SAN FRANCISCO - Several news outlets are reporting that a 69-year-old man who was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight to make room for crew members had been charged in 2005, with felony drug counts for illegally prescribing and trafficking painkillers.
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The man dragged from a full United Express flight is a Kentucky physician. But David Dao's unflattering history quickly became the focus of attention, even though there's no indication that his past influenced how he was treated or that the airline or airport police were aware of his background.
A statement was released Tuesday on Dao's behalf by Chicago attorney Stephen L. Golan of Golan Christie Taglia who, along with Chicago aviation attorney Thomas A. Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio, represents the Dao family:
"The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received. Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao's medical care and treatment."
Both attorneys say that until Dao is released from the hospital, the family is asking for privacy and will not be making any statements to the media.
Some passengers ABC7 News spoke with said they would like to be boycotting, but said when you have miles with United Airlines or the company has the best fare for your destination, it's hard to make that decision.
Some passengers said they don't think that Dao was without fault, but they are still very upset with United.
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The new information that Dao has felony convictions in his past does not come as a shock to some travelers, but it does not appear to be changing people's minds about how this situation was handled. "It's not surprising, but United didn't handle it well, they just didn't," one man said.
Travelers also think Dao should have obeyed authorities when they told him to get off the plane, but they are still sympathetic to him, and not United Airlines.
Paris resident Chloe Wang said he should've gotten off the plane, but that United Airlines had no right to do what they did.
People are angry with United Airlines, but are still flying with the airline out of the San Francisco International Airport despite calls for a boycott. "The whole thing is disgusting and I am going to talk to United when I check in today and let them know that this is the first time in my career and I've flown United for 30 years that I'm embarrassed to fly United," Dublin resident C.J. Meurell said.
There is a movement online to boycott United Airlines because of how this passenger was treated. Some told ABC7 News they'd like to, but when United is the only airline flying to certain destinations, boycotting is out of the question. "Our flight has been booked since February, so I didn't have a choice. We always fly United into Lake Charles," San Leandro Christine Clark said.