Officials at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport have changed regulations on how they will handle onboard disturbances after a disturbing, viral incident on a United aircraft.
USA Today reports that the Chicago police will now handle all unrest that happens on the planes, rather than aviation security officers. These officers will only board the aircraft for medical emergencies or urgent threats.
This decision follows the April 9 incident in which security officers dragged Dr. David Dao, a physician from Kentucky, off of an aircraft at O’Hare to make space for United Airlines crew members. United officials asked the officers to respond in this way, according to USA Today. Dao lost two teeth and sustained a concussion, but United became the target of national outrage when video of the incident went viral.
O’Hare has continuously ranked as one of the busiest airports in the United States. With about 30.78 million citizens traveling overseas in 2014, these airports do not have room to skip security measures. Ginger Evans, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Aviation, told a senate panel last week that the security officers were not following standard procedure and have been suspended. She said that by adjusting the policy at O’Hare, the department hopes to prevent future incidents like this.
“While we cannot reverse what took place, as a department we are taking action to ensure this never happens again,” Evans said at the hearing.
United said that they will no longer call airport security in response to problems like this, Reuters reports. Evans also said that security officers and Chicago police will no longer be involved in any customer service issues at the airport.
“These actions will not be tolerated,” Evans said in her statement. “Our policies are clear that force should only be used when absolutely necessary to protect the security and safety of our passengers.”
Commercial airlines are not always the most comfortable setting to begin with, and passenger disturbances take this to a new level. USA Today reports that some of the senators at the hearing brought up other issues that airline customers face, including cramped seats and cancellations caused by technology failures. There is a reason why business people report a 40% decrease in productivity while flying commercial. American Airlines even announced last week that they would reduce space between seats — again — from 31 to 29 inches.
Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo. and head of the panel, said that this incident brings up cause for airlines to listen to public dissatisfaction and outrage, according to USA Today.
“It’s impossible to ignore the public outcry at recent incidents involving passengers, airline employees, and airport police,” he said at the hearing. “This incident was nothing short of disturbing.”
Following the April incident, many people put out a call on social media to boycott United Airlines, showing that reputation matters. With one in nine U.S. jobs depending on travel and tourism, any mass disturbance in the leisure industry could be detrimental to millions of jobs.
“I think it may be time for a new passenger bill of rights,” Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash, said at the hearing.