Flier manhandled on overbooked United flight in Chicago

Published on : Monday, April 10, 2017

United AirlinesA passenger on an overbooked United Airlines flight was forcibly removed from his seat and dragged along the aisle on Sunday, and video of the protests by him and other passengers spread rapidly on Monday as people condemned the airline’s tactics.

 
At least two passengers on the flight, which was scheduled to depart Chicago O’Hare for Louisville at 5:40 p.m. but was delayed two hours, documented the confrontation. Their videos show a police officer in plain clothes removing the man from his seat and dragging him by his arms, as his glasses slid down his face and his shirt rose above his midriff. Uniformed officers follow.

 
The man returned to the aircraft after being removed, according to one of the passengers. Video shows him jogging through the aisle, repeatedly saying: “I have to go home.”

 
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.
“We had a customer who refused to leave the aircraft,” he said.

 
“Since that customer refused to leave the aircraft, we had to call the Chicago Police Department, and they came on board.”

 
United first sought volunteers to relinquish their seats with compensation, but none stepped forward, he said. Four passengers were selected to be bumped, and three left without incident, Mr. Hobart said.

 
He would not say whether the bumped passengers were chosen by a computer, human or some combination of the two. But factors can include how long a customer would have to stay at the airport before being rebooked, he said, and the airline looks to avoid separating families or leaving unaccompanied minors.

 
In a statement, Oscar Munoz, the chief executive of United Airlines, called the episode “an upsetting event to all of us here at United.”

 
“I apologize for having to re-accomodate these customers,” he said. “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.”

 
In a statement, United said “we apologize for the overbook situation.”

 
Airlines routinely sell tickets to more people than the plane can seat, counting on several people not to arrive. When there aren’t enough no-shows, airlines first try to offer rewards to customers willing to reschedule their plans, usually in the form of travel vouchers, gift cards or cash.

 
The arrangement can be lucrative to flexible travellers. A woman said she made $11,000 from Delta this weekend by twice delaying a family trip to Florida with her husband and daughter, then ultimately cancelling it.

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