On Sunday, several videos were uploaded showing a man being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight.The company, when faced with an outpouring of backlash, responded in the least sympathetic manner imaginable.
A tweet was sent out from United Airlines saying the company apologized, “for having to re-accommodate these customers.”
Dragging a man on his back down the aisle of an aircraft, leaving him with a bloodied mouth and the other passengers with a sense of dread and unease is not how one successfully handles overbooking a flight.
Airlines regularly overbook in order to plan for those who inevitably do not show up. On Sunday, United was approached by four employees of a partner airline who needed to board the flight to Louisville.
Crewmembers had to remove four passengers from the plane and originally they began offering compensation for whoever surrendered their seat. First they offered $400, then $800. After no one came forward, the crewmembers randomly selected four passengers to give up their seat.
This alone is not a problem.
In 2016 United Airlines had over 86 million people board its flights. It forced 3,765 people off oversold flights and an additional 62,895 United passengers agreed to give up their seats, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
Despite those numbers, it is still ranks in the middle of U.S. carriers for bumping passengers.
Where United Airlines drastically errored is how they went about removing one of those passengers.
Three of the four selected voluntarily left the plane, the fourth, however, refused. He said he was a doctor who had to get back to treat patients on Monday. Three city aviation department security officers boarded the plane. Two tried to convince him to leave, the third pointed at him and told him he “had to get off the plane.”
The man still refused. Next thing passengers knew, one of the security guards grabbed him from his seat by the window, hauled him across the armrest and began to drag him by his arms down the aisle.
This man was not a terrorist, he was not threatening the plane and he should have been treated with respect, even if he was being noncompliant.
There are other ways to get someone to leave a flight without resorting to brute force.
The Chicago aviation department recognized this fact. They placed the security officer on leave.
"The incidence 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,' the department said in a statement.
United Airlines, however, refused to admit it did anything wrong. It took no responsibility for the injuries sustained by the man removed or the discomfort of those left behind.
The airline’s parent company CEO Oscar Munoz released a letter late Monday evening coming to the defense of its employees, saying "our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this."
Apparently, dragging a man off a plane is perfectly fine with the airline.
Unsurprisingly, social media disagreed. Days after the incident, the outrage is still causing the topic to trend on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
#NewUnitedAirlinesMotto has thousands of tweets. Top contenders are “You carry on, we carry off,” as well as an image of the new cabin class titled, “Fight Club.”
With summer vacations just around the corner, thousands are vowing to boycott the airline.
Maybe the company will start to feel regret for its actions when it begins to face financial repercussions.