A United passenger was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago to Louisville after he refused to voluntarily give up his seat.
Fellow passengers on the flight posted jarring videos late Sunday night of uniformed men dragging the man off of the flight after what United called an “overbook situation.”
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” said United CEO Oscar Munoz in a statement Monday afternoon. “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly with him to address and resolve this situation.”
Audra D. Bridges and Tyler Bridges posted video of the incident:
— Tyler Bridges (@Tyler_Bridges) April 9, 2017
Louisville resident Jayse Anspach posted an alternate angle of the scene:
— Jayse D. Anspach (@JayseDavid) April 10, 2017
“Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked,” a United spokesperson told Yahoo News when asked about the incident. “After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.”
Bridges and Anspach gave similar accounts of the incident to the Louisville Courier-Journal and on Twitter: United had overbooked the flight and was looking for four volunteers to leave the plane in order to send four United crew members to Louisville. Passengers were allowed to board and United offered $800 to anyone who gave up their seat, but when there were no volunteers, United said a computer would randomly select four passengers. The man in the video claimed to be a doctor who had patients to see in the morning and refused to leave, at which point airport security dragged him off the plane.
The United Contract of Carriage lays out specific policies for passengers who are not allowed to board overbooked flights but doesn’t cite policy for removing passengers who are already seated on such flights.
The videos started a social media firestorm, the second in as many months for the airline. It drew criticism in March after refusing to allow two female passengers to board because they were wearing leggings. In an email statement, United told Yahoo Style that the travelers could not board because their pants “were not in compliance with dress code policy for company benefit travel.” According to the spokesperson, “There are different rules for these privileges because people are flying for free.” It also noted that regular-paying customers are welcome to wear leggings aboard its flights.
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