London – A doctor violently dragged from an overbooked United Airlines flight has described his ordeal as more terrifying than fleeing the Vietnam War, his lawyer said.
Dr David Dao, who lost two teeth and suffered a broken nose as he was hauled down the aisle, is now preparing a lawsuit against the airline – which experts predict could net him a swift multi-million-dollar settlement.
His family say they were "horrified, shocked and sickened" by his treatment on the Louisville, Kentucky-bound flight from Chicago on Sunday, which left the 69-year-old in hospital with concussion.
Dr Dao, who migrated to the United States in 1975 following the fall of Saigon, was released on Wednesday but will need reconstructive surgery on his nose.
Crystal Pepper, one of his five children, told a news conference in Chicago on Thursday: "What happened to my dad shouldn’t happen to any human being.’ His lawyer Thomas Demetrio added: "He [Dr Dao] said that being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what he experienced when leaving Vietnam.’
Chicago aviation officials dragged Dr Dao off the overbooked plane when he refused to make way for four of United’s crew members, saying he needed to get back to his patients. Video footage of him being manhandled went viral around the world – even prompting criticism from President Trump – and the airline’s boss issued a grovelling apology amid boycott threats. Confirming that he was preparing to sue, Mr Demetrio attacked the "culture of disrespect" in the way "bullying" United and other airlines treat their customers.
He said: "This was not a nut-job. He’s a 69-year-old man. Is that really the way we want to treat the aged? He just wanted to get home. Here’s the law, real simple: if you’re going to eject a passenger under no circumstances can it be done with unreasonable force or violence."
Legal experts predict a swift and lucrative settlement for Dr Dao, while all passengers who witnessed his ordeal on the flight were refunded their airfare.
Mr Demetrio said he hoped the case could become a "poster child" for how corporations should treat their customers with respect.
Miss Pepper thanked the public for their messages of support for her father and added: "We hope that nothing like this happens again in the future." Four of Dr Dao’s children are also doctors.
United Airlines did not comment on any potential litigation, but on Wednesday chief executive Oscar Munoz said he felt ashamed of the footage and promised there would be no repeat.