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Video: Police drag passenger from overbooked United Airlines flight

united airlines.jpg
united airlines.jpg

Video of police officers dragging a passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight has sparked uproar on social media.

As the flight waited to depart, officers could be seen grabbing the screaming man from a window seat, pulling him across the armrest and dragging him down the aisle by his arms.

United was trying to make room for four employees of a partner airline on the Sunday evening flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky.

Other passengers on Flight 3411 are heard saying, "Please, my God," ''What are you doing?" ''This is wrong," ''Look at what you did to him" and "Busted his lip".

Passenger Audra Bridges posted the video on Facebook, and it has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and triggered strong criticism of United.

Her husband, Tyler Bridges, said United offered 400 dollar (£322) and then 800 dollar vouchers and a hotel stay for volunteers to give up their seats.

When no-one volunteered, a United manager came on the plane and announced that passengers would be chosen at random.

"We almost felt like we were being taken hostage," Tyler Bridges said. "We were stuck there. You can't do anything as a traveller. You're relying on the airline."

When airline employees named four customers who had to leave the plane, three of them did so. The fourth person refused to move, and police were called, United spokesman Charlie Hobart said.

"We followed the right procedures," Mr Hobart said. "That plane had to depart. We wanted to get our customers to their destinations."

Oscar Munoz, chief executive of United Airlines' parent company, described the event as "upsetting" and apologised for "having to re-accommodate these customers".

He said the airline was conducting a review and reaching out to the passenger to "further address and resolve this situation."

One officer involved has been placed on leave, the Chicago Aviation Department said.

The passenger told the manager that he was a doctor who needed to see patients in the morning, Mr Bridges said.

After the passenger was removed, the four airline employees boarded the plane.

Mr Hobart said the employees worked for Republic Airline, which United hires to operate United Express flights, and needed to get to Kentucky or their later flights would be cancelled for lack of crew members.

He could not explain why gate agents allowed passengers to board the plane before seeking volunteers to give up seats or bumping passengers.

A few minutes after the employees boarded, the man who was removed returned, looking dazed and saying he had to get home, Mr Bridges said.

In a video, the man can be seen standing in the aisle near what appears to be the rear of the aircraft. Blood is on his mouth, chin and cheek as he said: "I want to go home."

Officers followed him to the back of the plane. Another man travelling with school students stood up at that point and said they were getting off the plane, Mr Bridges said.

About half of the passengers followed before United told everyone to get off, he said.

The man who was originally dragged down the aisle was removed from the plane again, and United employees made an announcement saying they had to "tidy up" the aircraft, Mr Bridges said.

His wife told him she saw the man taken away on a stretcher, he said.

After a three-hour delay the flight took off without the man aboard, Mr Bridges said.

Airlines are allowed to sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane, and they routinely overbook flights because some people do not show up.

Here is the text of the letter United Airlines' parent company chief executive Oscar Munoz sent to employees after a passenger was dragged from a United plane at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The summary below the letter was compiled by United:

Dear Team,

Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville.

While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I've included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.

As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help.

Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.

I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.

Oscar

Summary of Flight 3411

:: On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United's gate agents were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight.

:: We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to 1,000 dollars in compensation) and 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.

:: He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.

:: Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight. He repeatedly declined to leave.

:: Chicago Aviation Security Officers were unable to gain his co-operation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist - running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.