The Kentucky doctor dragged from a United Express flight at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago suffered a significant concussion, broken nose and lost his two front teeth, attorneys for David Dao said Thursday.
In revealing plans to file a lawsuit, Chicago aviation attorney Thomas A. Demetrio said the issue that led to David Dao's "forceful" and "violent" removal was not in fact "overbooking" but rather a larger problem of airlines "bullying" customers.
"For a long time, airlines, United in particular, have bullied us," he said. "They have treated us less than maybe we deserve."
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Dao’s lawyer criticized the flight’s crew for standing by idle as police used “violent” force to remove a 69-year-old man from the plane, noting that Dao was not a threat to passengers or United employees.
"This was not a troubled passenger," he said. "This was not a nut job. This was not a threat to anyone. Should he have been unceremoniously dragged out of that airplane the way he was? He's a 69-year-old man. Is that really the way we want to treat the aged?"
David Dao's daughter told reporters Thursday that her family was "horrified and shocked and sickened" by what they saw in the now-viral video.
"What happened to my dad should have never happened to any human being regardless of the circumstance," said Crystal Dao Pepper.
In a statement issued shortly after the Thursday news conference, United said it "cannot stress enough that we remain steadfast in our commitment to make this right."
"This horrible situation has provided a harsh learning experience from which we will take immediate, concrete action," the statement read. "We have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again."
Video showed Dao, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, getting dragged off the full United Express flight by airport police, prompting outrage on social media nationwide.
Screaming can be heard on the videos, but nowhere is Dao seen attacking the officers. After he was dragged down the aisle of the jet, video shows him standing in the aisle with blood on his face and saying quietly, "I want to go home, I want to go home."
Demetrio said Dao told him the the experience was 'more horrifying and harrowing' than when he left Vietnam in a boat during the fall of Saigon in 1975.
United CEO Oscar Munoz, in his latest statement, described the removal as "truly horrific." He said the company would reassess policies for seeking volunteers to give up their seats, for handling oversold situations and for partnering with airport authorities and local law enforcement.
"No one should ever be mistreated this way," Munoz said in his most contrite apology yet as details emerged about the incident.
Munoz also pledged to conduct a wide-ranging review of company policies.
On Thursday, United added that it will not ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers unless it is a "matter of safety and security."
The event stemmed from a common air travel issue — a full flight. United was trying to make room for four employees of a partner airline, meaning four people had to get off.
At first, the airline asked for volunteers, offering $400 and then when that did not work, $800 per passenger to relinquish a seat. When no one voluntarily came forward, United selected four passengers at random.
Three people got off the flight, but Dao said he was a doctor and needed to get home to treat patients on Monday. He refused to leave.
Three Aviation Department police officers got on the plane. Two officers tried to reason with the man before a third came aboard and pointed at the man "basically saying, 'Sir, you have to get off the plane,'" said Tyler Bridges, a passenger whose wife, Audra D. Bridges, posted a video on Facebook.
One of the officers could be seen grabbing the screaming man from his window seat, across the armrest and dragging him down the aisle by his arms.
Other passengers on Flight 3411 are heard saying, "Please, my God," ''What are you doing?" ''This is wrong," ''Look at what you did to him" and "Busted his lip."
United Airlines has since announced that all passengers on Flight 3411 will receive refunds for their tickets.
"All customers on flight 3411 on Sunday, April 9 are being compensated for the cost of their tickets," the company said in a statement Wednesday.
Airport officials have said little about Sunday's events and nothing about Dao's behavior before he was pulled from the jet that was bound for Louisville, Kentucky. Likewise, the Chicago Aviation Department has said only that one of its employees who removed Dao did not follow proper procedures and has been placed on leave. Two more officers involved in the situation were suspended on Wednesday.
No passengers on the plane have said that Dao did anything but refuse to leave the plane when he was ordered to do so.
Also Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the way Dao was treated "completely unacceptable" and praised Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans for taking "swift action." He promised that a city investigation would "ensure nothing like this ever happens again."
Dao’s lawyer said he doesn’t believe the incident was racially motivated and that it appears that airlines don’t have standard procedures for kicking people off plane.
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Tuesday that it is reviewing Sunday's events to see if United violated rules on overselling flights.