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USA: United Airlines passenger violently removed from flight after airline overbooks; CEO eventually apologises

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11 April 2017

United Airlines CEO apologizes for ‘horrific event,’ promises review of policies after passenger violently deplaned

Author: Avi Selk and Lori Aratani, Washington Post (USA)

After two days of conflicting explanations, falling stock prices and worldwide outrage, United Airlines [part of United Continental] entered mea culpa mode Tuesday afternoon when its chief executive announced an internal investigation into an incident involving a man who was violently removed from a plane so a crew member could have his seat. “I continue to be disturbed by what happened,” United chief executive Oscar Munoz said in a statement. “I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.” “We are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again,” Munoz said, promising a public report by April 30 on a review into United’s partnerships with law enforcement, its policies on giving seats to employees and overbooking.

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11 April 2017

United Airlines passenger violently dragged from seat on overbooked flight

Author: Jamiles Lartey, Guardian (UK)

A man was violently removed from a United Airlines [part of United Continental] flight by aviation policeofficials at Chicago’s O’Hare international airport on Sunday, in an incident captured on video by several other passengers. In one clip, posted by passenger Audra Bridges to Facebook, guards can be seen aggressively grabbing, and then dragging, the passenger down the aisle of the plane, which was bound for Louisville, Kentucky... United said airline representatives chose four passengers to leave the plane at random based on ticket class, frequent flier status and check-in time, and that one man selected refused to leave his seat... The Chicago aviation department said later that one of the officers did not follow protocol... The man rushed back on to the plane, past security and airline officials after being dragged off, his face bloodied and looking confused... 

“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” airline CEO Oscar Munoz said... “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers..." In a statement the Chicago police department said that the man became “irate” after he was asked to disembark and that he “fell” when aviation officers “attempted to carry the individual off the flight... His head subsequently struck an armrest causing injuries to his face.”  The airlines contract of carriage, an agreement that all customers assent to when booking, does give United the freedom to deny ticketed passengers travel if a flight is overbooked. 

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10 April 2017

The Deeper Scandal of That Brutal United Video

Author: Derek Thompson, Atlantic (USA)

A passenger on an overbooked United flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday night was ripped out of his seat by uniformed officers and dragged down the aisle...as several horrified passengers captured video footage of his bloodied face on their phones... [This] incident is both an extraordinary occurrence—overbookings are common yet rarely involve thuggish yanking—and also a dramatic reminder of the profoundly unequal, and even morally scandalous, relationship between consumers and corporations in industries where a handful of large companies dominate the sector...

[Although] this incident was unusual in many respects, it was also representative of an airline industry that has considerable power over consumers—even if the use of force is more subtle than a group of security professionals wrestling a passenger to the floor.  For example, many people have pointed out that United might have avoided the entire fiasco by simply offering the passengers more money to leave the plane... Domestic airlines are now enjoying record profits...in part because the airline industry is sheltered from both antitrust regulation and litigation...

[What] recourse do [customers] have against the company? Very little. In the last decade, class-action lawsuits have become endangered thanks to a series of Supreme Court rulings that have undercut consumer rights... [The] United video serves as a stark metaphor, one where the quiet brutalization of consumers is rendered in shocking, literal form... Companies in concentrated industries, like the airlines, have legal cover to break the most basic promise to consumers without legally breaking their contracts. The video is a scandal. But so is the law.

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