100,000 signatures goal reached on petition calling for investigation into airline’s removal of passenger

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 12:39am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 12:01pm

An online petition demanding the United States government launch an investigation into the forcible removal of an Asian-American man from a United Airlines flight exceeded the threshold needed for White House review in one day.

A wave of outrage on social media prompted United CEO Oscar Munoz to issue a second statement, apologising for the incident.

Watch: United CEO Oscar Munoz: We are sorry

“No one should ever be mistreated this way,” Munoz said.

He had issued a statement a day earlier that many social media influencers said didn’t go far enough to address the problem.

The 69-year-old doctor was pulled from his window seat by police on Sunday night after the airline overbooked the Chicago to Kentucky flight and decided to remove randomly selected passengers before take-off.

The man resisted and was injured during the altercation, according to witnesses. In videos passengers took of the incident and posted online, the man can be heard begging “just kill me”.

The petition was launched as initial reports suggested that the passenger – identified as David Dao by US media – was a Chinese-American. But the BBC on Tuesday quoted a passenger as saying that the man was Vietnamese and had lived in Kentucky for 20 years.

‘We’ll thrash United Airlines until we get an apology’: millions of Chinese view eviction video as enraged users vow vengeance

“You can apologise today to one guy, but what happens tomorrow?” said Edmund Gor, National President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. “We need to go beyond that apology and see what steps the airline is taking to rectify their policies so that this kind of action isn’t taken again and to know what kind of algorithm they’re using [to decide who gets removed from a flight].

“On any flight that’s not Pacific-bound or Asia-bound, you’d be hard-pressed to find Asian flyers making up more than two per cent of the passengers. How did this guy get so lucky?”

Paying customers’ refusal to give up their seat should not be considered disruptive
Jo-Ann Yoo, Asian American Federation

Jo-Ann Yoo, Executive Director of the Asian American Federation, said her organisation was “horrified” and has more questions than comments for United airlines.

“Our outrage is not that the customer was Asian American, but the fact that this has happened at all,” said Yoo.

“As a corporate practise, what’s the percentage of seats being overbooked? Moreover, what is the process of selecting passengers to reclaim the seats? How many times does this ‘re-assignment’ happen on a yearly basis? What’s the most United has offered to have customers volunteer to give up their seat?”

She added that if United was offering compensation, they should have increased the price until they had actual volunteers and paying customers’ refusal to give up their seat should not be considered disruptive.

“The passenger already boarded and was in a seat that he paid for,” Brian Kelly – also known as The Points Guy – said in a post published today on his website. “United’s Contract of Carriage dictates when a passenger can be refused transport, and nowhere does it state that United can de-board you because it wants to fly its own employees.” Kelly, who publishes travel advice, has 261,000 Twitter followers.

The story, which has gone viral and sparked outrage on Chinese social media platforms, has prompted an online petition on the official White House petition site We the People.

Created on Tuesday, the #ChineseLivesMatters petition reached the required 100,000 signature count, which puts the document in a queue intended for review by the White House, in about a day. These petitions, launched on a section of the whitehouse.gov website, have 30 days to reach their goal in order to get an official response.

“We are calling [sic] the federal government to launch an investigation into this incident. #ChineseLivesMatters,” the petition states.

United’s booting of passenger was even dumber than it looks: staff could have flown cheaper on other flights

The hashtag mimics the Black Lives Matter movement, which began after a number of black Americans died at the hands of police.

A number of Chinese social media users have condemned Sunday night’s incident as “racial discrimination”.