United Airlines CEO apologizes for passenger being dragged off plane

World Today

The CEO of United Airlines is apologizing for a passenger being forcibly removed from a flight in Chicago. Cell phone video prompted international outrage after it showed the passenger bloodied while being dragged from the plane by aviation officers.

All to make room for airline staff. Now some Chinese social media sites are calling for a boycott.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy explains.
Follow Hendrik Sybrandy on Twitter @hsybrandy

It happened on Sunday, moments before United Flight 3411 was set to leave Chicago for Louisville, Kentucky. The flight was booked to capacity, but United needed to make room for four crewmembers needed in Louisville.

When a call for volunteers to deplane went unanswered, United staff told four passengers they would be forced to take another flight. Only one man said no, widely identified in reports as David Dao, a doctor from Kentucky.

What’s angered many people who’ve seen the video, which has now gone viral, is not just the manhandling — but the fact that United could demand a paying passenger surrender his seat. And it is completely legal for airlines to do this as long as passengers are compensated. This case, however, is extreme.

Aviation expert Jeff Price said although United offered passengers $800 each to give up their seats, the airline badly mishandled the situation:

“I think there’s got to be other ways than physically dragging a passenger off of a plane.”

The video has now been viewed millions of times on China’s microblogging site Weibo. It triggered strong reactions at Beijing’s airport.

Price said the outrage over the incident reflects a feeling by passengers that they really have no control over their flying experience, that benefits have been taken away and that customer service isn’t nearly what it once was:

In a statement Monday, United CEO Oscar Munoz said: “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

After Munoz initially defended the airline’s action, calling the passenger “belligerent and disruptive” in an email to employees, he released a new statement Tuesday, offering “deepest apologies” – pledging to take “full responsibility” and saying “No one should be mistreated this way.”