LOUISVILLE — A video posted on Facebook late Sunday evening shows a passenger on a United Airlines flight being forcibly removed from the plane before takeoff at O’Hare International Airport.
The video, posted by Audra D. Bridges at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, is taken from an aisle seat on a commercial airplane that appears to be preparing to take flight. The 31-second clip shows three men wearing radio equipment and security jackets speaking with a man seated on the plane. After a few seconds, one of the men grabs the passenger, who screams, and drags him by his arms toward the front of the plane. The video ends before anything else is shown.
A United spokesperson confirmed in an email Sunday night that a passenger had been taken off a flight in Chicago.
"Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked," said the spokesperson. "After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.
"We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities."
Bridges, a Louisville resident, gave her account of the flight Sunday night.
Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees who needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.
Then, she said, a manager came aboard the plane and said a computer would select four people to be taken off the flight. One couple was selected first and left the airplane, she said, before the man in the video was confronted.
Bridges said the man became "very upset" and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning. The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly, Bridges said, and the man said he was calling his lawyer. One security official came and spoke with him, and then another security officer came when he still refused. Then, she said, a third security official came on the plane and threw the passenger against the armrest before dragging him out of the plane.
The man was able to get back on the plane after initially being taken off — his face was bloody and he seemed disoriented, Bridges said, and he ran to the back of the plane. Passengers asked to get off the plane as a medical crew came on to deal with the passenger, she said, and passengers were then told to go back to the gate so that officials could "tidy up" the plane before taking off.
Bridges said the man shown in the video was the only person who was forcibly removed.
"Everyone was shocked and appalled," Bridges said. "There were several children on the flight as well that were very upset."
The flight was delayed about two hours before it could fly to Louisville, and it arrived in Kentucky later Sunday night. No update was given to the passengers about the condition of the man forcibly removed, Bridges said.
The videos are all over Twitter and Facebook.
I have no clue what was going through the United employees' minds when they authorized this nightmare. No doubt they carry quite a level of hatred toward their customers in general, and probably some huge level of fear of punishment for not getting the United personnel to Louisville where they were needed for a flight the next day. Hey, United...you could have hired a limo and driver to ferry your personnel to Louisville, about 200 miles from Chicago. It would have cost, oh, maybe $500 or even $1,000 including tip. But no, United had to make it clear how much it despises its own passengers, the folks who pay United salaries. This is going to cost millions of dollars in lost revenues and legal defense. The gate agents need to be fired, the "security" folks need to be arrested for assault and battery, and the entire C-suite of United needs to resign. But you saved $1,000 and made your gate people feel ever so important.
Fine, respected operations such as Pan Am and TWA disappeared years ago, and this poor excuse for an airline lives on. Unbelievable.
United has earned my utter and permanent contempt. I will NEVER fly them again, not that I do now if I can possibly avoid it. I urge you to shun them as well, and spread the word far and wide. #putunitedoutofbusiness.
And sell United stock if you happen to have any.
In this age of leaks, it was inevitable that the United CEO's message to his flock would become public, and here it is in a Tweet from Ryan Ruggiero of CNBC. Basically, CEO Munoz blames the passenger and stands behind the United personnel. Nice for morale, bad for business. Very bad.