Rep. Todd Rokita says injured United passenger shouldn’t have resisted

Rep. Todd Rokita (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – An Indiana congressman defended United Airlines Tuesday, saying a passenger who was dragged off a plane shouldn’t have resisted law enforcement.

The company reportedly asked Dr. David Dao to give up his seat because the flight was overbooked, but he refused.

Dr. Dao was injured during the April incident that created a firestorm for the airline. He suffered a concussion and lost teeth during the ordeal. A viral video showed blood streaming down his face.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing to discuss crowded flights and what could be done to make sure similar situations do not occur in the future.

While lawmakers from both parties blasted the airline, Rep. Todd Rokita offered a rare voice of support, saying Dr. Dao should have obeyed police and crew members.

“This is a bit of a two-way street. What happened on that United flight shouldn’t have escalated to where it was,” said the Brownsburg Republican. “But a grown man, assumedly sane, when approached by law enforcement on an aircraft should abide by the request being made.”

Rokita, a general aviation pilot, also said he doesn’t think Congress needs to address the issue with legislation.

“I would be very hesitant, Mr. Chairman, to have this committee go down an avenue of regulating this,” Rokita said.

Rokita told United CEO Oscar Munoz and other airline executives at the hearing that he appreciated their response to the incident.

“I think that the response has been appropriate, and I appreciate each of your leadership in that regard,” he said.

The committee will debate aviation policies this year because the Federal Aviation Administration’s policy legislation expires Sept. 30.

Lawmakers have already proposed bills to prevent airlines from selling more seats than are available on flights or preventing airlines from removing passengers once they are seated, unless for safety or security reasons.

The chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., said airlines would have to demonstrate that they are making changes or the committee would act. But Shuster and others said they would prefer not to legislate around issues about how airlines sell their product.

As for Dr. Dao, he recently reached a settlement with United.

Our newsgathering partners at the Indianapolis Star contributed to this report.