CHICAGO: United Airlines found itself in the middle of a social media storm on Monday, after the US carrier forcefully removed a passenger from a flight due to overbooking.
The incident occurred Sunday on a United Express flight bound for Louisville, Kentucky, from Chicago. United Express flights are operated by one of eight regional airlines which partner with United.
The airline said it had asked for volunteers to give up their seats on the flight, and police were called after one passenger refused to leave the plane.
Smartphone video posted online showed three Chicago Department of Aviation police officers struggling with a seated middle-aged man.
— Tyler Bridges (@Tyler_Bridges) April 10, 2017
The man started to scream as he is dragged off while other passengers looked on — some recording the event with their phones.
One passenger can be heard yelling, “Oh my God, look at what you did to him!”
The incident ignited social media outrage, with “United” a trending term on Twitter, Facebook and Google.
— Tyler Bridges (@Tyler_Bridges) April 9, 2017
It was another example of bad press and negative social media coverage for United, after an incident in late March when two teenage girls were denied boarding a flight in Denver because they wore leggings.
The airline defended its action, saying the girls were flying on passes that require them to abide by a dress code in return for free or discounted travel.
— Jayse D. Anspach (@JayseDavid) April 10, 2017
In Sunday’s incident, United told US media that it had asked for volunteers to leave the overbooked plane.
“One customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” United spokesman Charlie Hobart was quoted by the Chicago Tribune newspaper as saying.
The airline did not return AFP’s request for comment.
United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz addressed the latest controversy in a statement posted Monday on the airline’s website.
“This is an upsetting event to all of us,” Munoz said, adding that the airline was conducting a “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,” he said.
Tyler Bridges, who posted video of Sunday’s incident on Twitter, wrote: “not a good way to treat a Doctor trying to get to work because they overbooked.”
He described passenger reaction on the plane as “disturbed.”
“Kids were crying,” he said.
Bridges also wrote that the man appeared bloodied by his encounter with law enforcement and posted video showing him later running back on the plane, repeatedly saying, “I have to go home.”
The man appeared to be pacing and disoriented.
US airlines are allowed to involuntarily bump passengers off overbooked flights, with compensation, if enough volunteers cannot be found, according to the US Department of Transportation.
United Airlines is pleased to announce new seating on all domestic flights- in addition to United First and Economy Plus we introduce…. pic.twitter.com/KQjPClU2d2
— McNeil (@Reflog_18) April 10, 2017
So #United have such standards that they won't let you fly in leggings, but will happily beat a Doctor unconscious. Seems legit.
— Dr Gillian McQueef (@TheDivineSalM) April 10, 2017
— CAFE (@cafedotcom) April 10, 2017
United- Dragging a paying customer off a flight you overbooked?
The word volunteer -obviously doesn't mean what you think it does.
— The Media Lies (@MeganSmiles) April 10, 2017
— Nick T (@ntakayama) April 10, 2017
— MsChowders (@Yaya_Garcia09) April 10, 2017
not only should @united be shamed for this, so should its employees who forced others off a paid for flight
— billiegirltoo (@billiegirltoo) April 10, 2017
If we placed @united personnel at the borders, we wouldn't need a wall.
— Michael Frisbie 🔔 (@ItzJustMichael) April 10, 2017