Oscar Munoz, the United Airlines CEO, has praised his staff for “going above and beyond” after video footage of an elderly passenger being forcibly removed from one of their flights went viral.
The airline has provoked a furious backlash after images emerged of the bloodied 69-year-old, a doctor, being dragged off an aeroplane.
Publicly, Munoz issued an apology but privately has doubled down on the crew’s decision, stating that the man was being “disruptive and belligerent”.
Please share this video. We are on this flight. United airlines overbooked the flight. They randomly selected people to kick off so their crew could have a seat. This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning. He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted. #unitedairways -To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org-
Posted by Audra D. Bridges on Sunday, April 9, 2017
In the email, obtained first by CNBC, Munoz wrote: “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.”
The CEO said flight crews had offered up to $1,000 (£805) in compensation for anyone willing to catch the next flight before approaching the passenger to “explain apologetically” that he was being denied boarding.
— Mike Castillo (@TheMikeCastillo) April 10, 2017
He said that he then “raised his voice and refused to comply” with the crew’s requests to leave the aircraft, and became increasingly “disruptive and belligerent”.
“Our agents were left with no choice, but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight, he repeatedly decline to leave,” he added.
“Officers were unable to gain his cooperation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist – running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both out crew and security officials,” he said.
However, shocked Twitter users branded Munoz “tone deaf” and threatened to boycott United Airlines.
One user said called the incident “absolutely disgusting”. “Simple fix,” they added. “Do not overbook your seats and stop beating up your passengers”
Jayse D Anspach, who posted the footage that went viral, tweeted: “#United overbooked and wanted four of us to volunteer to give up our seats for personnel that needed to be at work the next day.”
“No one volunteered, so United decided to choose for us. They chose an Asian doctor and his wife.”
“The doctor needed to work at the hospital the next day, so he refused to volunteer,” Mr Anspach added.
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0
— United (@united) April 10, 2017
“Ten minutes later, the doctor runs back into the plane with a bloody face, clings to a post in the back, chanting, “I need to go home.”
Another passenger Audra D Bridges, posted a video of the incident on Facebook. It has been viewed more than 400,000 times.
She wrote: “Please share this video. We are on this flight. United airlines overbooked the flight. They randomly selected people to kick off so their standby crew could have a seat.
“This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning. He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted.”