Police forcibly remove passenger at behest of United Airlines in disturbing footage
Sunday’s incident was shared online by fellow passengers who said the airline randomly selected customers to give up their seats and get off the plane so its own personnel could make it to work the next day.
Footage from the scene shows a man being forcibly removed from his seat by officers from the Chicago Aviation Police and dragged off the flight. The man refused to leave as he was a doctor and needed to be work at a hospital the next morning, according to passengers who uploaded videos.
United Airlines confirmed to WHAS11 that the flight was overbooked and law enforcement was asked to assist after a customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily.
"We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities," a spokesperson from the airline said in a statement to the Courier-Journal.
CEO of United Airlines Oscar Munoz has issued a statement on the matter, describing the event as “upsetting” to all at the company.
He said the organization was working with authorities and plan to contact the passenger to establish what happened.
Munoz, who was just last month named US Communicator of the Year for 2017 by PR Week, was blasted, however, by some for his euphemistic language.
Social media users equated his remarks with Orwellian doublespeak while others used memes to troll the airline’s extreme actions.
Chicago Police Department have since issued a statement claiming that the 69 year-old Asian passenger hit his head against an armrest causing injuries to his face.
The statement added that the man was taken to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
Passenger Audra D. Bridges told the Courier-Journal that the airline asked for one volunteer to give up their seat at the gate. However, after boarding, airline staff then asked for four more people to hand over their seats to United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight.
The company reportedly offered $800 compensation and a hotel stay but, after no-one took up the offer, they used a computer to randomly select passengers to remove.
United Airlines “denied boarding rules” state that in a case where a flight is oversold it can deny boarding involuntarily if there are not enough volunteers. The policy however does not mention the removal of already boarded passengers.
Bridges claimed that the man booted off the flight came back on the plane with a bloody face and received medical assistance on board while fellow passengers were sent back to the gate so officials could “tidy up” before take off. The flight was delayed two hours as a result.
Later footage showed the man standing at the back of the plane with a bloodied face and mouth in an apparent state of shock.
No update was given to passengers about the condition of the man forced from the plane, Bridges said.
Last month United Airlines found itself at the center of a Twitter storm after it stopped two teenage girls from boarding a flight because they were wearing leggings.
This latest incident again sparked outrage among social media users prompting reuse of the hashtag #DontFlyUnited.