via The New York Times

A man on an overbooked United Airlines flight was forcibly removed from his seat and dragged through the aisle on Sunday, and video of the anguished protests by him and other passengers spread rapidly on Monday as people criticized the airline’s tactics.

At least two passengers on the flight, which was scheduled to depart Chicago O’Hare for Louisville at 5:40 p.m. but was delayed two hours, documented the confrontation. Their videos show a police officer in plain clothes wrestling the man from his seat and dragging him by his arms, as his glasses slid down his face and his shirt rose above his midriff. Uniformed officers follow.

The man returned to the aircraft after being removed, according to one of the passengers. Video shows him jogging through the aisle, repeatedly saying: “I have to go home.”

Charlie Hobart, a United spokesman, said in a telephone interview on Monday that “we had asked several times, politely” for the man to relinquish his seat before force was used.

“We had a customer who refused to leave the aircraft,” he said. “We have a number of customers on board that aircraft, and they want to get to their destination on time and safely, and we want to work to get them there.

“Since that customer refused to leave the aircraft, we had to call the Chicago Police Department, and they came on board.”

United first sought volunteers to relinquish their seats with compensation, but none stepped forward, he said. Four passengers were selected to be bumped, and three left without incident, Mr. Hobart said.

He would not say whether the bumped passengers were chosen by a computer, human or some combination of the two. But factors can include how long a customer would have to stay at the airport before being rebooked, he said, and the airline looks to avoid separating families or leaving unaccompanied minors.

“We explained the scenario to the customer,” Mr. Hobart said. “That customer chose not to get out of his seat.”

In a statement, Oscar Munoz, the chief executive of United Airlines, called the episode “an upsetting event to all of us here at United.”

“I apologize for having to re-accomodate these customers,” he said. “Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.” Read More

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