Former CEO Gordon Bethune: United’s Forced Removal of Passenger Was ‘Immature’

By Paul Riegler on 10 April 2017
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Just weeks after United Airlines was accused of not allowing two teenagers wearing leggings to board one of its planes (it turned out they were traveling on an employee pass and were not in compliance with the employee dress code), another social-media saga began for the airline.

On Sunday evening, a United passenger was shown on video being forcibly removed from his flight after gate agents offered incentives to those traveling to voluntarily take a later flight. The airline needed four seats for crewmembers to position them for a flight the following day and the agents had to pick four passengers who would be left behind.

According to the airline’s own contract of carriage, “the priority of all other confirmed passengers may be determined based on a passenger’s fare class, itinerary, status of frequent-flier program membership, and the time in which the passenger presents him/herself for check-in without advanced seat assignment.”

A passenger who presented himself as a physician on his way home to see patients the following day was one of those selected but he refused to exit the aircraft. Video taken by another passenger shows him being forcibly removed by the police and literally dragged off the plane.

“Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked,“ said as spokesman for the airline Sunday night. “After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.”

This was followed on Monday by a statement from the airline’s CEO, Oscar Munoz.

“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.” He added that the airline is “reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”

Meanwhile, former Continental Airlines CEO Gordon Bethune told CNBC in an interview Monday that such situations are “usually handled with a whole lot more maturity,” and that “This immature reaction disturbs us all.” Continental and United merged to form United-Continental Holdings in 2010.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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