WASHINGTON – United Airline’s pilots are “infuriated” that a doctor was dragged off a plane, and blamed the events on the Chicago Department of Aviation’s “grossly inappropriate response,” the United pilots’ union said Thursday.
The United Master Executive Council, which represents the airline’s 12,500 pilots, emphasized in a statement that no United employees removed Dr. David Dao from Flight 3411 at O’Hare International Airport Sunday night. The flight was bound for St. Louis, MO.
The union also said that Republic Airline owned and operated the plane from which Dao was ejected.
“This occurred on one of our contracted Express carriers, separately owned and operated by Republic Airline, and was ultimately caused by the grossly inappropriate response by the Chicago Department of Aviation,” the pilots wrote.
“The safety and well-being of our passengers is the highest priority for United pilots, and this should not have escalated into a violent encounter,” the union’s statement said.
“United pilots are infuriated by this event.”
United gate agents apparently summoned the aviation police after Dao, who was traveling with his wife, refused to get off the plane. The airline said it needed four seats to accommodate employees who needed to get to the destination of St. Louis, Mo. After no one volunteered to get off the plane, despite offers of flight vouchers, four passengers were randomly bumped, United said.
The airline has faced a worldwide backlash after videos of the bloodied internist being dragged down the aisle by officers went viral. The incident has turned into a public relations nightmare for United.
CEO Oscar Munoz initially blamed Dao, calling him “belligerent” and “unruly.” On Monday, Munoz apologized only for Dao and three other passengers having to be “re-accommodated” to make room for the four employees. It is unclear whether the employees were indeed Republic workers as the pilots’ union said or United employees. In an email to United employees, Munoz said they had handled the situation appropriately.
But after public outrage escalated, Munoz issued a formal apology on Tuesday to Dao and the other passengers on the flight. Munoz said on “Good Morning, America” on Wednesday that United will no longer enlist police officers to remove passengers.
At a news conference on Thursday in Chicago, Dao’s lawyer Thomas Demetrio said his client will “probably” sue United.
Dao suffered a broken nose and concussion, lost two front teeth, and needs reconstructive surgery, his lawyer said.
As of early Friday morning, Republic Airways – the holding company for Republic Airline – had not released any statements about Sunday’s incident.