United Airlines CEO: Passenger Dragged Off Flight Was “Disruptive And Belligerent”

Image courtesy of Audra Bridges

In a letter to employees late on Monday night, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said he “emphatically” stands behind workers amid the uproar over videos showing a passenger who was forcibly pulled from a flight on Sunday by airport police, after he became “disruptive and belligerent.”

Munoz writes that he was upset to see and hear about what happened on the flight from Chicago to Louisville. Even though the CEO acknowledged that “facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did,” he claims he wanted to give employees a “clearer picture” of what happened, with a summary of events compiled by United employees.

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“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,” he writes, adding that workers followed established protocols for dealing with the situation.

“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,” he writes.

He adds that there are lessons to be learned from the experience, however, and that the airline is “taking a close look” at the circumstances around the 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,” writes Munoz.

United’s recap of events says that when crew approached one passenger during its “involuntary denial of boarding process” to explain “apologetically” that he was being denied boarding, the passenger “raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.”

The airline says he was approached a “few more times” to gain his compliance and deboard, “and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.”

According to United, the airline was left with “no choice” but to call security officers.

“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,” the summary reads.

USA Today notes that airport security put one employee on leave after the incident.

“The incident on United Flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department,” the department said in a statement.

Here’s the full text of Munoz’s email to employees:

Dear Team,

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.

Oscar

Summary of Flight 3411

• 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 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.

[h/t The Associated Press]