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Airline finally apologises to passenger dragged from plane

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United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz has issued an apology for the treatment of a passenger who was dragged from his seat on a United plane, as the company faces a worldwide backlash for its handling of the incident.

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“I’m sorry. We will fix this,” Munoz said in a statement a day after he had defended the company in a memo that contained no apologies to the passenger. On Tuesday, as the storm of criticism continued, Munoz changed course.

“I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard,” he said in the statement. “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

Video showing a man being snatched from his seat on Sunday evening and dragged from United Airlines Flight 3411 sparked global outrage that escalated as consumers in China, a key United market, called for boycotts of the airline. Regulators in the US said they are reviewing the incident.

Lawyers for the passenger, Dr David Dao, issued a statement late on Tuesday confirming his identity and saying that he and his family were “focused only on Dr Dao’s medical care and treatment” in a Chicago hospital.

The US Department of Transportation launched an inquiry into the incident, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie called for new rules to curb the airline practise of overbooking flights.

United Continental Holdings Inc shares fell as much as 4.4 per cent on Tuesday, but recovered some losses and ended 1.1 per cent lower. More than 16 million United shares changed hands, the most for any session in a year.

The stock is down about 3 per cent for the year.

United is also suffering from broader worries among investors about US airline performance.

In his apology, Munoz pledged a “a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivising volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement.”

The findings will be released by April 30, he said.

– Reuters

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