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    Councilors: Don’t let Cambridge employees fly United on public’s dime

    United Airlines could lose a few more customers — City of Cambridge employees.
    Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images
    United Airlines could lose a few more customers — City of Cambridge employees.

    United Airlines could lose a few more customers — this time, City of Cambridge employees.

    The City Council on Monday night passed a proposal by voice vote asking City Manager Louis A. DePasquale to ban official city travel using public funds on the embattled airline, so long as alternative travel options exist.

    It was unclear whether the city would adopt the policy — DePasquale reviews such orders with his team once they are passed, before taking appropriate action, according to a city spokesman — but the council was clearly eager to send a message to United.


    Councilor Leland Cheung and Mayor E. Denise Simmons filed the order after a video went viral this month, showing a man being dragged by his arms from a United flight as other passengers looked on.

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    The airline said the flight was overbooked, and the company needed to make room for employees of a partner airline. Initially, United said the man had refused to give up his seat and became belligerent, but it later apologized profusely for the incident.

    The disturbing clip, taken at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, sparked national outrage. It also lead to calls for a boycott of the airline and caused the company’s stock to plummet.

    The man in the video, Dr. David Dao, plans to sue the company, according to his lawyer.

    Cheung said in an e-mail that residents of Cambridge expect the city to spend their money “in a way that reflects their values.”


    “Clearly, United Airlines does not reflect Cambridge’s values,” he said.

    In their proposal against flying on United, Cheung and Simmons also argued the company’s actions could be “construed as a hate crime,” because the victim is Asian.

    The councilors said there’s a stereotype “that Asians will be submissive and unresisting,” and that could point to why Dao was chosen to be removed from the flight.

    United would not comment specifically on the council vote and said it’s working to prevent similar incidents in the future.

    “We recognize there is a lot of passionate commentary and perspectives being shared on this horrific situation, and we share in many of the concerns that have been raised,” a spokesman said via e-mail. “That’s why our focus now is on reviewing and fixing our policies.”


    A second controversy involving United was also listed as a reason to ask the city manager to bar public money from going into the airline’s pockets.

    In March, two teenage girls were denied boarding after a gate agent said the leggings they were wearing were inappropriate, according to The New York Times.

    “United Airlines has a history of poor service and questionable practices,” the councilors said.

    According to the details of the policy order, elected officials want United to be aware of their discontent. They are asking the city clerk to send the company a copy of the order on behalf of the entire council.

    Lee Gianetti, a spokesman for the city, said that “from time to time” the city manager will let the council know that he will not follow through with a requested action.

    “The City Manager has not yet made a determination on the Policy Orders passed [Monday] night, including the United Airlines order,” said Gianetti.

    Snapshot 21331 by Steve on Scribd

    Steve Annear can be reached
    at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.