advantage of United’s very public plight, have since announced changes to their own procedures to prevent such things from happening to them and likely to try to prevent lawmakers from getting involved.