Brown: Apology had to be dragged from United CEO

SHARE Brown: Apology had to be dragged from United CEO

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said his airline erred in removing a passenger from an aircraft after he had been allowed to board. | Associated Press

Follow @MarkBrownCSTFinally.

It took nearly 48 hours, but United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz belatedly awoke from his corporate stupor long enough Tuesday afternoon to issue a real apology for the mistreatment of a Louisville-bound passenger at O’Hare Airport on Sunday evening.

The airline still couldn’t bring itself to properly express concern for the welfare of Dr. David Dao, the Kentucky man roughed up by Chicago Aviation Department police for refusing to give up his seat.

But the full-throated acceptance of responsibility was a marked improvement on the airline’s initial mealy-mouthed efforts to blame the “re-accommodated” victim.

“It’s never too late to do the right thing,” Munoz said in his latest statement.

That’s a sentiment with which I generally agree, but it’s so much better when you do the right thing from the start.


Follow @MarkBrownCSTInstead, United and Munoz retreated from the start into legalistic defensive mode, as if all they were dealing with was the threat of a personal injury lawsuit instead of a wholesale breach of trust with their customer base.

For the life of me, I will never understand why Munoz thought it was important Monday to send a letter bucking up the morale of his employees by backing the actions of the crew for following “procedures” rather than reassure the flying public he would take steps to make sure something like this never happens again.

At least the City of Chicago jumped in on Day One and took action regarding the Aviation police officer who dragged the passenger from the plane, bloodying him in the process to the shock of other passengers.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel also was a day late in commenting on the debacle, but he beat Munoz to the punch by calling it “completely unacceptable at every level.”

Probably the biggest reason people were so upset by the cellphone videos of the incident is that they’d never seen anything like this before on an airplane and needed reassurance that it wouldn’t happen to them.

Many passengers have been put in the position of worrying about getting bumped from a flight, but not many of them truly understand their rights. Nor are the airlines in any hurry to make the passengers better informed, which might shift the negotiating power in the customer’s favor.

Unfortunately, staying on the plane when the flight crew orders you off is not among a passenger’s rights, we are told, although I’m not sure how many would know that.

It’s also disappointing that some people now are blaming the elderly Asian passenger, dragging in his criminal record.

Yes, he seems to be a somewhat odd individual.

So what? Strange people buy airline tickets every day and airline crews are accustomed to dealing with them.

I’m the kind of person who generally complies with authority, meaning I probably would have left the plan when instructed if it had been me.

But it’s not my favorite trait. That means I can sympathize with somebody who gets their back up when they feel bullied.

Why exactly should the United crew members who took the bumped passengers’ seats have been given priority?

As we’re trying to find the proper level of outrage here, maybe we should keep in mind that this sort of thing really doesn’t happen much, meaning there is no trend, unlike say, African-Americans getting shot by police during traffic stops.

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