By Veronica Mackey
Video of a bloody-faced man being dragged off a United Airlines flight for refusing to give up
his seat—a seat he paid for—has lots of folks thinking twice before giving the airline their money.
It all happened on Sunday on a flight from Chicago to Louisville. United wanted to make room for 4 of its employees, but the plane was filled to capacity. After offering financial compensation with no takers, officials chose 4 people at random to give up their seats. Three left willingly. One man, who said he was a doctor and needed to see patients, did not.
Soon afterward, United cops stepped in and forcibly removed the man, hitting his face against an armrest in the process. It was a horrific scene as passengers begged them to stop, and recorded the incident on their cell phones.
Making matters worse, United CEO Oscar Munoz blamed the passenger, and described him as “uncooperative and belligerent.” Initially, Munoz apologized not for having the man forcibly removed but for having to “re-accommodate these customers.”
What that man experienced was far from anything that resembles accommodation. Any of us on any given day might be less than cooperative, especially if we are told to leave the plane after we’ve already paid for the seat. This is an airline company. They fly planes all day long. Couldn’t they put their employees on another, less crowded flight, or send them by bus?
It took a social media firestorm, threats to boycott and a public relations nightmare for Munoz to change his tune and come back with a more humane sounding apology:
“Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight…No one should ever be mistreated this way,” he said.
Getting bumped for a flight is not uncommon, but it will usually (or should) happen before you come onboard. Barring any unacceptable behavior, once you buckle up, you have a right to expect a safe, pleasant journey.
This unfortunate incident comes just two weeks after three teenage girls were not allowed to fly on United because they were wearing leggings.
Is it time to boycott United?
In an article on Newster, journalists chimed in about the ever declining culture of air travel. Los Angeles Times reporter Michael Hiltzik said laws allow the airlines to get away with behavior that would be unacceptable in other industries:
"How many businesses do you know of that can sell you a good or service, accept payment, and then withdraw that good or service unilaterally for their own purposes—much less by force?"
For an airline that brands itself, “the friendly skies,” there seems nothing friendly at all about United.