It has just been a few weeks after United made the news, for enforcing the dress code and denying boarding to girls wearing leggings. Now United is once again finding themselves in the spotlight.
United flight 3411 from Chicago O’Hare to Louisville, Kentucky was overbooked, partially due to the need to accommodate four crew members who were flying to Louisville to work on a flight. After offering up to $800 in United vouchers, which is the highest a gate agent could offer according to United’s internal guidelines, there were no volunteers to move to the next available flight, which is on the next day. As such, four passengers were selected randomly by the computer to be involuntarily deny boarding (IDB). Contrary to normal procedure, the flight had already boarded, so the selected passengers had to deplane (as opposed to having passengers at the boarding gate stay behind).
One of the passengers selected, a male, Asian physician refused to deplane. According to other passengers onboard, he repeatedly said that he needed to be back at the office to see his patients. United got law enforcement involved, and removed the passenger from the flight. The process was captured on video, and to be honest, is pretty brutal.
— Jayse D. Anspach (@JayseDavid) April 10, 2017
The man somehow made it back onto the flight after being dragged out (though he was eventually ejected and did not fly), and you could see the injuries he had sustained.
— Kaylyn Davis (@kaylyn_davis) April 10, 2017
United offered an initial statement after the incident went viral, apologizing for the “overbooking situation,” though took no blame for how the passenger was treated.
Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. 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.
United CEO, Oscar Munoz, has since offered a (pretty awful) statement regarding the flight. Again, he only apologized for having to re-book customers, but nothing more. I’d like to think that he could at least express disappointment and feel sorry for how the passenger was treated—we’re human first, after all.
“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. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.” – Oscar Munoz, CEO, United Airlines
But it would appear that the aviation officer is now placed on leave, pending an investigation. Karne Pride, Chicago aviation Department spokesperson told CBS Chicago via an email:
The incident on United flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department.
Very, very unfortunately, we live in the reality where once you are destinated to be IDBed, you have virtually no potential recourse but to give up your seat. But should United have called law enforcement as soon as they have, or was this a “lost cause,” as in the passenger wouldn’t have given up his seat anyway? I am not there, and I don’t know.
But regardless, I think United does need to take some blame on letting the flight get to this situation to begin with. At the very minimum, perhaps this involves changing the internal guidelines to offer higher incentives, or maybe this involves clearly instructing agents not to board a flight when it’s oversold. There is a case to be made about overselling flights, and IDBs are truly rare. But that’s no excuse for how the passenger was treated.