A week after video of a United Airlines passenger being violently dragged off a plane created a PR firestorm and sent the company’s stock plummeting, CEO Oscar Munoz said no employees would be fired as a result.
On a conference call Tuesday to discuss the first-quarter earnings of United Continental Holdings Inc., the parent company of United Airlines, Munoz again expressed regret for the violent removal of David Dao, a 69-year-old doctor from Kentucky, in order to make room for airline employees. Though he called the incident a “big failure,” the CEO also said “there was never consideration of firing an employee” or talk of leadership change.
There were numerous public calls for Munoz’s resignation amid withering criticism for his initial reaction to Dao’s removal, which left the doctor bloodied and bruised. In a public statement, he “apologized for having to re-accommodate these customers.” And in a letter to employees, he blamed Dao for being “disruptive and belligerent.”
He walked back those comments in his first interview after the incident, telling ABC’s Rebecca Jarvis that his “initial words fell short of truly expressing what we were feeling.”
“The buck stops here, and I’m sure there was lots of conjecture about me personally,” Munoz said Tuesday.
As an April 9 United flight scheduled to fly from Chicago to Louisville was boarding, the airline asked for four passengers willing to give up their seats to crew members who needed to travel in order to work their next flight assignments. When no passengers volunteered, United picked passengers at random to get off the flight. Dao was chosen but refused to leave; airport police were called in, and they bloodied Dao as they tore him screaming out of his seat and dragged him off the plane.
United said late Friday that it will now make staff and crew members who need to travel for work check in an hour prior to departure. United Continental’s first-quarter profits beat expectations.