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United Airlines

Overbooked United Flight Ends in “Shaky and Disgusting” Ejection

Overbooked United Flight Ends in “Shaky and Disgusting” Ejection
Joe Cortez

Doctor forced off by security workers after refusing to give up seat on full flight.

United Airlines president and chief executive Oscar Munoz has promised an investigation with “a sense of urgency” after a flyer headed to Louisville, Kentucky was forcefully removed from his seat by three alleged police officers after he refused to yield his seat on an overbooked flight. A video posted to Facebook and later verified by the carrier detailed the situation that took place on Sunday, April 9.

United Flight 3411 was scheduled to take off around 7 p.m. Eastern Time on Sunday, but was ultimately overbooked. According to witnesses who spoke to the Louisville Courier-Journal, gate agents at Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) initially told flyers the flight would be overbooked and were seeking volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for a $400 travel voucher and a free hotel night stay. None of the individuals accepted the offer and the airline continued to board the aircraft.

After boarding was complete, witnesses say that another gate agent used the aircraft intercom to inform passengers they were seeking four volunteers to give up their seats to accommodate four crew members who were scheduled to work in Louisville the next day. Nobody accepted the offer of an $800 travel voucher in this situation. The problem was escalated to the point where a computer program was utilized to randomly pick four individuals to be involuntarily denied boarding. The individuals selected included a couple, followed by the individual captured on video.

Witnesses told the newspaper the male, who has not yet been identified, told the three individuals who wore jackets identifying themselves a police that he was a doctor who had to be in Louisville on Monday to see patients. As a result, the individual would not give up his seat. After a brief exchange, the three men forcefully pulled the individual out of the chair and dragged him off the aircraft.

Please share this video. We are on this flight. United airlines overbooked the flight. They randomly selected people to kick off so their crew could have a seat. This man is a doctor and has to be at the hospital in the morning. He did not want to get off. We are all shaky and so disgusted. #unitedairways -To use this video in a commercial player or in broadcasts, please email licensing@storyful.com-

Posted by Audra D. Bridges on Sunday, April 9, 2017

The witness who posted the Facebook video described the demeanor of other passengers immediately afterwards as “…shaky and so disgusted.” A second video posted to Twitter shows a different angle of the same incident.

After the incident, a spokesperson for United confirmed to the media that law enforcement was called in after the individual refused to leave his seat. Additionally, the airline “apologized for the overbook situation,” promising more details later. Additional details came from Munoz, who issued a statement noting that United would continue to investigate and reach out to the passenger to resolve the situation.

Neither the Chicago Police Department nor the Chicago Department of Aviation have commented publicly about the situation.

The gaffe was United’s second major social media embarrassment in less than a month. Earlier in March 2017, the airline was called out by several celebrities and frequent flyers over their decision to bar a girl wearing leggings while flying on a “buddy pass” from boarding her aircraft.

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (13)

13 Comments

  1. DLBIZTRAVELER

    April 11, 2017 at 2:55 am

    I understand the concept and penalties of DBC (denied boarding compensation). But am unclear if and how it applies once-boarded. Are the rules different here? Post 9-11 one should be VERY careful what the say and how they act aboard an airplane.
    That said – United committed a major error – if they needed the 4 seats and were going to have to deny boarding to 4 passengers, WHY oh WHY go ahead and board the airplane? Terrible judgement.
    I bet the terrible exposure of United’s behavior will cost a substantial amount of $ – injury lawsuit from the doctor, and as the event is widely-publicized, a significant customer relations impact.
    Best solution going forward is simply apologize, offer substantial payment to the doctor, and put rules in place to avoid a future repeat. Shame on United!

  2. FlyingWithers

    April 11, 2017 at 4:37 am

    Not even the high-powered PR firm United brought in can solve this one. United’s stock is down 5% today because of a stupid gate agent. Stupid management is doubling down.

    About 20 years ago I was on a TWA, yes, flight from St. Louis to Philadelphia. They were 10 oversold because of a switch to a smaller aircraft. They GA got on the mike and said $300. No takers. About 4 minutes later he returned and said, “OK guys we are getting serious,”: $500. One guy took it. At $800 I got off with others. I was on the next flight that arrived earlier than the oversold one because it had a mechanical delay.

    A PR disaster because of a stupid GA who could have easily had 4 seats by upping the price. Shy would, for example, $1,200 gave been a problem to avoid another PR flap and millions lost today with the stock plunge.

    United needs serious adult supervision.

    It is not enough to do our best; sometimes we have to do what is required: Winston Churchill

  3. bimmerfreak0

    April 11, 2017 at 4:38 am

    Lawyer here. This myth that passengers don’t have rights needs to go away, ASAP. You are dead wrong when saying that United legally kicked him off the plane.

    1. First of all, it’s airline spin to call this an overbooking. The statutory provision granting them the ability to deny boarding is about “OVERSELLING”, which is specifically defined as booking more reserved confirmed seats than there are available. This is not what happened. They did not overbook the flight; they had a fully booked flight, and not only did everyone already have a reserved confirmed seat, they were all sitting in them. The law allowing them to deny boarding in the event of an oversale does not apply.

    2. Even if it did apply, the law is unambiguously clear that airlines have to give preference to everyone with reserved confirmed seats when choosing to involuntarily deny boarding. They have to always choose the solution that will affect the least amount of reserved confirmed seats. This rule is straightforward, and United makes very clear in their own contract of carriage that employees of their own or of other carriers may be denied boarding without compensation because they do not have reserved confirmed seats. On its face, it’s clear that what they did was illegal– they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats, in violation of 14 CFR 250.2a.

    3. Furthermore, even if you try and twist this into a legal application of 250.2a and say that United had the right to deny him boarding in the event of an overbooking; they did NOT have the right to kick him off the plane. Their contract of carriage highlights there is a complete difference in rights after you’ve boarded and sat on the plane, and Rule 21 goes over the specific scenarios where you could get kicked off. NONE of them apply here. He did absolutely nothing wrong and shouldn’t have been targeted. He’s going to leave with a hefty settlement after this fiasco.

  4. eng3

    April 11, 2017 at 5:06 am

    “Nobody accepted the offer of an $800 travel voucher in this situation” $1000

    “a computer program was utilized to randomly pick four individuals to be involuntarily denied boarding”
    Not random, there are written policies

  5. pdsales

    April 11, 2017 at 5:45 am

    From: Home > MileagePlus > Customer appreciation

    Did you receive a “We are sorry for the inconvenience” card from a flight attendant?

    You can’t make this stuff up. I am guessing he did not get the card.

    https://secure.unitedmileageplus.com/CPRnez3.jsp
    https://secure.unitedmileageplus.com/CPRn_images.jsp?I=CRD&type=.jpg

  6. aristotled

    aristotled

    April 11, 2017 at 5:58 am

    Outrageous! Sue the bastards! Next time the other passengers should jump the thugs trying to commit a crime like this!

  7. WrightBro

    April 11, 2017 at 6:09 am

    I think that United definitely should investigate why the plane was boarded when there was clearly an overbooking situation which would warrant some vouchers or IDBs. I think that this flight was operated by Republic and in my experience their standards for service tend to be much lower and they don’t care as much about United’s policies. Besides that I don’t see how United is at fault. If we want to have a conversation about the frustrations associated with overbooking that is one thing, but every airline does this, not only United. As far as the “shock factor” of the video is concerned, I think the real focus should be on the police officers who treated that (rightfully) frustrated and (unrightfully) stubborn passenger like an animal and quickly escalated the situation to a violent level. The fact that he got bashed up was not really United’s fault, it was the officers who handled the situation this way.

  8. AussieOzzie

    AussieOzzie

    April 11, 2017 at 6:34 am

    The violent removal of this passenger is a remarkably low point that should definitely be benchmarked on the timeline of commercial aviation history.

    Having adults witness this is bad enough, but having child passengers see it too must have been quite traumatic. What are we teaching our kids?

    The “Kid Definition” Merriam-Webster uses for the word “Terrorism” is:

    noun – ter·ror·ism \ˈter-ər-ˌi-zəm\ “the use of violence as a means of achieving a goal”.

    I believe those young passengers were treated to a firsthand look at what we can call domestic terrorism wherein the airline resorted to violence to achieve its goal. Should provide a pretty decent reality check when those kids recall the incident for “Show And Tell” at school. Sad 🙁

  9. FlyingWithers

    April 11, 2017 at 8:10 am

    CNN has just announced that because of the actions of the stupid United ground staff in ORD yesterday, United has lost one (1) BILLION of its market capitalization.

    Time to re-think this PR disaster and tell the CEO to stop doubling down by saying, “we followed procedure.”

    The YouTube video has been seen by over 17 million viewers.

  10. stablemate77

    April 11, 2017 at 10:29 am

    complete disgusting this video of passenger being dragged off plane shame on this company for over booking taking people money

  11. overdahill

    April 11, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    as it appears the passenger did nothing wrong
    he had already boarded
    means to me that this was a 100% civil matter
    and to me. what the staff and all did was criminal
    they did not even check to see if was disabled or had other major issues.
    More than poor judgement. Stand behind an illegal rule. go to jail.

  12. Analise

    April 12, 2017 at 2:56 am

    This UA flight was NOT overbooked. If you want FTers to read these articles written 2+ days after the fact, it helps to report the facts.

    Reported over 15 hours ago: http://time.com/4735119/united-airlines-passenger-removed-not-overbooked/

  13. SamirD

    April 13, 2017 at 10:05 am

    The legality of what happened makes this a tragedy for all. Republic employees weren’t aware of United’s ticket rules, and a customer shouldn’t be so stubborn as to not ask for another flight or just a full refund and make their own way. The police using force was the third strike that made this scenario just shameful.

    I recently flew on American where a plane was downsized. I had actually booked a first class seat and found myself in the ‘trunk’ of a single-class airline. I wasn’t too happy about it, and was assured that I’ll get a refund for the difference in fare (which I haven’t gotten yet).

    The way this situation was handled was that 10 volunteers were asked for, and then the airline continued asking until they had to make a decision. The decision was those that are last in boarding will be denied boarding, and will only be given the standard compensation versus the offer being given. That was enough incentive so they had enough volunteers, and although compensated passengers were angry, nothing got too out of hand. The second someone pulled out a phone to film anything, American shut that down and offered to get security involved if that wasn’t stopped immediately, which I think is the right thing. I know if someone whips out a dslr camera in an airport they get shut down immediately, so I don’t see why a camera phone should be any different.

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