Critics mock United Airlines as CEO defends removing ‘belligerent’ passenger

·Senior Writer

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz on Monday night defended the forcible removal of a passenger as “established procedure” as critics — ranging from late night comics to the Merriam-Webster dictionary — teased or outright mocked the company’s statements.

“As you will read,” wrote Munoz in an email to employees, “this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”

Munoz added that “treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are.” But he also said the man — who refused to give up his seat after United officials boarded an overbooked flight Sunday and selected passengers to remove to allow four of the airline’s crew members to be seated — was “disruptive and belligerent.”

Jarring video of the confrontation went viral by early Monday.

Passengers said the man claimed he was a doctor who had patients to see in the morning, refusing to deplane when asked to volunteer to give up his seat on the flight from Chicago to Louisville. Passengers had to be removed from the plane and reboarded after the man’s blood was splattered in the cabin.

Munoz was widely mocked Monday for using the word “reaccommodate” to describe bloodying a man, knocking him unconscious and dragging him off the plane by his arms. The Chicago Police Department issued a statement Monday saying that the man “fell” and “struck an armrest, injuring his face.”

“The incident on United flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the department,” a Chicago Department of Aviation representative told Yahoo News in a statement. “That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation.”

Comedian Jimmy Kimmel dedicated a portion of his monologue Monday night to the controversy.

“This is like we reaccommodated El Chapo out of Mexico,” said Kimmel in response to Munoz’s initial statement. “That is such sanitized, say-nothing, take-no-responsibility, corporate BS speak. I don’t know how the guy who sent that tweet didn’t vomit when he typed that out.”

“And by the way,” added Kimmel, “they could have almost certainly gotten more volunteers by offering more money or travel vouchers. Maybe 800 bucks wouldn’t do it, but you could have gone up to 1,000 or 5,000 or 100,000 — who cares, it’s not the passengers’ fault that you sold too many seats on your plane.”

The editors of the Merriam-Webster dictionary also tweeted out some advice for United on how the process of “volunteering” works.

Munoz and United were pilloried across social media for both their actions and Orwellian comments in the aftermath.

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