How United Airlines dragged a doctor off plane on his back, mouth bleeding: 15 things to know

More and more flight misadventures raise serious questions about safety of flying.

 |  7-minute read |   11-04-2017
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US airline behemoth United Airlines did the unimaginable on Monday (April 10) when it physically dragged a passenger off a plane.

Videos posted online by co-passengers showed a man, who appeared to be an Asian, screaming as officers dragged him from his seat on United Flight 3411 before it departed from Chicago O’Hare International Airport to Louisville, Kentucky, according to a Reuters report.

While this is not the first time the airlines has caused outrage over its "terrible treatment" to passengers, here's how the latest incident unfolded.

1) The airline had reportedly overbooked the plane and was seeking volunteers, trying to make room for four employees of a partner airline, Republic.

2) United offered $400 and then $800 vouchers and a hotel stay for volunteers to give up their seats. But since no one volunteered, a United manager came and announced that passengers would be chosen randomly. The airlines then moved to involuntary bumping, offering up to $1,000 in compensation.

3) The video of the incident posted to Twitter account @Tyler_Bridges shows three security officers huddling over the seated passenger before dragging him to the floor.

4) According to Bridges, the man told United staff that he was a doctor and had to return home to his patients. "He was kind of saying that he was being singled out because he's a Chinese man when speaking to the manager, who was African-American," Bridges was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. 

"You should know what this is like,'' the man said, according to Bridges. 

5) Two officers then tried to reason with the man before a third came aboard and pointed at the man  saying, "Sir, you have to get off the plane,"' Bridges said. That's when the altercation broke out.  The Chicago aviation department has said that one of the officers involved has been placed on leave. 

6) In the video, it can be seen that the man is being dragged down the aisle. The Reuters report described that the man was "dragged on his back by his hands, body limp, bleeding from the mouth, glasses askew and shirt pulled up above his navel".

Later he can be seen standing in the aisle near the rear of the aircraft with blood on his mouth, chin and cheek as he screams, "I want to go home." Officers followed him to the back of the plane.

 Another man travelling with high school students stood up at that point and said they were getting off the plane, Bridges said.

7) About half the passengers followed before United told everyone to get off, he said. The man was removed from the plane again, and United employees made an announcement saying they had to "tidy up" the aircraft, Bridges was quoted as saying.

8) Bridges said his wife told him she saw the man taken away on a stretcher. After a three-hour delay the flight took off without the man aboard, Bridges said. A United employee apologised to passengers.

9)  Not surprisingly, it's a routine practice for airlines to overbook. Many on social media, however, criticised the United for how it handled the situation. According to Associated Press, it's legal for airlines to sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane because some people do not show up.

However, when an airline demands that a passenger give up a seat, it is required to pay compensation of double the passenger's one-way fare, up to $675, if the passenger can be placed on another flight that arrives one to two hours later than the first flight, or four times the ticket price, up to $1,350, for longer delays.

10) But people were more outraged over the fact that United chief executive officer, Oscar Munoz, in a letter circulated to employees, did not apologise for the way the passenger was handled, writing that the passenger had “defied” security officers.

Munoz said there were lessons the company can learn from this situation, though he impressed that he “emphatically” stands behind his employees.

11) On the contrary, he said: “We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation)."

“When we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.”

12) The Chicago department of aviation said in a statement that one of the officers did not follow protocol and added that he had been placed on leave pending a review for actions not condoned by the department.

13) This is not the first time the United Airlines has been in news for alleged ill-treatment to passengers. While some on social media raised questions whether the man would have been removed as forcefully had he not been Asian, two teenage girls dressed in leggings were denied boarding on a United flight from Denver to Minneapolis last month because their "form-fitting pants did not conform to the dress code for employees or family members using free passes".

14) The US department of transportation said it was reviewing whether United complied with overbook rules that require airlines to set guidelines on how passengers are denied boarding if they do not volunteer to give up their seats. But the incident raises more concerns. Is it enough to save a man's life? Anything could have happened during the forceful eviction? Who would have taken the responsibility for any such eventuality?

More and more people questioned the "appropriateness" of removing a paying customer in order to accommodate airline staff.

“They bloodied a senior citizen and dragged him off the plane so their own staff could take his seat,” one Twitter user wrote.

15) The incident was one of the top-trending topics on Twitter as users expressed their anger towards the airline.

Back in India, the incident brought to focus a recent episode even though it was an airline staffer who was at the receiving end of VIP anger. Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad hit an AI staffer over seating issues and even attempted to pushed him off the stairs leading out of the aircraft.

No matter whoever is at the receiving end, such flight misadventures raise serious questions about safety of flying.

Also read: Shiv Sena MP beating up Air India staffer is a case of entitlement Indians suffer


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