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United Airlines Sparks Another Uproar by Forcibly Removing a Passenger

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 11, 2014: A United Airlines Airbus A319 aircraft is serviced at the gate at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
(Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)


Less than two weeks after one passenger-boarding controversy, United Airlines sparked another social media outcry after video emerged late Sunday night of a passenger being violently pulled out of his seat and dragged off a United flight at the airline’s behest.

According to the Louisville Courier-Journalthe airline had refused to let an overbooked from Chicago to Louisville depart unless four volunteers left the plane—to make room for four United employees. After only two passengers took the airline’s offer of $800 vouchers, the airline claimed it randomly chose another passenger for involuntary removal. The man, a doctor who said he needed to be in Louisville Monday morning to see patients, refused. Soon after, airport security agents accosted him.

This video of the man’s removal, shot by a nearby passenger, shows airport security personnel violently pulling the man from his seat—bloodying his mouth in the process—and dragging him down the aisle. He later ran back onto the plane.

United’s initial apology for the incident only seemed fuel public outrage, as the video rocketed across the Internet and social media Monday. Later, United CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement, saying: “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened.”

In United’s Contract of Carriage, it states that the airline has the right to “deny boarding” to passengers if a flight is overbooked and to ask for volunteers to take another flight. The contract states: “The request for volunteers and the selection of such person to be denied space will be in a manner determined solely by UA.” But the contract makes no mention of of using force to physically remove a ticketed passenger already on a plane.

This controversy follows on the heels of another public relations disaster for the airline from late March. That social media uproar was sparked when the airline refused to let a young woman passenger board because she was wearing leggings, which the airline claimed did not meet its standards for traveling on an employee pass