The man who was unceremoniously dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight sparking a global uproar has been identified as Dr. David Dao, a Vietnamese-American grandfather from Kentucky.
That will likely come as something of a surprise to the more than 100,000 people who have signed a #ChineseLivesMatter petition on the whitehouse.gov petitions page calling for a federal investigation into the incident.
The mistake appears to stem from a fellow passenger who told the Washington Post that Dao had “more or less” said “‘I’m being selected because I’m Chinese,” before being forcibly removed from his seat on a Chicago-Louisville flight by police officers in order to make room for United staff members, leaving him shaken and bloody.
It’s not yet clear what this revelation means for Chinese netizens who have furiously protested against United for what many have called an act of discrimination, calling on their fellow countrymen to boycott the airline. On Tuesday, the incident became the hottest topic on Weibo with thousands of web users promising never to fly on the airline again.
To demonstrate their dedication to the boycott, some Weibo users have even posted pictures of themselves canceling or even cutting up their United membership cards.
China is a key international market for United. The company operates more nonstop US-China flights than any other airline, including flights to five Chinese cities.
So far, the company’s PR response does not seem to be helping to smooth over the incident and quiet critics. After the video went viral, United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a public statement apologizing for “having to re-accommodate” the passenger, drawing even more scorn for the unsympathetic euphemism.
Somehow managing to make things even worse, Munoz later doubled down in a letter to employees on Monday, calling the passenger “disruptive and belligerent” and claiming that employees had “followed established procedures.”
Meanwhile, the incident hasn’t been so great for Dao either as media outlets have been busy digging up all the skeletons in his closet.
Follow Shanghaiist on WeChat