United Airlines changes policy after 'horrific' passenger ordeal

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United Airlines Boeing 787 aircraft at San Francisco International Airport, California, 7 February 2015Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
United Airlines sparked outrage when a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight last week

United Airlines is changing its policy on giving staff last-minute seats on full flights after a man was dragged screaming from a fully booked plane.

The airline said that in future crew members would be allocated seats at least an hour before departure.

It comes after passenger Dr David Dao lost two front teeth and suffered a broken nose when he was forcibly removed from a flight last Sunday.

United Airlines said the move was aimed at improving its customer services.

The incident involving Dr Dao caused outrage and widespread condemnation of the airline after shocking footage was shared and watched by millions of people online.

His daughter, Crystal Dao Pepper, later told a news conference in Chicago that the family had been "sickened" by what had happened.

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An eyewitness describes how the passenger sitting next to her was dragged off the plane

Law enforcement officials dragged Dr Dao off a flight departing from Chicago for Louisville, Kentucky, because it was fully booked, and the airline wanted four passengers to make way for staff members.

The 69-year-old Vietnamese-American physician had refused to leave, saying he needed to go home to see his patients. He was then dragged down the aisle of the aircraft.

His lawyer later said that Dr Dao found the experience "more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced when leaving Vietnam".

The ordeal led to demonstrations at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and turned into a public relations disaster for United Airlines.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson led a protest at Chicago's main airport

The situation escalated when a response from the airline's chief executive, Oscar Munoz, failed to mention any use of excessive force.

"This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologise for having to re-accommodate these customers," he said in a statement. He also said that Dr Dao was "disruptive and belligerent".

Days later Mr Munoz, who was facing calls to resign from online petitions that had received thousands of signatures, said he felt "shame and embarrassment" and vowed that it would never happen again.

The airline offered compensation to all customers on board last Sunday's United Flight 3411.