A video surfaced late Sunday evening showing United Airlines employees forcibly removing a doctor from a flight.
After boarding, passengers aboard the plane say they were told that the flight from Chicago O’hare to Louisville, Kentucky was oversold and the airline needed volunteers so that four United employees could fly to Louisville. A passenger, Tyler Bridges, told the New York Times that when he arrived at the gate about 20 minutes before boarding, United had announced that the flight was overbooked; the airline was offering $400 vouchers to anyone who would give up their seat. Mr. Bridges indicated that nothing seemed amiss, until all passengers had boarded and were seated. That’s when flight crew announced that the airline had agreed to increase the vouchers to $800 for each passenger willing to give up their seat.
When no passengers volunteered their seats, the flight crew announced that they would select the four who would be removed from the flight. That’s where things got ugly.
According to multiple witnesses, airline staff first approached a young couple in their 20s to leave the flight. The couple begrudgingly left. Then airline employees moved on to the doctor, who indicated that he was a doctor and needed to continue on the flight because he had patients to attend to. When he refused to leave, a plain clothes officer intervenes to forcibly remove the man. Two uniformed officers follow and the three proceed to drag the passenger off the flight, his shirt pulled above his midriff and his glasses falling off his face. The entire incident was caught on tape by two fellow passengers.
By Monday morning the situation had gotten worse for the airline with graphic photos appearing online that show the passenger after having been assaulted. In the photos, the man appears to be dazed with blood pouring out of his mouth.
A Monday morning statement included only an apology for overbooking the flight – and no formal apology to the passenger who was removed from the flight and later assaulted.
Charlie Hobart, a United spokesman, said in a telephone interview on Monday that “we had asked several times, politely” for the man to relinquish his seat before force was used. Although, Mr. Hobart’s statement fails to acknowledge what airline employees had earlier announced – that the four seats were needed for airline employees.
— Jayse D. Anspach (@JayseDavid) April 10, 2017
In a formal statement from United CEO Oscar Munoz said “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is working with a sense of urgency to work with authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”
It’s unclear if the airline has been able to reach the passenger or if they’ll need to contact him through his attorney. At least one would hope a doctor would have hired an attorney by now. If one had to guess, it would seem that United likely has a bigger issue on their hands than just an apology for “re-accommodating.”
As of the time of this posting, United Airlines has not issued any other public statements regarding this incident. The last posting on the company’s Twitter account is the CEO’s statement.