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United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz makes a bad situation worse

In a letter to employees, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said he was “upset to see and hear what happened.” But then there was a “but.” Munoz then described the passenger in question as being “disruptive and belligerent.” This statement followed an earlier one in which the CEO said there would be an investigation into the incident while at the same time he defended his employees. Munoz wrote, “Our employees followed established procedure for dealing with situations like this.” And while Munoz apologized for having to “re-accommodate” these passengers, he did not seem apologetic for the way the passenger in question was treated.

As the Los Angeles Times put it, after Munoz angered people by supporting what his employees did, he dug a deeper hole by seemingly blaming the passenger for what happened.

As was widely reported, the Sunday night flight was full but United needed to get a flight crew of four to Kentucky. As is industry policy, United asked for volunteers to leave the flight. Those who agreed to deplane would be paid $800 and given accommodation for the night. But on this particular flight, no one agreed to leave. It is believed one of the reasons why there were no volunteers was there was not another flight to Louisville until 2 p.m. Monday, almost 24 hours later.
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The airline then chose four people to be required to leave the plane. According to United, these four individuals were chosen because they were the last ones to purchase their tickets. One of the selected passengers, who said he was a doctor and had to see patients in Louisville the next day, refused to give up his seat. He was told if he did not leave the flight, security would be called. He still refused to leave.

Chicago Aviation Security Officers arrived, forcibly removed the unnamed passenger from his seat and dragged him down the aisle. The man’s removal from the flight and his return to the cabin with blood on his face was taped by a fellow passenger and uploaded to the Internet. It went viral. And people were outraged not only by the video of the passenger with his face bloodied but by United Airlines’ response to what happened.

Outrage on Social Media

After the video was uploaded, thousands of people took to social media to express their outrage. People said they would never fly United again and called for a boycott of the airline. Others demanded Munoz be fired. What seemed to anger a lot of people was Munoz’s use of the word “re-accommodate” as if it is no big deal to get kicked off a plane due to overcrowding.

Others made up slogans United may want to use in the future such as “Board as a doctor, leave as a patient,” and “We’ll seat you, then we’ll beat you.”

The passenger appeared to be Chinese or of Chinese descent. And nowhere was the social media outcry as great as it was in China. People took to Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter, to express their outrage and to urge a boycott. As in the United States, many commenters said they would never fly United again. As CNN reports, China is the second largest aviation market in the world and United Airlines boasts of having more non-stop flights between the U.S. and China and flies to more Chinese cities than any other airline.

Many in China felt the man’s removal was simply discrimination, posting he was only chosen to be removed from the flight because he is Chinese.

Despite Munoz defending what happened, Chicago Aviation Security has placed the officer who forcibly removed the man from his seat and dragged him down the aisle on leave.

READ ALSO: United passenger dragged off overbooked flight

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