United Airlines has caused a public uproar after videos of three police officers dragging a passenger off an overbooked plane were posted online and went viral.
The videos, posted on Twitter and Facebook by two passengers, Jayse D. Anspach and Audra D. Bridges, show a man being forcibly pulled out of his seat and dragged through the plane, his glasses askew, as passengers exclaim in shock.
The incident apparently occurred on United Flight 3411 before it departed from Chicago O'Hare International Airport for Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday.
One of the officers involved has now been placed on leave.
Anspach posted a video of the incident on Twitter, saying: “#United overbooked and wanted 4 of us to volunteer to give up our seats for personnel that needed to be at work the next day.”
“No one volunteered, so @United decided to choose for us. They chose an Asian doctor and his wife,” Anspach explained.
Bridges posted another video on Facebook commenting: “Please share this video… United Airlines overbooked the flight. They randomly selected people to kick off so their standby 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”
The screen grab shows Audra D. Bridges's comment on Facebook.
The videos show a man who looks Asian screaming as three officers pull him out of his seat. Other passengers are heard protesting, with one woman telling the officers “What are you doing? No, this is wrong!”
United said the flight was overbooked and it chose four people at random when nobody volunteered to disembark.
United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized on Monday for having to “re-accommodate” customers. “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” he said in a statement, adding that the airline was “reaching out to this passenger.”
The screen grab shows the apology of the CEO of United Airlines Oscar Munoz on twitter.
Media reports however also quoted Munoz as saying the passenger was “disruptive and belligerent” and staff “followed established procedures” by calling airport police.
The Chicago Department of Aviation said the incident “was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure, and the actions are obviously not condoned by the department.”
The U.S. Department of Transportation added it was reviewing whether United observed overbooking rules, Reuters reported.
The incident became a top-trending topic worldwide, including on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, where users expressed their anger over the unfair treatment.
“I am so angry after watching the video. It is totally violent. They said they chose the four passengers randomly. Is it true that they just happened to choose an Asian man? They thought the yellow-skinned guy dare not resist? I think an ethnic factor was involved.”@Dalingxian
“United Airlines just said 'we apologize for having to re-accommodate', but did not apologize to the injured passenger. I heard that lots of passengers have already returned flight tickets and cancelled their membership. United Airlines screwed up.”@ M1RANDAZENG
In addition to the furious complaints, some users focused more on what might come out of an investigation.
“People already know what happened, so how will the incident be resolved? What can we do if we encounter a similar situation? We need to think about that.”@GD-TXie