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United Airlines reaches settlement with dragged passenger

UPDATED: Thu., April 27, 2017

This Sunday, April 9, 2017, image made from a video provided by Audra D. Bridges shows a passenger being removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago. (AP)
This Sunday, April 9, 2017, image made from a video provided by Audra D. Bridges shows a passenger being removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago. (AP)
Associated Press

CHICAGO – A Kentucky doctor who was dragged off a United flight after he refused to give up his seat to employees of a partner airline has reached a settlement with United for an undisclosed amount, his lawyers announced Thursday.

David Dao’s legal team said in a brief statement that the agreement includes a provision that the amount will remain confidential.

Lawyer Thomas Demetrio praised United CEO Oscar Munoz.

Munoz “said he was going to do the right thing, and he has,” Demetrio said in the statement. “In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened … without attempting to blame others, including the city of Chicago.”

Cellphone video of the April 9 confrontation aboard a jetliner at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport sparked widespread public outrage over the way Dao was treated.

The footage showed airport police officers pulling the 69-year-old father of five from his seat and dragging him down the aisle. His lawyer said he lost teeth and suffered a broken nose and a concussion.

The incident arose from a common air travel issue – a fully booked flight. Wanting to seat four crew members, the airline offered passengers $400 and later $800 to voluntarily relinquish their seats. When no one did, United selected four passengers at random.

Three people got off the flight, but Dao refused, saying he needed to get home to treat patients the next day. The airline then summoned the officers, who forcibly removed Dao.

The incident was a major embarrassment for United, and many observers expected Dao to file a costly lawsuit.

United’s response in the immediate aftermath was widely criticized. Munoz first defended the airline and described Dao as “belligerent” before publicly apologizing days later and vowing to do better.

Three airport police officers who dragged Dao from the plane worked for a city agency, the Chicago Department of Aviation. They were placed on leave after the incident.

The agency released a report April 24 in which the officer who pulled Dao from his seat, James Long, gave his version of events. Long said Dao was verbally and physically abusive and was flailing his arms before he lost his balance and struck his mouth on an armrest.

The department’s roughly 300 officers guard the city’s two main airports but are not part of the regular Chicago police force. They receive less training and cannot carry guns inside the terminals.

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