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United Continental reversed course and issued an unconditional apology for the treatment of a passenger violently removed from an overbooked flight as the US carrier fought to regain its footing in a global public relations crisis which has damaged its reputation from the US to China.

Only hours after defending the actions of staff in the incident, in which a screaming Asian-American doctor was injured as he was forcibly removed from an overbooked flight on Sunday, United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a message to customers saying “I’m sorry. We will fix this”.

He called the incident, which has generated social media condemnation from around the globe, “horrific” and offered his “deepest apologies” for it. “Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way,” he said.

It was the third statement from the carrier about the incident, as United struggled to find the right tone to placate global anger about the treatment of the passenger, which had even reached the White House. Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, described the incident as “unfortunate”, adding that President Donald Trump had watched the video footage of the passenger’s removal.

Here is the full statement:

The truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.

I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.

I promise you we will do better.

Sincerely,

Oscar

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