United Airlines says it will testify at House hearing

By Reuters/David Shepardson, Alana Wise   April 20, 2017 | 10:14 am GMT+7
United Airlines says it will testify at House hearing
Community member protests the treatment of Dr. David Dao, who was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago. Photo by Reuters/Kamil Krzaczynski

The airline is having to clarify an incident earlier this month in which a 69-year-old passenger was dragged off a flight to make room for crew members.

United Airlines said on Wednesday it planned to testify at an upcoming U.S. House Transportation Committee hearing on commercial airline consumer issues after a passenger was dragged off an April 9 flight in Chicago to make room for crew members.

Justin Harclerode, a spokesman for the House of Representatives panel, did not say who the committee planned to call as witnesses. A date for the hearing has not been disclosed.

United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said in a statement that the airline looked "forward to meeting with the committee and sharing with them the comprehensive review and the customer-focused actions we will communicate next week."

She declined to say who would testify for United.

The airline also faces a Thursday deadline from the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee to answer detailed questions about the incident on United Flight 3411, which 69-year-old Dr. David Dao was dragged off by airport security officers.

The same committee requested that the Chicago Department of Aviation, which employs the officers, respond to a separate list of queries by Thursday as well.

Dao's lawyer said the senior citizen incurred a significant concussion, suffered a broken nose and lost two front teeth in the incident, and that he would likely sue the airline.

In United's first-quarter earnings call this week, company executives again apologized to Dao and United customers.

The carrier last week announced two rule changes in response to the incident, including ending the practice of calling police to remove passengers from overbooked planes.

The flight was already full when four airline crew members showed up after passengers had boarded and requested seats so they could commute to their next flight out of Louisville, Kentucky.

Dao, who had immigrated to the United States from Vietnam, repeatedly accused airline officials of discriminating against him for being a Chinese before he was hauled off the plane, according to a fellow passenger. Social media users in the United States, Vietnam and China to call for a boycott of the carrier.

United said this week its chief executive met with the Chinese consulate in Chicago over the possible impact to bookings from a customer being dragged off a plane but it was too early to tell if business in China had been hit by the event.

United serves about 20 percent of the total U.S.-China traffic and has a partnership with Air China , the country's third-largest airline, according to analysts.