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“I Just Cried:” Dr. David Dao Remembers Being Dragged off His Flight

“I Just Cried:” Dr. David Dao Remembers Being Dragged off His Flight
Jeff Edwards

Speaking with ABC News on the two-year anniversary of his famously being violently dragged from an overbooked United Airlines flight, physician David Dao says the incident left him with lingering health problems. After viewing the video of his brutal treatment at the hands of police for the first time, the doctor said the images left him in tears.

Doctor David Dao’s treatment at the hands of Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) police officers in April of 2017 made front page headlines and was the lead story on nearly every nightly news broadcast for weeks. The spotlight is no longer on the now-famous senior citizen who refused to give up his seat on a United Airlines flight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) in order to make room for off duty employees (and paid for his defiance with a concussion, a broken nose and two lost teeth), but Dao admits it has been difficult to move on from the traumatic events that occurred two years ago.

In his first interview after remaining largely silent following his ordeal, the Kentucky physician told ABC News that he is still suffering health issues as a result of his brutal treatment. Once an avid marathon runner, Dao says he now has been left with balance issues, insomnia and difficulty concentrating. According to the M.D., his rehabilitation included months of relearning how to walk and he was even placed on suicide watch while recovering at the hospital.

Dao told ABC News’ Julia Jacobo that he has almost no recollection of the events that occurred on United Flight 3411 after being asked to give up his seat on the plane. He recalls only waking up in the hospital battered, bloody and in pain. After seeing footage of his mistreatment on the plane for the first time months later, Dao confessed that it was an emotional moment. “I just cried,” he recalled.

Dao reached an undisclosed settlement with United Airlines just weeks after the incident. The two officers responsible for his brutal removal from the plane were fired (one of those officers later filed a lawsuit of his own against United Airlines). Although United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz initially blamed Dao for the shameful episode, calling the doctor “belligerent,” he soon reversed course in the face of public backlash and promised to change the way the company treats its passengers.

“It’s one of the dark moments,” Munoz later said in public comments about the embarrassing affair.  “Usually the question is, ‘Are you glad that’s getting behind you?’ and I always say, ‘No, I’m happy to be reminded of it every day,’ and so is our company, because it’s important to know how quickly things can go sideways on us…The rigor and discipline around safety and security and operations doesn’t necessarily apply to the comfort and the quality and the emotional connection as a human on the customer service. So, with our rules and procedures, you can’t put always rules and procedures on how you treat another human.”

Dao indicated that he doesn’t regret his decision to stand his ground, because he believes that the end result was that airline and airport officials reevaluated how they interact with the public. “Everything happens with a reason,” he said.

[Image Source: Screenshot from video]

View Comments (14)


  1. JumboJet

    April 9, 2019 at 3:47 pm

    All right now this guy’s 15 minutes of fame is way over now

  2. am1108

    April 9, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Imagine if Smisek was still at the helm… I’m sure this would be spun around as a “change we would like”

  3. Gigantor

    April 9, 2019 at 11:34 pm

    “…United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz initially blamed Dao…”

    I am amazed that anyone would continue to fly with United Airlines.

  4. shadesofgrey1x

    April 10, 2019 at 4:41 am

    Totally his fault if he left when asked he would have been compensated the plane would have left on time and that would have been the end of it. According the video he was asked several times politely to leave and he refused. He even went back after being booted off!!

  5. RandyN

    April 10, 2019 at 11:27 am

    Dao made a choice. Why is anyone feeling sorry for this self-important jerk? He acted out, got a little roughed up and walked away with a fat payday.

    I will shift my loyalty to the first airline that stops apologizing to passengers who bring their troubles upon themselves.

  6. naumank

    April 10, 2019 at 12:34 pm

    I’m surprised at those who blame the victim here. (I have my doubts about those posters’ intentions but I’m not going to speculate here.) Was it wrong for a senior passenger to want to go home that night? Was it Dr. Dao’s fault to be treated inhumanely by the airport police thanks to United?

    Remember UA booted those passengers off the plane to fly their own crew that night. They could have easily arranged their own crew to get to their destination without kicking off their passengers who had paid for the flight.

  7. neilcb

    April 10, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    I have no sympathy for this jerk. He’s not the first person to be bumped off a flight; but he managed to greatly profit by having been.

  8. neilcb

    April 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    Gigantor: You can be bumped off other airlines besides United. Guess you can boycott all of them if you want to.

  9. djjaguar64

    April 10, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    UA is one airline to avoid just as you must avoid AA.

  10. Flight44

    April 10, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    This guy is a drama queen provocateur. Follow instructions of crew and law officers. If not, well, then you’re the fool.

  11. alangore


    April 10, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    Dao is my hero. I’m hoping that his example leads to a Congressional crackdown on airline high-handedness in so many policy areas. This would be a much bigger hit with the general public than such nostrums as the “Green New Deal.”

  12. Annalisa12


    April 10, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Any idea what kind of payout he would of gotten?

  13. RUAMKZ

    April 12, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    The irony of all this, is that was an Express flight, and not actual UA metal. And Bryan Bedford, the CEO of that express carrier, never gets mentioned, and
    he never made an kind of statement.

  14. Live4Upgrade

    April 14, 2019 at 6:43 am

    he’s a con artist. Any logical person would have complied when the cops showed up.

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