The internet's been abuzz with news, reactions, and fury directed at United Airlines after passengers on a flight shared multiple videos of a man being forcibly removed from his seat. It's a complicated story that has had many twists and turns seemingly on the hour—here's an best explanation of everything that has happened, so far:
The flight from O'Hare International Airport in Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, was scheduled to take off on Sunday at 5:40 p.m, according to the New York Times.
Before boarding for the flight began, United realized the flight was overbooked. This is normal, as airlines "routinely sell tickets to more people than the plane can seat," according to the Times, to account for possible no-shows. When a flight ends up with too many travelers, the airline offers vouchers to customers who will willingly give up their seats.
But on Sunday, United couldn't get enough people to voluntarily skip the flight. According to NJ.com, they needed the seats so United employees could make it to Kentucky to get on other flights. This logic apparently did nothing to sway the paying customers. Then four people were, apparently, chosen at random and asked to leave the flight.
According to a United spokesman, "we had asked several times, politely," that Dr. David Dao—the man in the following video— leave the plane, and he refused. Then this happened:
Subsequent videos of Dr. Dao, bloody and disoriented, made everything that much worse:
In being physically forced off the plane by officers from the Chicago Department of Aviation, the 69-year-old doctor sustained visible injuries as the authorities manhandled him and his head bashed against an armrest.
Passengers cried out in protest, and their tweets of the incident went massively viral. Social media lit on fire with anger at United.
The officer in the video was put on leave, and the Chicago Department of Aviation security said "the actions of the... officer are obviously not condoned," according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
On Monday, the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, offered an apology in the face of the outrage. According to CNBC, this is the statement he released:
This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.
But his non-apology apology—specifically the phrase "re-accomodate"—only made things worse for United Airlines on Twitter:
As the controversy continued, the ever-tactful Bill O'Reilly became a target of outrage for laughing while discussing the incident:
And Jimmy Kimmel savaged United with a parody advertisement for the airlines:
Meanwhile, a hashtag started trending on Twitter, just in case United Airlines didn't realize what a public relations debacle they had stumbled into.
(Worth noting, also, is a Twitter controversy from late March involving United Airlines, when United refused to allow two young girls from boarding the airplane because they were wearing leggings.)
On Tuesday, the controversy showed no signs of receding. The United CEO sent a letter to his employees, which was quickly given to the media. In it, Oscar Munoz was unrepentant, blaming the victim of the incident for being "disruptive and belligerent."
From USA Today, here are excepts of Munoz's letter to employees:
"This situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused, and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help," the letter says. "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 conceded, however, that "there are lessons we can learn from this experience," and he promised an investigation. Chicago aviation officials placed a security officer on leave, saying the incident "was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure."
The victim-blaming was compounded on Tuesday when Dao's criminal record was exposed by the Courier-Journal, as if it was relevant to the assault he endured on Sunday. David Dao, they said, "is familiar to many Kentuckians who recall his convictions on drug-related offenses in 2004." Many on Twitter quickly came to his defense against those who would use the report to justify the violent incident.
On Wednesday, the Independent published a story titled "Is the United Airlines man being smeared in the media even the right David Dao? It shouldn't matter." In the story, they raise criticism of the reporting on the victim, asking if tabloids even have the right man—whose background has nothing to do with his treatment on the United flight:
There is presently confusion about whether the man on the United flight was actually David Thanh Duc Dao, quite possibly another person entirely to David Anh Duy Dao, the man with the criminal records.
As of April 11, reports said that Dao was still "recovering in a Chicago hospital," according to local station WLKY. Dao's attorney, Stephen Golan, gave the following statement:
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.
Check back here as the controversy continues to evolve.