This Saturday will mark five months since videos of a United Airlines passenger being forcibly removed from an overcrowded flight spread all across the globe, sparking a weeks-long firestorm for the airline and prompting major changes across its business. Now, a flyers rights group has revealed that federal officials have declined to punish the airline for the disturbing incident.
As a report by the Associated Press explains, the Department of Transportation said it found no evidence that United violated the rights of the passenger, 69-year-old David Dao, when airport officials dragged him off one of the carrier's flights at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on April 9. After conducting an investigation into the widely publicized debacle, the agency concluded in a May 12 letter to United that it wouldn't be fining the airline. That decision was made public on Wednesday after Flyer's Rights, a passenger's rights advocacy group, uncovered the letter through a Freedom of Information Act request and published its contents online.
Passenger advocates are not pleased with the decision, as Paul Hudson, president of Flyers Rights, said in a statement: “For the Department of Transportation to conclude that United Airlines' conduct did not warrant an enforcement action is a dereliction of duty."
For its part, a United spokesperson told Thrillist in a statement that "the incident should have never happened." The carrier added that it's "implementing all of the improvements we announced in April, which put the customer at the center of everything we do."
Videos and photos of the incident show airport security officials dragging Dao down the aisle of the aircraft, leaving him with a broken nose, two lost teeth, and a concussion. He later filed multiple charges against the airline, ultimately forcing it to institute a series of sweeping changes meant to improve its customer service policies.
The fiasco proved to be one of the most contentious issues ever faced by a major airline, especially in the realm of customer service. In late April, Dao and the airline reached an "amicable settlement," the specifics of which were undisclosed. CEO Oscar Munoz also drew criticism for the company's original missteps while responding to the outcry over the videos.