United Airlines Won't Be Fined by the Government for the David Dao Dragging Incident

The airline won't face fines from the Department of Transportation for the April incident that made headlines

United Airlines won’t be fined by the Department of Transportation after officers forcibly removed a 69-year-old doctor from a flight at Chicago’s O‘Hare International Airport in April, which left him bloodied and disoriented.

In a May 12 letter that was made public by the passenger advocacy group, Flyers Rights, the department notified United Airlines that they would not face fines from the federal government for dragging physician David Dao from an overbooked flight, according to the Chicago Tribune.


In a statement to PEOPLE on Wednesday, a United spokesperson said the airline is working to better their customer service.

“This incident should never have happened and we are implementing all of the improvements we announced in April, which put the customer at the center of everything we do.” the statement reads. “While we still have work to do, we have made meaningful strides that improve our customer experience.”

Dao had purchased a ticket on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, but was taken from his seat and pulled through the aircraft’s aisle by Chicago Department of Aviation officers after he refused to give a United crew member his seat on the overbooked flight. Footage of the April 9 incident sparked national outrage and went viral on social media.

The department’s letter, which was made public by a Freedom of Information Act request made on behalf of Flyers Rights, also mentioned that the Transportation Department found United failed to comply with aspects of the government’s rule on overselling seats, and did not calculate the proper compensation for one of the five passengers who were removed from the flight, which they later corrected.

“We generally pursue enforcement action when a carrier exhibits a pattern or practice of noncompliance with the department’s consumer protection regulations and federal anti-discrimination statues that we enforce,” the Transportation Department said. “Therefore, we conclude that enforcement action is not warranted in this matter.”

The letter also says the department found no evidence that the airline used race, gender, religion or nationality when choosing which passengers to remove from the overbooked flight.


Paul Hudson, the president of Flyers Rights, called the department’s conclusion, “egregious in every sense of the word,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

“For the Department of Transportation to conclude that United Airlines’ conduct did not warrant an enforcement action is a dereliction of duty,” he said.

The Department of Transportation also did not investigate the conduct of the three Chicago airport police officers who dragged Dao from his seat. “We did not review the actions of the security officers of the Chicago Department of Aviation because it is not DOT’s role to investigate police conduct,” the letter said.

Dao reached a confidential settlement with United Airlines in late April. His attorney, Thomas Demetrio, praised United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz for agreeing to the settlement.

“Mr. Munoz said he was going to do the right thing, and he has. In addition, United has taken full responsibility for what happened on Flight 3411, without attempting to blame others, including the City of Chicago. For this acceptance of corporate accountability, United is to be applauded,” he said in a statement.

The settlement was reached on the same day United Airlines announced policy changes to improve customer experience. According to Demetrio, “Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adoption of changes which will certainly help improve the lives of literally millions of travelers.”

He added: “I sincerely hope that all other airlines make similar changes and follow United’s lead in helping to improve the passenger flying experience with an emphasis on empathy, patience, respect and dignity.”

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