Despite national outcry over a video showing aviation cops dragging a man off a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, United Airlines insist they had every right to have the man removed, even if he had purchased his ticket with the expectation he would be able to fly to his destination without being violently manhandled.
After all, it’s all in the fine print.
United Airlines refers to it as the “contract of carriage,” a lengthy document that passengers are expected to read before finalizing their purchase of an airline ticket, stating they can keep passengers “involuntarily” from flying in the event the flight is overbooked and nobody has voluntarily given up their seats.
Boarding Priorities – If a flight is Oversold, no one may be denied boarding against his/her will until UA or other carrier personnel first ask for volunteers who will give up their reservations willingly in exchange for compensation as determined by UA. If there are not enough volunteers, other Passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily in accordance with UA’s boarding priority:
Passengers who are Qualified Individuals with Disabilities, unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 years, or minors between the ages of 5 to 15 years who use the unaccompanied minor service, will be the last to be involuntarily denied boarding if it is determined by UA that such denial would constitute a hardship.
The priority of all other confirmed passengers may be determined based on a passenger’s fare class, itinerary, status of frequent flyer program membership, and the time in which the passenger presents him/herself for check-in without advanced seat assignment.
However, as long as we are going to be nitpicky about the fine print, it should be noted that the man in this case had already boarded, which means he was not “denied boarding involuntarily” as the contract states.
No, he was involuntarily removed from the plane by three Chicago aviation cops who plucked him out of his seat and dragged him down the aisle screaming and yelling – bloodying his mouth – as several other passengers looked on in shock, including some who recorded the incident as you can see in the video below.
The incident took place Sunday on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. United says they needed four passengers removed to make room for four airline employees.
First, they offered $400 and a hotel room but when nobody accepted that offer, they doubled it to $800, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
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 that 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.
The man was a doctor and said he absolutely needed to remain on the flight because he had patients to see the following morning.
But United Airlines did not care about that, so they called the aviation cops, who dragged him off the plane.
His mouth appeared to strike an armrest as cops were yanking him from his seat, so he was dragged down the aisle bleeding from his mouth. United then had every passenger step off the plane to allow them to clean up the blood, further delaying the flight by two hours.
The man, who has not yet been identified, was seen on the plane after the incident with a bloody mouth, repeatedly saying “please kill me.”
While United Airlines initially tried to blow off the incident as saying they had the right to have cops drag him off the plane, its CEO has since issued the following statement, promising an investigation.
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers,” said United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz.
“Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”
UPDATE: One of the cops has been placed on leave, according to TIME.
“The incident 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,” a spokesperson for the Chicago Department of Aviation told TIME.
“That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation.”