United Airlines forcibly removed a man from an overbooked flight yesterday when he refused to give up his seat voluntarily.
One or more cell phone camera recordings of the disturbing encounter were posted to Facebook and then on to other social media platforms.
The hashtag #United is currently trending on Twitter as a result of this incident, with many users expressing outrage over what happened to the passenger.
See clips embedded below.
United Airlines gate agents had offered passengers on the overbooked Chicago to Louisville flight $400 (which was upped to $800 when there were no takes initially) and a hotel voucher to make way for a flight crew who needed to get to Louisville for another flight.
When no one volunteered, United said that a computer would randomly pick four passengers to be bumped to a Monday departure. One couple complied.
A witness explained to the Louisville Courier-Journal what happened next after a man was apparently unwilling to give up his seat.
“[She] said the man became ‘very upset’ and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning. The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly…and the man said he was calling his lawyer. One security official came and spoke with him, and then another security officer came when he still refused. Then, she said, a third security official came on the plane and threw the passenger against the armrest before dragging him out of the plane.”
The witness who first posted the footage, Audra Bridges, described the other passengers as shocked and appalled by what happened before the flight was able to leave Chicago.
The doctor apparently managed to get back on the plane after the struggle but appeared to be bleeding from the mouth and disoriented.
“Passengers screamed ‘my god what are you doing’ and ‘this is wrong’ as the man was yanked from his seat. He appeared to go limp after being slammed against a headrest and one passenger said he was ‘knocked out,'” the Daily Mail reported.
He reportedly received medical treatment at that time. Passengers had to disembark while maintenance crew cleaned up the plane, however. All told, the chaos caused the flight to be delayed by two hours but did finally take off for Louisville. It’s unclear if the man was able to stay on the flight after all.
United Airlines issued a statement about what happened on Flight 3411 at O’Hare Airport, according to the New York Post.
“After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities.”
More information will likely emerge about this disturbing incident, so watch this space for updates, particularly about the condition of the doctor who was forcibly removed.
This is the type of headline-creating controversy, however, that might prompt a major lawsuit and possibly a change in airline procedures when it comes to dealing with overbooked flights.
According to the Daily Mail, each year about 50,000 ticketed airline passengers find themselves bumped off overbooked flights. Overbooking is a way that air carriers hedge against no-shows.
United Airlines, which touts its longtime “friendly skies” slogan and, as the New York Daily News observed, is now “experiencing major PR turbulence” over dragging the man off the Chicago-to-Louisville flight, recently found itself in another boarding controversy over its no-leggings dress code policy for those with an employee travel pass.
Added: United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement today about the viral incident, CNBC reports.
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. 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.”
[Featured Image by Seth Wenig/AP Images]