United Airlines passenger David Dao was violent before removal, aviation police say

Newly released police reports say David Dao, the Kentucky doctor who was violently removed from his seat on a United Airlines plane, was flailing his arms and verbally abusive toward officers before he lost his balance and struck his face on an armrest.The reports from Chicago’s aviation police, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Los Angeles Times and other news organizations, appear to contradict videos of the April 9 incident taken by passengers and widely circulated on social media and in news reports.The incident, which sparked worldwide furor and led to several apologies from United CEO Oscar Munoz and a promise to overhaul overbooking procedures, began when Dao refused to give up his seat after the airline decided to eject four people from the aircraft so that crew members could fly to Louisville in order to staff another flight.In his report, Officer James Long alleged that during the attempt to pull Dao from his seat, he knocked Long’s arm, “which caused the subject to fall, hit, and injured his mouth on the armrest on the other side of the aisle.”Another one of the four officers, Steven Smith, wrote that his “statement is not being given voluntary (sic), but under duress. I am only giving this stament (sic) at this time because I know that I could lose my job if I refuse the direct order being given to me.”Another officer, Mauricio Rodriguez Jr., wrote a similar introduction to his report, in which he said that Officer Long “assisted the subject by using minimal but neccesary (sic) force to remove the subject.”The report from the fourth officer, Sgt. John Moore, appeared to show that Moore arrived on the scene later. The officers were later put on administrative leave.Thomas Demetrio, the Chicago personal-injury lawyer representing Dao, told the Times that the reports were “utter nonsense." Related links:On Monday, Continue Reading

Outraged couple claims United Airlines lost their daughter

A California family says it's outraged after United Airlines allegedly lost their 10-year-old daughter who was traveling as an unaccompanied minor in late June. Annie and Perry Klebahn claim that their daughter, Phoebe Dittmore, was flying alone for the first time from San Francisco to a summer camp in Traverse City, Mich. when the airline lost track of her during a transfer at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Before boarding her first flight in San Francisco, Phoebe was told to "only go with someone with a United badge on and that she would be accompanied at all times," Annie Klebahn wrote in a complaint letter to the airline. But when Phoebe arrived in Chicago, no one from the airline's unaccompanied minor service was there to meet her, Annie said. Phoebe reportedly told flight attendants that she needed to catch another plane and asked to call her parents multiple times, but the attendants simply told her to wait. "When she missed the flight she asked if someone had called camp to make sure they knew and they told her 'yes-we will take care of it'," Annie wrote. "No one did. She was sad and scared and no one helped." The Klebahns only realized something was amiss when the camp notified them that Phoebe never showed up at the Traverse City airport. Annie Klebahn immediately called the airline's customer service line which transferred her to United's service center in India. She was repeatedly put on hold until a representative told her that Phoebe was still in Chicago because she had missed her connection. Perry Klebahn, meanwhile, was able to get hold of a customer service representative in the U.S. due to his United Premier status. The representative told Perry that the unaccompanied minor service, which is outsourced to a third party vendor, "forgot to show up," Annie wrote. The representative then told Perry that she couldn't help him any further because her shift was ending. But Perry continued to plead with her, asking if Continue Reading

F-16s escort United Airlines flight after passengers brawl over reclined seat

The skies weren't so friendly for two brawling passengers on a United Airlines flight. Air Force fighter jets were scrambled and the Ghana-bound plane returned to Dulles International Airport after the Sunday night fight aboard United Flight 990. The cause of the punch-up shortly after takeoff: A seat reclined too far into the personal space of a fellow passenger, according to The Washington Post. The flier in the offending seat was smacked in the head over his travel transgression, setting off a fistfight between the two, the Post said. The pilot opted to take the 10:44 p.m. flight, with its 144 passengers, back to Dulles rather than continue with the 11-hour trip to Accra, Ghana. At one point, the pilot informed the tower of his plans - and was asked if the main combatant was under control. "Negative," the pilot says calmly. "The passenger is not secured at this time. The passenger has settled down though, but an assault has taken place. But at this time he is not secured." The report of the mid-air assault led federal officials to send a pair of F-16 fighter jets to escort the United flight back to the airport in suburban Virginia. "They were just following typical procedures when you have disturbances," said U.S. Navy Lt. Commander William Lewis, spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Police greeted the battling passengers when they arrived back to Dulles shortly after midnight. Neither passenger was injured, and no arrests were made. All the passengers eventually left Monday morning on their trip for Africa. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

United Airlines passenger Dr. David Dao was combative, officers claim

The officers who dragged an Elizabethtown, Kentucky, doctor off a United Airlines flight bound for Louisville this month are claiming he was combative and aggressive. A slew of documents released late Monday by the Chicago Department of Aviation revealed the names of the four involved officers, who are now on administrative leave, and sheds light on their versions of the April 9 incident on Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville.Much of what is detailed in the officers' narratives is captured by passengers' videos that have gone viral, provoked outrage and captured international attention. They show an officer, now identified as James Long, forcefully pulling 69-year-old Dr. David Dao from his seat after he refused to leave the plane with his wife.In a "hospitalization case report," a Chicago Police Department officer wrote that Dao was seen hitting his face on an armrest as the aviation officers "attempted to escort" him from the plane.According to the report taken by Chicago police, Dao said he and his wife listened to the announcement made on the plane asking for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for $800.An airline supervisor failed to get any volunteers to leave the loaded plane to make room for four airline employees who needed to be on the flight to Louisville, United has said.  Related: Yes, it was Kentucky doctor David Dao who was dragged off that United plane Lawyer: Dr. David Dao will become 'poster child' for passengers mistreated by United, other airlines Dao said he and his wife were at first interested but changed their minds after learning they weren’t guaranteed a flight later in the day.“Victim stated he had to see patients tomorrow and could not accept a next day flight,” the report reads.Dao said he was told that he and his wife were randomly selected to deboard.Reports filed by security officers Mauricio Rodriguez Jr. and Continue Reading

Frequent-fliers wonder if new CEO will mean a new United Airlines

Tuesday's abrupt resignation of United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek comes amid a federal investigation that's raised the specter of political patronage and allegations of corruption in the state of New Jersey.But for United's customers, interest in the airline's executive shake-up is more basic: "What will it mean for us?"The ouster of Smisek and two other high-ranking company executives follows a series of IT breakdowns -- two alone this summer -- that have snarled flights and frayed passengers' nerves since United's merger with Continental in 2011. United's overall operations have also bogged down, with poor on-time arrival rates and above-average customer complaint rates, according to federal Department of Transportation data.In June – the latest month for which federal data is available – United had the second-worst on-time arrival rating of the 13 big carriers that report data to the Department of Transportation. More than 1 out of every 3 of United's "mainline" flights arrived behind schedule for the month.United also scored poorly for customer complaints, rating 10th out of the 13 airlines included in the DOT numbers for the first half of 2015. Of the four biggest U.S. airlines that combine to carry 80% of U.S. passengers, United fared better only than American – which is in the process of wrapping up its merger with US Airways.And from Wall Street's perspective, United's post-merger earnings remained relatively anemic compared to the bonanzas reported at Delta and American following their mergers with Northwest and US Airways, respectively. United's earnings results finally began to improve during the past year.Though United cited the ongoing federal investigation in revealing Smisek's departure, he had become the target for many of the airline's customers who had grown frustrated with its recent performance."The CEO of a company is always going to be a lightning rod for complaints when things go poorly or the hero when things go well," says Continue Reading

United Airlines under fire after man is dragged off overbooked flight

United Airlines came under fire on social media Monday after video emerged of a man being violently dragged off of an overbooked flight out of Chicago.Video of the incident, posted online by Audra D. Bridges at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, shows the man screaming as he is dragged off of the plane by what appears to be security [email protected] posted a similar video capturing the incident on Twitter, showing a man hanging limp as his body is dragged down the aisle, with blood pouring out of his mouth.In the video, a woman screams “Please, my God what are you doing.”"No this is wrong," she says. "Please look at what you did to him.”Other passengers shared their videos of the incident and said the man's face was bleeding after his head hit the seat.On Twitter, "United" began trending Monday as people slammed the airline's use of force against the passenger.Some called for a boycott of United flights."On the bright side, @United will probably never have to worry about overbooked flights again," @Schwin216 tweeted with the hashtag #BoycottUnited.United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz apologized for having to “re-accommodate” customers aboard the flight and said they were investigating the incident, but many on social media said the apology fell short.Bridges told the Courier-Journal that the flight was overbooked and the airline needed four people to five up their seats to stand-by United employees who needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. No one volunteered, so the airline used a computer to randomly select four passengers to disembark the flight. More coverage: One couple was selected first and left the airplane, she said, before the man in the video was confronted. Bridges said the man became "very upset" and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning. The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly, Bridges said, and the man Continue Reading

United Airlines can remove you from a flight for dozens of reasons you agree to

Bare feet. Appearing intoxicated. Smelling bad. United Airlines can remove passengers from flights for dozens of reasons. And each provision is detailed in the nearly 37,000-word document called a “contract of carriage” that every passenger accepts when buying a ticket.United’s dispute with a passenger forcibly removed from a Sunday flight shines a spotlight on the contracts that set rules and expectations between carriers and travelers.“Those contracts are well thought through. They are generally fair and balanced, and they reflect the market,” said Roy Goldberg, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson who practices aviation law in Washington, D.C. “As a general matter, passengers have rights, but airlines have rights, too.”After Congress deregulated the airline industry in 1978, there are three things that govern a carrier’s relationship with its passengers: contracts of carriage, the U.S. Department of Transportation and laws approved by Congress. Read more: Lawmakers dictate some policies, such as prohibiting smoking on flights. The department sets others under its authority to regulate unfair and deceptive practices, such as forcing an airline to pay a passenger four times the price of a ticket, capped at $1,350, if the passenger will arrive hours later than expected after being bumped.But most of the nuts-and-bolts details of flying are left to airlines to determine with passengers through contracts of carriage. The deregulation act blocked most lawsuits over routes, pricing or services, Goldberg said.Despite the length of the contracts, lawyers and aviation experts said travelers need to learn what is covered by the agreements and shop around. For example, Southwest Airlines typically doesn’t charge fees to change flights, while other airlines do.“In order to have a marketplace that works, you need informed consumers,” Goldberg said. “An informed traveler will have Continue Reading

United Airlines had a right to remove that flier. But should it have?

United Airlines found itself at the center of controversy Monday after a video posted on Facebook showed a passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight Sunday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.Several passengers reacted with horror as the man was pulled out of his seat and dragged toward the front of the plane by unidentified personnel. The flight from Chicago O'Hare to Louisville was operated by United Express affiliate Republic Airlines.United confirmed that a passenger had been taken off Flight 3411 on Sunday in Chicago, with CEO Oscar Munoz apologizing and pledging to “conduct our own detailed review of what happened.”The situation arose in part because United needed to get crewmembers onboard the sold-out flight so that they could get to Louisville to work a “downline connection,” said United spokesman Jonathan Guerin.But the video has made headlines across the country, giving United an unwanted public relations black eye, just two weeks after it was exposed to criticism for denying boarding to two girls traveling on a guest pass because they were wearing leggings. Making it worse was that the passenger in this case had already boarded the flight.“Once you’re offloading passengers who’ve already boarded so that you can get employees on the flight, you’d think they’d do just about anything to avoid that,” said Seth Kaplan, editor of the Airline Weekly trade publication.Others echoed the sentiment that United probably could’ve handled the situation better.“I’ve seen a lot in my 40 years covering and working for the airline industry, but this is historically bad public relations,” says George Hobica, president of Airfarewatchdog. “The burning question is why did they wait until everyone was seated before realizing they needed to move employees?”As for passengers, they have surprisingly few rights when flights are Continue Reading

United Airlines becomes first in U.S. to fly ‘awesome’ Dreamliner

United Airlines flew into the aviation history books yesterday, becoming the first U.S. carrier to fly paying passengers on Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner.The flight — United Flight 1116 — departed Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport at 7:20 a.m. CT before touching down at 9:47 a.m. CT in Chicago. PHOTOS: United's inaugural Dreamliner flight MORE: Onboard United's 787 inaugural, in our readers' wordsAviation enthusiasts, United employees, journalists — and even a few regular passengers — were among those on the history-making flight.Chicago resident and Today in the Sky reader Scott Shatzer was one of those aviation enthusiasts. Shatzer normally flies with American, where he's earned "Executive Platinum" elite frequent-flier status. But he says he couldn't pass up the opportunity to fly on the USA's first domestic Dreamliner flight, regardless of the airline. AIRCHIVE.COM: Photos, trip-report from United's inaugural 787 flight AP: United becomes first U.S. airline to fly Boeing's 787 Dreamliner PHOTO ARCHIVES: United's gives sneak-peak of its new Dreamliner"We were so excited, we all found it a bit difficult to sleep I believe so we were up and on the hotel shuttle van at 5 a.m.," says Shatzer, who traveled with seven other Chicago-area friends to be on United's 787 inaugural."It felt like we were kids going to Disney World for the first time, I guess," he tells Today in the Sky"The plane is amazing," adds Kris Van Cleave of Washington, D.C., another aviation enthusiast who traveled to Houston just to be on the inaugural flight to Chicago."The flight was so much fun, it had a party atmosphere," Van Cleave, a reporter at Washington's WJLA ABC affiliate Channel 7, tells Today in the Sky. "(United CEO Jeff) Smisek must have talked to every passenger on the flight, people were out of their seats the entire flight — how the cabin crew managed to serve drinks and food is beyond me, but they did it with a smile."The plane Continue Reading

Muslim woman claims United Airlines attendant refused her an unopened can of Diet Coke saying it could be used as weapon

United Airlines has been accused of discrimination after refusing to give an unopened can of Diet Coke to a female Muslim passenger. Tahera Ahmad, 31,said in a post on her Facebook page that the flight attendant was "clearly discriminating against me" after giving the male passenger seated next to her an unopened can of beer. She did not respond to the Daily News' request for comment. Ahmad, who is the Muslim chaplain at Northwestern University, said that in the ensuing argument, one of her fellow passengers told her: "You (are) Moslem, you need to shut the f--k up." The alleged incident happened as she asked for the can of pop on a flight from Chicago to Washington on Friday. Ahmad was traveling to attend an interfaith event for KIDS4PEACE to promote peaceful conversations between Israelis and Palestinians. Well, I'm sorry. I just can't give you an unopened can, so no Diet Coke for you. Ahmad was given one can that had already been opened, but said she wanted an unopened can for hygienic reasons. But she said she was told by the flight attendant: "Well, I'm sorry. I just can't give you an unopened can, so no Diet Coke for you." Ahmad said she then pointed out that the man next to her had just been handed an unopened beer and told the attendant she was being discriminated against. The employee then quickly opened her neighbor's beer can. The flight attendant then told the passenger: "We are unauthorized to give unopened cans to people, because they may use it as a weapon on the plane." Asking other passengers for help, she was then told to "shut the f--k up," Ahmad claimed. "I can't help but cry on this plane because I thought people would defend me and say something," she wrote in the post. "Some people just shook their heads in dismay. "#IslamophobiaISREAL" But people on the Internet have supported her and the post had received nearly 7,000 shares as of Continue Reading