Asian Pacific American (APA) organizations, outraged over the “use of excessive force” in the removal of Vietnamese American (initially thought to be Chinese American) passenger, identified by the media as Dr. David Dao, 69, from a United Airlines plane on April 9, are demanding: 1) a thorough investigation of the incident; 2) accountability on the part of UA officials and three police officers, 3) an apology, and 4) a Congressional hearing on airline industry practices.
“This incident involves criminal assault and battery against a legitimate passenger,” said Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) Executive Director Arnedo S. Valera, who is also a lawyer. “United Airlines did not only violate the right of this ticketed passenger, but it also disregarded the basic norms of human decency.”
He added: “This is a legitimate reason to call for a boycott of United Airlines. The passenger was chosen at random. We will not be surprised that racism and racial prejudice were on their minds when they picked him to be dragged from the plane. This can be me, you, your son, daughter, father, mother, friend or any relative.” MHC is a nonpartisan service and advocacy organization based in Virginia.
OCA Chief Executive Officer Ken Lee said, “United should be conducting a thorough and objective investigation, addressing the incident directly, and apologizing for the vicious way it was handled. The Chicago Department of Aviation should also be held accountable for why their officers felt it necessary to use violence to remove the passenger.”
Remarked John C. Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice/AAJC: “It remains to be seen if Dr. Dao was racially profiled for removal from the United flight, but we believe a full and transparent investigation is necessary to determine if there were racial biases at work. One thing is very clear. The use of force in this situation was inappropriate.”
“We have seen a renewed surge in hate and discrimination against our communities,” he noted. “In this time of fear and political tension, it is easy to understand why some would question the motives of the airline, airport security, and law enforcement personnel as targeting an Asian American, a community of people often associated with the model minority myth and falsely viewed as the least likely to speak out against situations like this one…We all have to be part of this broader coalition against hate, police brutality, and disparate treatment of communities color and other marginalized communities.”
OCA CEO Ken Lee pointed out: “Regardless of race or background, all individuals’ rights and freedoms must be protected within the system. This incident is a clear example of authorities using excessive force. We demand answers from United Airlines and the Chicago Department of Aviation. We look forward to hearing from the various governmental agencies in regard to this incident.”
OCA is sending a letter to United Airlines, the Chicago Department of Aviation, and the U.S. Department of Transportation demanding a complete investigation of the incident. OCA is also calling for Congressional hearings in both the House and Senate to investigate ticket sales and boarding processes by United and other airlines.
One of the Chicago police officers was placed on leave the day after the incident. A spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Aviation told Yahoo News the incident “was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure, and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the department.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation is already investigating whether the airline complied with federal rules. On April 11, the New York Times reported four top leaders of the U.S. Senate committee on commerce are also going to conduct an investigation.
On April 11, two days after the incident, UA CEO Oscar Munoz issued his “deepest apologies” and announced a review of its policies, according to Fox News, noting his change in tune. Fox News reported Munoz was widely criticized for two statements the day after the incident in which he described Dao as “disruptive and belligerent.”
Fox News reported on April 11 that while Dao could be heard screaming on the videos, nowhere is he seen attacking the security officers. It added that in fact, he appears relatively passive both when he was dragged down the aisle of the jet and when standing in the aisle later murmuring, “I want to go home, I want to go home.”
Video Sparks Public Outrage
The incident at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport did not involve overbooking at UA Flight #3411. Dr. Dao and three other passengers were removed after UA’s voucher offers for four passengers to give up their seats for its own crew needed in Louisville, Kentucky did not elicit any response.
A UA manager announced that a computer would select four people. But later a United spokesman would not say whether the bumped passengers were chosen by a computer, an employee, or some combination of the two, according to the New York Times.
Three passengers approached by airport security grudgingly left the plane. The media reported Dr. Dao refused to leave, saying he had patients he needed to attend to in Louisville. United Airlines staff then called three police officers.
At least two passengers videotaped the incident. The video sparked public outrage in the U.S., as well as in China. It showed Dao going limp after hitting the floor, then being violently dragged on the aisle by three police officers. A female passenger could be heard saying repeatedly, “Oh my God, Oh my God!” The Washington Post reported that other passengers could be heard saying, “This is horrible,” and “What are you doing? No! This is wrong.” When Dao was allowed to re-board the plane, the video showed him with bloodied face and looking dazed, saying, “I want to go home, I want to go home.”
Readers can watch thevideo on YouTube or by typing the name of newspapers like Washington Post and New York Times, or TV stations like ABC and Fox News.
Fox News reported Dao’s family appreciates the outpouring of prayers, concern and support. It added that currently, the family’s focus is only on his medical treatment, quoting 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.
United Airlines Apology Does Not Name Dao
On April 11, United CEO Munoz issued a statement expressing his deepest apologies without mentioning Dao’s name, Reuters reported on April 11. The report added that an online petition calling for Munoz to step down had nearly 22,000 signatures by early evening on April 11.
The Munoz statement, posted on Twitter, follows: “The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.
“I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.
“It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement.
“We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.”
The New York Times also reported the CEO’s apology on April 11, and added a letter from Munoz to employees stated that the employees followed established procedures during the incident and that he “emphatically” stood behind them. It quoted Munoz as saying he believed there are lessons UA can learn from the incident, and he added that treating customers and each other with respect and dignity “is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.”
The fall-out from the crisis in the United Airlines continues, however. The media reported that as a result of the incident, stocks fell as much as 4.4 percent right after the incident. On Twitter, travelers have threatened to boycott the airline. Observers say a lawsuit is very likely to cost the airline millions, and predicted UA CEO Munoz will have to step down as a result of the airline’s mishandling of the situation.
UA also stands to lose a huge market. On Chinese social media, the incident attracted the attention of more than 480 million users on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, according to a Reuters report on April 11. This is the second time this year that the airline has been in a controversy. Last month, the airline refused to board two teenage girls wearing leggings, resulting in a strong criticism from the public.
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