United Airlines under fire after passenger dragged from plane

Published: April 11, 2017
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PHOTO: SCREENGRAB

PHOTO: SCREENGRAB

NEW YORK: United Airlines sparked outrage on Monday for the treatment of a passenger who was physically dragged off a plane the airline had overbooked, and one of the security officers involved in the incident was placed on leave pending an investigation.

Videos posted online by other passengers showed a man screaming as officers yanked him from his seat on United Flight 3411 before it departed from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday.

The man, who appeared to be Asian, was seen being dragged down the aisle on his back by his hands, body limp, bleeding from the mouth, glasses askew and shirt pulled up above his navel. The videos sparked outrage on social media, the second time in less than a month that United was criticised for its treatment of passengers.

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In a letter circulated to employees and seen by Reuters, United Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz did not apologise for the way the passenger was handled, writing that the passenger had ‘defied’ security officers. Munoz said there are lessons the company can learn from this situation, though he impressed that he ’emphatically’ stands behind his employees.

“We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process [including offering up to $1,000 in compensation],” Munoz wrote. “When we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.”

The Chicago Department of Aviation said in a statement that one of the officers did not follow protocol and added that he had been placed on leave pending a review for actions not condoned by the department.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) said it was reviewing whether United complied with overbook rules that require airlines to set guidelines on how passengers are denied boarding if they do not volunteer to give up their seats. “While it is legal for airlines to involuntarily bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers, it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities,” a DOT spokesperson said in a statement.

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‘Just kill me’

The incident was one of the top-trending topics on Twitter as users took to the website to express their anger toward the airline. Video of the incident posted to Twitter account @Tyler_Bridges shows three security officers huddling over the seated passenger before dragging him to the floor.

Bridges said the man told United staff that he was a doctor and had to return home to his patients. The airline said it had asked for volunteers to leave because additional flight crew needed to get to Louisville.

Many social media users criticised United for how it handled the situation.

In Bridges’ video, a woman asks: “Can’t they rent a car for
the pilots and have them drive?”

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Two uniformed men then reach into the man’s seat and snatched him from his chair. Fellow passenger Jayse D Anspach, who goes by @JayseDavid on Twitter, wrote:

Another video shows the distressed man, still disheveled from the wrangle, returned to the cabin, clinging onto a curtain at the back of the plane and repeating: “Just kill me. Kill me,” and “I have to go home,” as blood streaked down his mouth.

Much of the online uproar surrounded the appropriateness of removing a paying customer in order to accommodate airline staff. Other social media users questioned whether the man would have been removed as forcefully had he not been Asian.

Late last month, two teenage girls dressed in leggings were denied boarding on a United flight from Denver to Minneapolis because their form-fitting pants did not conform to the dress code for employees or family members using free passes.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • Hasan
    Apr 11, 2017 - 10:11AM

    Sad & disgusting. What is the world coming to ???????????????????????????Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 11, 2017 - 11:10AM

    Unfortunately, this type of arrogant behavior appears to be becoming the norm, in the Corporate/client world as well as several other areas Recommend

  • yamuri
    Apr 11, 2017 - 12:59PM

    America has turned into a rogue state which is victimising its own citizens as well as those from.around the world.Recommend

  • Rollin & Trollin
    Apr 11, 2017 - 1:14PM

    @Sexton:
    “Corporate.. world” ? Why ? Did they drag you away in a similar fashion when you got fired and refused to leave the office premises ?Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 11, 2017 - 2:03PM

    @Rollin &; Trollin:

    Sorry but I cannot help you with your hangups.Recommend

  • Khurram
    Apr 11, 2017 - 2:48PM

    It’s really shocking. I think handling of this issue by senior official is more worse which will nake more issues for united in com I ng days including loss. Now it will be on major shareholders to take loss or kick few top position holders to teach lesson of trust and customer service to all staff.

    Will read all upcoming action before traveling on this airline as no trust means I will use some other Airline.Recommend

  • mirestan
    Apr 11, 2017 - 6:09PM

    The USA is a most civilized country in the world. This incidence is the shame for the USA. How anyone can drag a passenger who has paid for his seat to be dragged out of airplanes like an animal. Is this is a civilized world or the TRUMPS America will be like this?Recommend

  • Tyson
    Apr 11, 2017 - 8:12PM

    This behavior has now been normalized and is considered Presidential in the US now.Recommend

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