United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz is defending the actions of his employees after viral video of a passenger being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight sparked national outrage, ignited calls for boycotts, and led to a $1 billion loss in market value.
On a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Sunday evening, airline employees offered passengers up to $800 and a hotel stay after the plane filled up and left no room for four United employees who needed to get to the next airport for an upcoming flight.
After nobody volunteered to get off, the airline randomly chose four passengers from the passenger list instead of raising the incentive more. One Chinese man selected, who identified himself as a doctor, refused to get out of his seat. He got into a shouting match with an airline manager until security officers were called to the scene.
Passengers expressed shock and dismay as the officers forcibly pulled the man out of his seat, incidentally smashing the man’s mouth against an armrest and rendering him unconscious and bleeding.
Now extended video footage has emerged showing him running back onto the plane repeatedly exclaiming “I have to go home. I have to go home.” before clutching a curtain and repeating “Just kill me. Just kill me. Just kill me.”
Blood can be seen streaming from his mouth wound. An airline employee appears to offer him a napkin.
The plane was later cleared of passengers and the Chinese man removed on a stretcher. United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz issued a brief apology to the four passengers who had to give up their seats.
According to Fox News, Munoz also released an earlier statement Monday, saying, “This situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help.”
Earlier, United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart had said that the Chicago Police Department was called, but it was actually Aviation officers who entered the plane.
“Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation,” Munoz added.
Later, he gave more details, saying, “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. He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent. Chicago Aviation Security Officers were unable to gain his cooperation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist — running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.”
But Munoz’ fairly unapologetic approach may do little to pacify a public that largely seems angered by United’s treatment of the injured passenger considering that their overbooking of the flight led to the confrontation in the first place.
In fact, United’s shares dropped 4% on Tuesday, which CNN Money says has reduced the company’s market value by $1 billion.
And the outrage has gone international, going viral in China, which has been an important, growing market for United.
According to the Washington Post, the topic garnered 160 million readers on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter.
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