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United CEO apologizes for ‘truly horrific’ passenger incident

Posted at 11:15 AM, Apr 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-11 18:22:09-04

NEW YORK —United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz apologized for the forcible removal of a paying passenger from one of its flights and called the episode "truly horrific."

Munoz pledged a full review by April 30 "to fix what's broken so this never happens again."

"I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right," Munoz said in a statement on Tuesday. "I promise you we will do better."

Munoz initially supported the way his employees handled an incident with a passenger who did not want to go after being asked to leave a plane on Sunday night at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

In a letter to employees Monday evening, Oscar Munoz said he was "upset to see and hear about what happened." He added, however, that the man dragged off the plane had ignored requests by crew members to leave and became "disruptive and belligerent," making it necessary to call airport police.

"Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this," Munoz told employees. "While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right."

Munoz said that the airline might learn from the experience, and it was continuing to look into the incident.

Chicago's aviation department says one of its police officers involved in dragging a man off a United Airlines flight at O'Hare International Airport did not follow standard operating procedures and has been placed on leave.

The department said in a brief statement Monday it did not condone the aviation security officers' actions Sunday night.

The statement did not release the officer's name and it was not immediately clear which of the three men seen in the now-widely seen video taken by another passenger which one was placed on leave.

United has said that the incident came after the flight to Louisville, Kentucky, was overbooked and airline officials asked for volunteers to get off the plane. When none of them did, the airline told four passengers who were selected at random that they had to get off the plane. Three of them did but the fourth, Dr. David Dao, refused. United called the airport police, who came aboard the plane and dragged Dao away.

A statement was released Tuesday on behalf of Dao, who is undergoing treatment in a Chicago hospital for his injuries.

“The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received. Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao’s medical care and treatment,” said Chicago attorney Stephen L. Golan of Golan Christie Taglia, who along with Chicago aviation attorney Thomas A. Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio, represents the Dao family. Until Dr. Dao is released from the hospital, the family is asking for privacy and will not be making any statements to the media, both attorneys said.

The CEO of United Airlines' parent company says the airline is conducting its own investigation after police dragged a passenger from an overbooked United plane after he refused to give up his seat.