by Dolapo Adelana
United Airlines sparked outrage on Monday for how its security officials physically dragged off a passenger from its overbooked flight.
Videos posted online by other passengers showed a man, who appeared to be Asian dragged dwon the aisle on his back screaming as officers yanked him from his seat on United Flight 3411 before it departed from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday.
The incident sparked outrage on social media.
According to Reuters, in a letter circulated to employees, United Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz did not apologise for the way the passenger was handled, writing that the passenger had “defied” security officers.
Munoz said there are lessons the company can learn from this situation, though he impressed that he “emphatically” stands behind his employees.
“We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation),” Munoz wrote. “When we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.”
A statement by the Chicago Department of Aviation said one of the officers did not follow protocol adding that he had been placed on leave pending a review for actions not condoned by the department.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) said it was reviewing whether United complied with overbook rules that require airlines to set guidelines on how passengers are denied boarding if they do not volunteer to give up their seats.
“While it is legal for airlines to involuntarily bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers, it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities,” a DOT spokesperson said in a statement.
Video of the incident posted by Twitter user @Tyler_Bridges shows three security officers hovering over the seated passenger before dragging him to the floor.
Bridges said the man told staff of the airline that he was a doctor and had to return home to his patients.
The airline said it had asked for volunteers to leave because additional flight crew needed to get to Louisville.
Many social media users criticised United for how it handled the situation.
“Apologise for saying you ‘had to’ do this. There were other options and you know it,” user @TessaDare wrote in a series of posts. “Apologise for creating and allowing a corporate culture that says it’s okay to treat passengers with such disregard and disdain.”
In Bridges’ video, a woman asks, “Can’t they rent a car for the pilots and have them drive?” Two uniformed men then reach into the man’s seat and snatch him from his chair.
Another passenger on the flight, Jayse D. Anspach, who goes by @JayseDavid on Twitter, wrote, “No one volunteered (to leave), so @United decided to choose for us. They chose an Asian doctor and his wife.”
“It looked like he was knocked out, because he went limp and quiet,” Anspach wrote, “and they dragged him out of the plane like a rag doll.”
Another video shows the distressed man, with blood streaking from his mouth, clinging onto a curtain at the back of the plane and repeating,”Just kill me. Kill me,” and “I have to go home”.
Much of the online uproar surrounded the appropriateness of removing a paying customer in order to accommodate airline staff.
“They bloodied a senior citizen and dragged him off the plane so THEIR OWN STAFF could take his seat,” one Twitter user wrote.
Other social media users questioned whether the man would have been removed as forcefully had he not been Asian.
— Tyler Bridges (@Tyler_Bridges) April 9, 2017
— Tyler Bridges (@Tyler_Bridges) April 10, 2017
Dolapo is a writer and journalist who works with YNaija. He has interests in Christianity, politics and sports.