More Bad PR for United After Passenger Dragged Off Flight (UPDATED APRIL 10, 19:59GMT)
"Reprehensible, totally unwarranted and an embarrassment" - that's how CNN security analyst David Soucie described a recent incident by United where a paying passenger was forcibly removed from a flight because of airline overbooking.
The revenue passenger - a registered physician of Asian origin - was dragged off of a flight by law enforcement after gate agents couldn't find enough volunteers for the over-booked Chicago to Louisville flight.
Social media channels went into over-drive posting videos of a man screaming as he was yanked out of his seat and dragged up the aisle in front of horrified passengers.
According to Salon.com here's what happened: After asking four passengers to volunteer to give up their seats and being dismayed that not enough were willing to do so, the airline’s employees decided to forcibly eject at least one passenger from the flight.
When the man refused to give up his seat because he had to go to work the next day, police were called and physically dragged him down the aisle and forced him off of the plane. According to some reports the man was bloodied.
One passenger said afterward that “kids were crying and people are disturbed.”
It has since been reported that the ejected man, a registered physician, was offered a seat on another flight - but only at 3pm the next day.
"This is horrible to watch," said Ben Schlappig of One Mile at a Time, adding that the man ran back onto the aircraft with a bleeding mouth. He said the airline did not empower the gate agents to "do the right thing."
United Airlines was quoted as saying: “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.” It's chief executive, Oscar Munoz, also issued a controversial statement, calling it "an upsetting event for all of us here at United."
However the airline apology is likely to be seen as being far off the mark.
To make matters worse, passengers later pointed out that United had standby - or deadheading crew in industry parlance - and they were given priority over revenue passengers.
Soucie of CNN added that United's calling on law enforcement to forcibly remove the passenger was an "operational error" that used up taxpayers' dollars.
Reaction from the Twittersphere was fast and furious. Wrote Stephane Stoucy from Alberta, Canada: "They should have paid to put their employees on another flight with another airline. This guy was a Dr for God sakes. All of a sudden their mistake is the passenger's problem. It's time United was put out of business by people refusing to buy a ticket from them. They think they are above the law. Disgusting."
The incident comes just days after UA was widely ridiculed for banning two young non-revenue passenger from a flight for apparently violating the airline's dress code.