Video: Security drags screaming United Airlines passenger off overbooked flight -- literally; Update: United apologizes

They claim it was overbooked, but it sounds like it wasn’t really. United needed the seats for its own employees.

Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees that needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.

As Greg Pollowitz says, this appears to be not just a case of overbooking but of understaffing. When no one took the money, they selected four passengers randomly to be booted. Three went willingly. One did not — for a reason:

Bridges said the man became “very upset” and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning. The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly, Bridges said, and the man said he was calling his lawyer. One security official came and spoke with him, and then another security officer came when he still refused. Then, she said, a third security official came on the plane and threw the passenger against the armrest before dragging him out of the plane.

How bad was it?

Somehow he made it back on the flight afterward, seemingly disoriented and bloodied:

The passenger who shot the first video above claims the doctor started bleeding heavily from his mouth when security knocked his head against an armrest. It’s unclear right now whether the officers involved were private security or Chicago PD.

The obvious question: Why didn’t United increase the amount it was offering to get passengers to leave the flight? Everyone has their price. Once the value reached, say, $1,500, they probably would have had a few takers. (Imagine the cost these videos will inflict on United in bad press instead.) At a minimum, they could have screened the passengers selected for removal to see if any needed to be in Louisville ASAP. If this guy really is a doctor who had patients to see this morning, he could have been passed over for someone else.

Another question via Ben Shapiro: Why didn’t they bump the four passengers before boarding, rather than let everyone onto the plane only to ask some to get off? That’s rudimentary psychology. Once you’ve taken your seat and you’re comfortable, you expect to get to your destination without further hassle. Tell someone he’s bumped while he’s still in the terminal and there’s not the same sense of loss.

Exit question: What damages will the doctor ask for in his lawsuit?

Update: United is sorry for the “re-accommodation.”

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David Strom 8:31 AM on October 05, 2022