The head of United Airlines defended the forcible removal of a doctor on an overbooked flight in Chicago on Sunday, saying the man was “disruptive and belligerent,” according to a new report.
“I emphatically stand behind all of you,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a letter to employees obtained by CNBC.
Munoz said the passenger “raised his voice and refused to comply” with requests to leave and each time the flight crew asked again “he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent,” CNBC reported the airline boss as stating.
Munoz, CNBC added, said crew members “had no choice” but to call in officers to help.
A police officer who dragged the screaming man off that flight has been placed on leave pending a review, according to Chicago Department of Aviation spokeswoman Karen Pride.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is also investigating the incident. The doctor dragged away is said to be 69 years old, according to multiple reports.
Videos shot by other passengers show three Chicago Department of Aviation officers forcibly removing the man after he refused to give up his seat and leave the plane at O’Hare International Airport.
The man said he was a doctor and needed to get to Louisville, Ky., to treat patients, according to an eyewitness and social media accounts. He was pulled from his seat into the aisle, where his face violently hit an arm rest and was bloodied, videos show.
@United overbook #flight3411 and decided to force random passengers off the plane. Here’s how they did it: pic.twitter.com/QfefM8X2cW
— Jayse D. Anspach (@JayseDavid) April 10, 2017
Passengers on Flight 3411 could be heard yelling at the officers in protest.
United said it first asked for volunteers to leave the plane before telling four people to switch to another flight to make room for crew members who needed to make a flight they were operating from Louisville International Airport. After the man refused, the officers were summonsed.
Airline contracts do state that booked airline seats aren’t guaranteed, and there is language covering airlines for refusing to fly someone at their discretion, according to Airfarewatchdog president George Hobica. But United could’ve easily avoided the firestorm if it had increased the bumping compensation offer, he said.
“Whatever it cost — $1,000, $2,000, $3,000 — would have been far cheaper than the cost to its reputation and the loss of business,” Hobica said. “The burning question is why did they wait until everyone was seated before realizing they needed to move employees to (Louisville)?”
The doctor, flying with his wife, had initially offered to be bumped, an eyewitness told the Herald, but changed his mind when he was told the next flight to Kentucky was the following day.
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