Yesterday, the world watched in horror as a 69-year-old man was dragged off a United flight in Chicago. The CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, said that he was sorry “for having to re-accommodate these customers”. And if you thought Munoz’s “apology” was tone deaf, wait until you hear the CEO’s latest statement.
The United flight from Chicago to Louisville was “overbooked” yesterday when the airline tried to get four of its crewmembers on the flight. When United couldn’t find any volunteers to exit the flight with a $US400 ($533) incentive, they chose to remove four people who had already been seated. When one man refused, the airline brought in security to beat the crap out of the guy and drag him down the aisle of the plane. Or, as the Chicago Police put it, the man “fell” into an armrest after he was “asked to disembark”.
Multiple people on the flight shot video of the incident, including when the man re-boarded the plane with his face bloodied, clearly traumatised by the experience and mumbling for the police to just kill him.
With all that context, you’d imagine that the CEO of United would be pretty apologetic, right? Wrong. Oscar Munoz, the CEO who won an award last month as communicator of the year, sent a new letter yesterday to his employees that’s somehow even worse than his now-infamous “re-accommodate” statement.
Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville. While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.
As you will read, 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. Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.
I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. 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.
Does that sound like a guy who’s going to treat situations like these in the future any differently? Yeah, I don’t think so either.
The CEO’s letter then proceeded to list his summary of the events from Flight 3411 as he understood them. Notice phrases like “left with no choice” and “unable to gain his cooperation” which are clearly meant to justify the inhumane treatment this man endured.
* On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United’s gate agents were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight.
* We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 [$AU1,333] in compensation) and 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.
* Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight. He repeatedly declined to leave.
* 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.
We’ll see how United responds today now that the late night shows like Jimmy Kimmel ridiculed the actions of United with a fake ad that ends with a flight attendant simply saying “United Airlines, fuck you.” Not to mention the calls on Chinese social media for a boycott of the airline, similar to Gizmodo’s own call to do the same yesterday.