United Passengers Forced Off Airplane

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When the crew of a full United flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, couldn’t find any volunteers to give up their seats to accommodate the last-minute travel needs of company employees on Sunday, four random passengers were taken off the airplane by three uniformed officers — and one man was dragged down the aisle on his back, with his glasses knocked askew, blood on his face and a horrified expression. The incidents were recorded by other passengers on their cellphones, creating a PR nightmare for the airline. “Oh my god!” one passenger says, as the man is dragged past her seat. “Look what you did to him!”

The incident began when an airline supervisor walked onto the plane and brusquely announced: “We have United employees that need to fly to Louisville tonight. … This flight’s not leaving until four people get off,” according to The Washington Post. “That rubbed some people the wrong way,” said passenger Tyler Bridges. When no volunteers were forthcoming, despite incentives offered, the officers began to tell people to leave. The first two, a young couple, complied. But the next man said he wouldn’t go because he was a doctor and had patients to see in the morning. He was dragged down the aisle. United officials refused to answer any questions about the incident, according to the Post. United CEO Oscar Munoz did release a brief statement on Monday, saying in part, "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.” Here's one of the passenger videos.

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Comments (17)

Someone clearly needs to lose his/her job over this. This is very bad for United's image.

Posted by: Andrew Ralston | April 10, 2017 7:06 PM    Report this comment

They had to take 4 people off. The airline does have the right to do that if necessary - they have the final say as to who is on board, for obvious resons. This man was from China and apparently didn't understand what was happening to him. He freaked out and refused to exit the airplane. The man had no right to be on the airplane - but the airline just did a very poor job of enforcing the policy.

Posted by: Ken Keen | April 10, 2017 8:42 PM    Report this comment

The passenger was not from China. He was of Chinese ethnicity. He said he was a doctor who needed to get back home to see patients the next morning. He clearly understood what was happening.

Posted by: Geoff Rapoport | April 10, 2017 9:04 PM    Report this comment

United Airlines is wrong. But does not stop here. A captain's first, primary, most basic responsibility is to safeguard passengers, crew, and airplane. There is no excuse. There is no justification. It's an incredibly disgusting and intolerable act.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | April 10, 2017 10:57 PM    Report this comment

This is completely unacceptable. This should have been done in the terminal , offering money, hotel, meal, flt vouchers. Not after a passenger has boarded and sat down. The chicago pd officiers suspended for excessive force. Yes , when purchasing a ticket 'contract of carriage' the airline has a right to remove you. United could have handled this so much better. The pilots of this flight, the flight attendants, the gate agents all need retraining. The police officers at ORD also. This is brand suicide for UAL. Do you want to fly UAL and have this happen to you? On top of this the man claimed to be a doctor and had patients to see . After he was dragged off, somehow got back on the plane bloodied, and claiming 'they are going to kill me' . Many people at this point got off and walked off the flight. UAL has alot of pr repair to do. This will cost them millions. They have a hub in SFO with a large asian population. Munoz the CEO , never apologized for the incident, instead deflected blame to the police. Unacceptable. This is all over the news. Wouldnt be suprised to see Munoz resign as CEO. I hope the asian man secures a lawyer. Dispatch should have done a much better job to secure 4 seats before the plane even boarded. Im taking my $ and business elsewhere. Good luck UAL your going to need it.

Posted by: Michael Radtke | April 10, 2017 11:19 PM    Report this comment

Sorry, but I don't see it the way the previous commenters do. This situation is no different than failing to comply with a lawful order by a police officer during a traffic stop or other situation where you're being addressed legally and formally. You sit still, shut up, keep your hands in plain sight and comply with orders. If you have a beef ... take it up with their supervisors or a judge after the fact.

I watched a fellow passenger onboard this flight being interviewed last night. As expected, there was more to this story than the dragging of the guy down the aisle. They talked to him nicely and even gave him several peaceful chances to comply. As I always say ... "There's more to this story than the pics."

Inconvenient ... yes. But imagine if everyone on board wanted everything THEIR way. Keeping order in the society largely depends upon voluntary individual compliance. When it gets to the point where it becomes physical and police have to intervene, you've already exceed the bounds of propriety. You didn't hear me say you had to like it or that it might not be right but ... once you go through the doorway, you're rights change. On a transatlantic cruise I once took, I found out they actually have a brig on board ... for similar reasons. If you don't comply with orders and it gets serious enough, to the brig you go.

Now then ... is it a PR nightmare for UAL ... absolutely. Could it have been handled differently ... sure. But once this man was told to do something and didn't do it ... HE broke the bounds and is complicit. There are just too many people these days that want everything THEIR way ... THAT is the problem.

AND ... that woman who was screaming ... good thing I wasn't there ... I'da fed her one of my socks to shut her up. But that's me. I think the suspended Police officers should be immediately reinstated. I hope that UAL wins the court case that's likely coming and the situation proves a learning point for EVERYONE who flies. Obey ... or else.

I once learned this the hard way myself on a flight. During the first leg, the temps were downright frigid. At an intermediate stop, I was yakking with a stewardess (sorry, I'm old school) and happened to blurt out that she should tell the co-pilot to turn up the temps or I'd have to come forward and show him how. Next thing I know, she comes back to inform me that she "HAD" to tell the Captain that I made a threatening statement. BOY! Did I learn to keep my mouth zipped on board an airplane. This passenger -- and every other passenger -- hopefully learned to do the same here.

So what is the Captain supposed to do? Announce that the jet isn't moving until passengers A, B, C and D deplane. Maybe that's what the other screaming passengers wanted? After about four hours of sitting in a hot airplane, I think everyone would have changed their tune.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | April 11, 2017 11:00 AM    Report this comment

Larry, its inhumane, unfair and uncivilized. Throw in "it's bullshit" too.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | April 11, 2017 1:04 PM    Report this comment

I agree that people need to comply with legal orders and be civil. But this could have been handled so much better. After he stated he was a doctor , and needed to see people monday morning , then time to up the ante, and get another volunteer. Now this mans life is spread all over cnn. This is going to cost UAL millions. And i disagree , i hope he retains a lawyer and wins. And no the police officier is suspended for excessive force and the ord police stated they do not condone the officiers behaviour. Munoz the UAL CEO, apologized for having to re-accomodate 4 passengers. No apology to the man who was bloodied and dragged off the plane. I hope the board of directors removes Munoz. Congress wants to hold hearings over this incident. Maybe some good will come out of it, in passenger rights. United used to be my favorite, sadly ive had enough bad experiences that im done with them.

Posted by: Michael Radtke | April 11, 2017 2:32 PM    Report this comment

Actually, the orders were not legal. United violated at least two sections of the CFR's in taking this action. This idea that they have the "right" to remove anyone is a popular misconception, which the airlines keep pushing to help in pushing people around. Let's see if the FAA will take any action. I'm sure some lawyer will.

Posted by: Julian Gomez | April 11, 2017 5:30 PM    Report this comment

Just to bring some reality into this:
United violated at least two sections of the CFR in taking this action. Airlines do not have the "right" to take anyone off at will. That's a popular misconception that the airlines keep pushing in order to help with pushing people around. I hope a whole bunch of lawyers descend on the airline to teach them that they have to obey the law whether they like it or not. I'd like to see the FAA smack them for the reg violations too, but I'm not holding my breath on that.

Posted by: Julian Gomez | April 11, 2017 5:33 PM    Report this comment

Julie ... tell me EXACTLY which FAR's were violated, please.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | April 11, 2017 8:21 PM    Report this comment

Whats most appalling is UAL CEO's. Munoz comments , immediately after this incident, was tone deaf, take no responsibility, deflect blame, corporate bs speak. Just keep handing out the kool aid. That DR david Dao made some mistakes earlier in his life has no bearing on the way he was treated.
This incident is appaling!!! The CEO needs to go , with his golden parachute. If i was on the board of directors i would have all the employees involved in this fiasco come to the chicago board room and ask them 'just what in the hell were you thinking' ? And base their continued employment on their answers. This is an epic collassal example of what not to do. There's enough bad in the world today. The least we can do is be civil to each other on airplanes. The ORD police have their own explaning to do.

Posted by: Michael Radtke | April 12, 2017 12:34 AM    Report this comment

There IS more to this story. How tall did those employees feel during that flight? They are an airline - why couldn't they fly another plane or taxi those employees? Why did the doctor stay in the hospital? My guess is that he couldn't get out because of all the lawyers in his room! It sure is strange how race always seems to raise it's ugly head. As for the CEO - I don't think over booking will be his biggest problem now! And one more thing - HOW many of knew about that "policy?"

Posted by: Don Lineback | April 12, 2017 7:36 AM    Report this comment

This is a civil contract matter, not one of "compliance" or "safety" or "security". In a civil society, we have non-conflictual resolutions for that. And United did NOT adhere to what the law says, which talks about 4 times the ticket price in CASH, not coupons, as compensation (and the reimbursement of the original ticket too). So if the "manager" had shown up with a fistful of 100 dollar bills, I am sure a very peaceful solution could have been found. Imagine getting more than a grand a head, teaming up with 3 other pax, and having a joyful 5 hour drive in a Avis Signature Series Luxury car instead of coach with ample cash to spare. There would have been way more takers than required. SO the reason why this escalated as it did was purely one of ATTITUDE, on the side of United Airlines. And a stark reminder how great it is to fly yourself for such a short trip.

Posted by: ROBERT ZIEGLER | April 12, 2017 9:14 AM    Report this comment

"You sit still, shut up, keep your hands in plain sight and comply with orders"

Jawohl, Herr Kommandant!

This is why I have lost all faith in the voting public, and my fellow Americans at large.

Mr. Stencel is the brown shirt that will flip the switch and sleep easy at night knowing "he was just following orders".

Posted by: Robert Ore | April 12, 2017 10:00 AM    Report this comment

And there was an AA flight an hour later going the same route.....

Posted by: ROBERT ZIEGLER | April 12, 2017 11:26 PM    Report this comment

I hope Avweb is not drawing the internet GARBAGE that comments without intelligence or before factual information is widely available. I wonder if UAL offered a decent amount of $$$$ or they just tried to low ball it. But maybe they did everything the legal way and things got out of hand, but boy did they screw up the public perception of the problem. I think that the comments of uninformed should be treated as conjecture and as I am as uninformed as everybody else, YOU must form your own opinion after enough information is released to be able to come to a informed conclusion.
Bill Sutherland

Posted by: William Sutherland | April 13, 2017 2:57 AM    Report this comment

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