On Sunday (April 9), United Airlines employed officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation to forcibly remove a customer from United Express Flight 3411 after they were unable to secure volunteers to give up seats for United staffers. Officers pulled 69-year-old Dr. David Dao, who the Daily Mail reports is Vietnamese-American, out of his seat and dragged him down the plane’s center aisle, bloodying him in the process. Passengers posted video of the incident.
The videos quickly went viral, prompting United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz to issue a statement yesterday (April 10):
This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Police Department—which was not directly involved in the assault—issued a statement saying that Dr. Dao “fell.”
He fell. pic.twitter.com/aQA0YmYWWx
— Luke O’Neil (@lukeoneil47) April 10, 2017
Chicago Department of Aviation spokesperson Karen Pride said the officer who dragged Dao has been placed on leave while the incident is investigated. “The incident on United flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the department,” Pride told CBS Chicago via email.
Many have made connections between the selection of Dr. Dao for deplaning and the current political environment. The Washington Post reports that China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, saw 97,000 comments about the the topic, with many saying that Dao was treated poorly because he is Asian. And actor John Cho drew a direct line to President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric:
It’s hard not to see a connection between the environment Trump has created and what happened on that @united flight.
— John Cho (@JohnTheCho) April 10, 2017
Today (April 11), the debate over the airline and law enforcement’s actions continued via the trending hashtag #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos. Here are some must-see entries.
“Now with fewer Asians”#NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— Kurt (@knyguard) April 11, 2017
— SuperBad (@SubuTweets) April 11, 2017
Pepsi: oh no, this is a PR nightmare.
United Airlines: Hold my beer. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— Catalina Gamble (@CatGambl3) April 11, 2017
United: We Treat You Like a Minority at a Trump Rally. #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos
— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) April 11, 2017