Crazy Video: Passenger Forcibly Dragged Off United Flight

Filed Under: United, Videos

Update: See this post for some further information and thoughts on the situation.

Some crazy video footage has emerged from Twitter users @JayseDavid and @Tyler_Bridges, of a passenger forcibly being dragged off a plane. The incident occurred yesterday on United 3411 from Chicago to Louisville, which ended up being delayed by about two hours.


The incident allegedly occurred because the flight was overbooked, and United needed to get a crew to Louisville. As a result, they needed to bump revenue passengers to let on crew members. That’s not uncommon — when there are irregular operations airlines often need to reposition their crews, and understandably that’s a priority. Not having a crew could cause another flight to get canceled, and that could have a domino effort.

The Twitter user explains that the guy was telling police that he had to go to the hospital in the morning to see patients (I’m not sure if he was a doctor, nurse, or what), and seemingly refused to voluntarily get off the plane. As a result, the police were called, and then the following happened (here are two videos of it from different angles):

Despite being dragged off the plane, the guy somehow managed to still run back on the plane and yell “I need to get home.”

It seems like the guy’s lip got busted on the way out, as he started bleeding from his mouth. Ouch.

Sadly this isn’t the first time an incident like this has happened. Just a few months ago, a woman was dragged off a Delta flight:

What do I make of this? Well, it’s sad that this is the second time in a few months that someone was dragged off a plane. It’s even sadder than I wasn’t fazed when I saw this video, which is perhaps a reflection of the type of force we’re used to seeing police use in the US.

Obviously there would ideally be another solution, but at the same time the guy sort of did this to himself. FAA regulations require you to comply with crewmember instructions, and that includes when they tell you to get off the plane. If you refuse to do so and just remain seated, the airlines only have so many options.

So while I hate seeing stuff like this, it was entirely avoidable if the guy had listened. I know air travel can be frustrating, but ignoring crewmember instructions will never end well for you, at least in the US.

In other industries, being persistent and refusing to do something might get you your way. That’s not the case on a plane. I guess this guy learned that lesson the hard way. I do hope that the airline solicited volunteers to get off the plane before choosing who to involuntarily remove from the flight. And I hope they raised the offer significantly and made a real effort to solicit volunteers. I also hope that the police warned him that he would be dragged off the flight if he didn’t get off voluntarily.

Update: I wasn’t intending to be dismissive of this guy’s situation earlier, and I realize that’s how it may have come across, and for that I fully apologize.

This has been a quickly-moving story with myriad updates. The full coverage of the United incident from the One Mile at a Time team is as follows:

Crazy Video: Passenger Forcibly Dragged Off United Flight
What United Really Screwed Up With Their Latest Viral Incident
The Horrible Video I Hadn’t Seen Of The Guy Being Dragged Off A United Flight...
Why United’s Incident Is A Much Bigger Deal Than You May Think
Pathetic: United’s CEO Makes The Denied Boarding Fiasco Even Worse
What Are Your Rights If You Get Bumped From A Flight?
United’s Removal Of Passengers May Not Have Been Legal
The Root Cause Of United’s Denied Boarding Fiasco
Wow: Emirates Throws Major (But Fair) Shade At United In New Video
FINALLY: United’s CEO Issues A Real Apology For What Happened
I’m Sorry: My Initial Reaction To The United Situation Was Wrong
Fascinating: Good Morning America Interviews United’s CEO
United Is Refunding The Fares Of All Passengers On Flight 3411
  1. To the author Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) — so you weren’t phased by it last time it happened? And that’s just how things are? Wow. YOU are what is wrong with this country. In a nutshell. What a horribly pathetic excuse for a journalist you are.

  2. Being a doctor operating on sick people doesn’t give you any more right to a seat than someone going to play slots in Vegas. He should be put on the no fly list.

  3. I normally agree with your takes but I’m on the other side of this. There’s no excuse for violence against passengers to solve a company screw up.

  4. Reason #3,461 that United sucks. Can’t properly plan to move their crews around, resulting in passengers getting assaulted.

  5. @ Samual — Well, no, the first time around I was surprised, while this time around I wasn’t. Still, in the grand scheme of police videos we see, this isn’t that bad. Like I said, this situation sucks, and it’s embarrassing that this is what many situations in our country seem to come down to. At the same time, the alternative here was just continuing to ask him to leave the plane, and when he refused, then what? Ask someone else, and then they refuse? Clearly no one wanted to get off the plane, or else this situation wouldn’t have unfolded the way it did.

  6. For once, I disagree with you Lucky! The guy obviously needed to get home, why couldn’t the crew ask someone else who is more flexible to take an alternative flight?

    All the same, I feel really bad for United’s PR team. This is not publicity they need.

  7. @Zymm LOL

    Did the flight attendants at least ask for volunteers to be bumped and offered compensation?

  8. Why was he the one that was picked? Why did they wait to bump someone after they had already boarded? Couldn’t the crew go on the jumpseat? Not the proper way of dealing with human beings let alone customers. Where is customer care? What is the line between asking him to volunteer and forcibly removing him.

  9. No this was entirely avoidable if United had figured out that they needed to bump people before the plane was boarded. Certainly, if these crew members needed to get to Louisville, the gate agent should have been aware of that before they started the boarding process. Even if there was a screw-up and they had to fix it at the last minute, they should have offered a hefty voucher to a volunteer willing to deplane and take a later flight instead of just randomly ejecting passengers. I find it hard to believe that there wouldn’t be at least one person willing to take them up on the offer if the price were high enough.

    I realize as a passenger you have to obey crewmember instructions, but I feel like United majorly dropped the ball by letting it get to this point in the first place.

  10. When the airline offers incentives for volunteers to take a later flight, they’re entering a negotiation. If nobody volunteers, they should sweeten the deal. If their counter-offer becomes “we will use physical force”, it obviously hurts goodwill. Sorry.

    Technically yes, the FAA regs are in the airline’s favor. However, in the court of public opinion, the airline is rightfully culpable.

  11. Martyrdom for capitalism.

    It’s entirely their fault they got treated this way so they can’t really complain.

  12. “FAA regulations require you to comply with crewmember instructions”

    And basic business sense is if you have overbooked a flight then you don’t drag a Doctor trying to get back to treat his patients off a plane in the era of smartphones and twitter.

    If you go round looking for volunteers it would be better to incentives them rather than create a more costly PR disaster.

    This is not playing well and relying on a regulation that is there for safety reasons and shouldn’t be abused to cheaply solve the problem of an overbooked flight.

  13. @ Akosua — Fair enough! I would assume (and hope) that they asked for volunteers first. My assumption is that no one else volunteered. If they didn’t ask for volunteers, then obviously that was a screw up on United’s part. However, if they did ask for volunteers and no one volunteered, they have some other method they use to decide who gets off the plane (either your fare class, when you checked in, etc.).

    So I’m not sure what other system would be better. I guess they could ask everyone what their plans are for the next day, and then decide who has the least going on. But I’m not sure that would end so well either.

    A tough situation, but overall just sad that it gets to the point where someone has to be physically dragged off the plane.

  14. The solution is to never be violent against a passenger to solve a company screw up. They should be giving away United status bumps in this dire of a situation, not resulting to violence.

  15. Here’s my issue….UA absolutely could have received volunteers if they created enough of an incentive. Keep bumping compensation, and volunteers surface every time. This is unnaceptable. UA’s greed in not offering enough resulted in violence.

  16. They should have offered more compensation – sounds like it wasn’t much given the Twitter user calling the offer “cheap”

    The gate agent is not crew.

  17. Who cares? Why is this newsworthy enough to post this? Not the first time we’ve seen this, and won’t be the last…but so what?

  18. Flight should never have boarded. They should have found a price point for volunteers to take the deal. Paying passengers should not be subjected to united mismanagement of load and overbooking. Should have been handled much different, and once on a plane a paying passenger has every right to expect to get what they paid for.

  19. It’s so disgusting to hear that liberal snowflake yelling “Oh my God, look what you did to him!” He brought it on himself! How about acting like a normal human being? Do you think the police come and drag people off of a flight for no reason?

    I’ve been on over 1000 flights and I’ve never been dragged off, and there’s a reason.

  20. By the way, he was not IDB, he already boarded. Why should you leave the plane just because the crew asks you to? That stupid: ‘do what the crew says; Befehl ist Befehl’ rule was made up for security reasons, not for company screw-ups or commercial reasons. This was not a security issue. They should have stopped the last 4 people boarding, that would have been IDB.

  21. The police came, beat up a law abiding citizen and dragged him away and no one said a word.

    No this is not Soviet union, this is America.

    In any case the cops need to be fired and charged with assault. Why did they beat him up? Cops being assholes, nothing new.

  22. @Lucky how naive and short sighted are you? Just roll over on your belly at the first sign of confrontation. Just bc an individual/company/administration has authority doesn’t mean they can apply it with disregard and impunity. There are plenty of other solutions here. United could have continued to increase the compensation until someone eventually volunteered; $1,000….$1,500……$3,000…..whatever it takes. Someone would have eventually taken the bate. It’s on the airline to eat the cost for overbooking the flight.

  23. @Andrew

    Well it’s already made it to London and surprise surprise hasn’t played well

    It has also come up on my timeline with shock and revulsion from many non americans as well as americans – so think it can go in the Newsworthy category now.

    Their social media response is a disaster as well

    “Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologise for the overbook situation.”

    One customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily – and then right there you have the must perfectly stupid response to a perfectly stupid response to a situation.

  24. They were offering $400 and a hotel then upped to $800 and still no volunteers. So they went to fare class or time of checkin. This man’s profession doesn’t matter in either of those situations. He was the unlucky one chosen.

  25. I agree that they should be required to keep sweetening the deal until some one is willing to accept it. The problem is that the airlines hold all of the cards and can do whatever they want. And then they get to hide behind FAA regulations. If the airline screwed up then it’s on them to figure out a way to fix it without beating up their pax. UA deserves all of the abuse they get. You’re way too forgiving of the airlines in general.

  26. @ Evan — There are two separate issues here, though. The first issue is whether United did what they could to solicit volunteers, and whether they increased the offer enough or not. I’m also skeptical of whether or not they did that. But to me that’s a different point than what the police did here. The police was called and told someone needed to be removed from a plane. They person refused to get off the plane. That only ever ends one way.

    So I agree United may not have done what they could have to solicit volunteers (we really don’t know), but it doesn’t change that when the guy was asked to get off, there’s only one way that was going to end.

    We also don’t know the circumstances surrounding his ticket. It’s entirely possible that he was a standby passenger who got on, and that they took off the standby passengers first.

  27. “Still, in the grand scheme of police videos we see, this isn’t that bad.”

    How said for all of us that we’ve been conditioned to think this is ok

    Here’s the thing: He was already seated. They didn’t deny him boarding before he got on the plane. At this point if they need someone to give up a seat, United should keep upping the compensation. Yes there was no taker at $800, but would no one really give up their seat for $1600? $2000? $3000? I find it hard to believe.

    What’s $3,000 in travel voucher compared to having LEO assaulting your customer and the resulting horrible publicity?

  28. uh no, the guy wasn’t an instigator of anything so he shouldn’t have been dragged off the plane…

    needless to say that it was a hard situation for everyone but it was an airline instigated issue. united screwed up with the overbooking. dragging the guy off the flight just shows that united is uncommitted, poorly run (in terms of their booking system) and they just got a crapload of bad publicity. the guy booked his ticket for that flight and had every right to go home.

    i’d say he should be dragged off if his seatbelt was off and he refused to listen to customers. now that’s “disobeying crewmember instructions”.

    i’d compare this to suing an airline because they didn’t let you refund a non-refundable ticket that you bought

  29. Absuletly not acceptable. The FAA rules for obeying crew were not created so the airline can pull pax off planes because their flight ops cannot plan orderly or to get crew to another city. Do you think that if they made an announcement saying $1000 to leave the plane there would be no volunteers from ~150 passengers? I’d bed my lunch that there would be people lining up for that.

  30. I seem to recall Delta had a little bit of an issue this past week. They resolved it with $$$$ to free up seats. In hindsight, United would Have been glad to pay up if this had not happened.

    My bet is that this was United Express. United Express is the single biggest detriment to United’s brand. They are just awful. When you complain to United, their response is “united Express isn’t really united.” Just pathetic all around.

  31. $800 isn’t nearly enough credit for most professionals to warrant missing a day of work. At least $2000-$3000 should be the minimum If they can’t get you there within 2hrs. This may help prevent overbooking.

  32. @Jennifer McInerney “I’ve been on over 1000 flights and I’ve never been dragged off, and there’s a reason.”
    Your nastiness

  33. I agree with @Nick to his first point. The reason someone is taking a flight shouldn’t matter if the proper protocols were followed for selecting the passenger(s) that needed to be bumped. The videos show that the guy was clearly resisting and even ran back on to the plane. I would be careful comparing this to other police videos or the state of policing in America.

  34. no not acceptable, the crewe can ask, but that is what they say ask, if they offered $1000, say, and another flight.people would accept, this was not acceptable,

  35. It’s as simple as that: United fucked it up by overbooking that flight. Hence, United should take care of the situation without people being pulled off a plane and being treated like this.
    United plays this overbooking game. Most of the times they win, here apparently they would have lost by upping the compensation so much that someone would have agreed. Very bad move by United.

  36. You know what would be hilarious? If United (aka, the crappiest US-based airline of all) refused to find volunteers because they knew they’d have to offer compensation, and they’re too cheap and crappy an airline to do that (because they can’t seem to figure out how to properly position their crews without inconveniencing their paying customers). What if they just barged through the aisles, picking people without asking for volunteers?

    Would it have been so difficult for a crew member, who noticed this man was “desperate” to get home and realized the situation might escalate, to get on the overhead and ask (again if they had already) for volunteers and bump the compensation offer to said volunteers? This entire situation was completely avoidable. But, as usual, in a “purely capitalist” situation, the consumer gets f*cked, the airline gets what they want, and no one shows an ounce of empathy because we’re all heinously callous morally bankrupt, uncaring a-holes who worship multibillion dollar corporations regardless of who they screw in the process. Ah. America.

  37. United should have increased the compensation for volunteers until they opened up the number of seats they needed. This is crazy and uncalled for. It’s the airline that had other options – booting paying, boarded passengers off the plane because they need the space isn’t right. and if getting the crew to another spot was that important they can pay for it with comp to volunteers.

  38. I found out this past week on a mega-delayed JetBlue flight out of FLL, the airlines will use heavy police presence (5 Broward county deputies) to enforce the airlines “customer service.”

    I know it’s way too much to ask, but it would be nice if just once the police looked at the gate agent and said, “no I think I’m going to put you in handcuffs instead of the customer.” But let’s face it, the police have basically devolved into a mercenary workforce for the very wealthy and big business.

  39. how difficult can the whole thing be? just offer an offer high enough for someone to get off voluntarily? it’s just the so-called Big 3 are just arrogant and thinks they will get the passengers to fly with them no matter what?

  40. @Andre get your facts straight. After initially being removed the passenger was allowed to reboard.

  41. Cops are not meant to be a tool of airline’s revenue management. Cops spend more time and energy working mall security and stadium parking enforcement, and in this case airlines bidding than fighting crime.

  42. @Lucky have you ever considered an editor, or at a minimum, someone who is a counter weight to your opinions before anything is published. Even though there are still some unknowns, your analysis of this event is disconcerting especially when considering that the over use of police force is in the forefront of the American psyche.

  43. If the passenger was simply being involuntarily asked to deplane, then you are giving United too much leeway, lucky. No one should be denied boarding against their will because they overbooked. Important meetings, family events, etc may be missed. If United must get crew members to a location, they need to pay. Offer compensation in $500 increments until someone takes it. And offer it in cash, not a voucher.

  44. 100 % avoidable – just keep offering higher amounts of bump compensation to the passengers and someone will eventually bite. I’m sure if they started waving $2k around, someone would have gladly offered m up their seat.

    I think a better title for this post should have been “United uses local police to handle their scheduling mistakes.” I don’t condone the passenger’s behavior, but this happened solely because United screwed up and wasn’t willing to make it right.

  45. United is so pathetic here and completely to blame. Too bad if they couldn’t find volunteers to deplane… hire a van to drive the crew the five hours from Chicago to Louisville. They were too cheap to do that or to raise the compensation enough for someone to volunteer.

  46. The mandatory denied boarding compensation is too low. There is no incentive for airlines to pay volunteers beyond the amount mandated by law. I predict we will see a lot more of these events in the future,

  47. I wouldn’t personally risk arrest to make a point, but good for this guy — the number of seats U.S. airlines have cut in pursuit of outrageous profits is insane. Tiny little regional jets flying from Atlanta to New York. What a joke!

    Good on him for taking a stand — airlines are going to start seeing more and more pushback from passengers, especially after the Delta chaos last week.

  48. Our similar age, backgrounds and upbringings (from what you’ve mentioned over time) lead to us to similar conclusions most of the time. But I cannot agree with anything you’ve said here, @Lucky. I agree, we don’t know that United properly addressed the situation prior to this by escalating potential compensation amounts. But what I’m more concerned about is the fact they overbooked this, AND THEN let everyone board. How the hell do you let everyone get to their seat before completely addressing this issue? At that point they needed to suck it up and accept their piss poor operations, and then either offer huge compensations, or accept that those employees aren’t flying. Put them on the next flight. Put them on another airline. Do anything but what they did. What did they choose to do? Absolve themselves of responsibility by handing it over and allowing the police to employ full force.

    Really disappointed this time, @Lucky. And I know you deal with a lot of haters and trolls by nature of putting yourself out there on the internet. But this, I genuinely mean this.

  49. I too was surprised by your attitude Lucky. The other commenters also echo my thoughts: United screwed up by not upping the compensation offered until four people were willing to rent a car and drive five hours or take the next available flight. United also screwed up by not getting their crew seats prior to allowing boarding (even putting the crew on a competitors flight if possible) and a third United screw up was the way their Twitter handlers noted the incident “We apologize for the overbook situation.” with no apology for calling the cops in the first place, which was totally avoidable.

  50. This is complete BS. The guy paid and had a ticket. If United is incompetent for improperly scheduling crews, then they should offer rewards for passengers to get off the plane and take another flight. Don’t force people off.

    If no one takes the offer, then bump up the reward. United was just being cheap. I guarantee you that if United offered 3 free round trip domestic tickets as the reward, they would have had many takers.

    There was an easy way to avoid this situation but United thought it was easier punch a paying passenger in the face and drag him off, than offer several round trip tickets to others as a reward for getting off.

  51. I hope he sues the crap out of united and the police who was involved. Major lawsuit. And pure brutality. And pathetic handling by united — u overbook the flight, u pay enuf for pple to volunteer off it, it airlines fault!

  52. United got it wrong. There Twitter team is a disaster.

    Yes, the flight was overbooked, but that was not what led to the IDB and this guy getting dragged off the plane. Compounding the overbooking was that United added 4 crew members to the plane to get them to SDF to avoid a cancellation the next day. That seems to have been a late breaking development that occurred after they had boarded. Bottom line, United didn’t offer enough compensation to get volunteers and decided that they would just stick with the IDB amounts. Well they deserve to get hammered by the public for that lousy, customer unfriendly decision. This is the sort of thing that gets an industry reregulated. Bravo!

  53. You got this one completely wrong Lucky. I ashamed of the passengers who just sat idly by and allowed this to happen. United should have bumped the standby United employees, period. Charter a private flight for them or higher an overnight shuttle if they really needed to be in Louisville by the next day. If there is no consequences for the airlines overbooking and doing things like this they will continue to.

  54. @Lucky: Sorry but the solution is always financial. It is always about money. If United was not that greedy and offered passengers more money to stay that situation would not happen. They stopped at $800. I am pretty sure another couple hundreds per passenger would have solved the issue and we would not be wasting our time here today debating what United did wrong. They are a disgrace and keep going down. I’ve seen Delta offer way more than that to 6 passengers and nothing like this happened.

  55. This is just pathetic. United better have a damn good explanation for why at the last minute after all the passengers boarded they needed to remove someone. Why even let them on the plane? They must have asked for volunteers but did they up the compensation offer to get a volunteer? Sounds doubtful. I would imagine the police warned him before using force. If they did not those officers should be fired. How did they pick this guy to get off the plane? Can’t help but think this whole situation could have been avoided with better planning by united. That all beind said im not at sll impressed about his excuse that he needs to see patients. He isn’t entitled to any more than other paying passengers. Also, i wonder how long they said it would be before they could rebook them.

  56. Again everyone looking at the wrong thing. How if he bought a ticket, and boarded the flight, which is a pain in the ass does ANYONE need to get off. So did they sell to many tickets, decide that thier crew, that needed to get somewhere needed a seat, after boarding, no less. How do they choose out of thier paying customers who gets removed? Sounds like the airline at the very least is poorly planned. The fault is with the airline and the officers willing to use violence of any kind on that man is ridiculous and shows they are unethical. Just because it’s allowed dosnt mean they are by doing it so that is an invalid thought process. Police can shoot people “resisting arrest”what if they are resisting arrested for littering at 3pm (possible) when they were at church and could not have done it. Should hr be arrested? If you have been through the “fair trial” legal system you know it is made (mayby not purposely) to force you to admit to anything they say because it won’t move if you don’t. If you need me to explain any of this to you [email protected] I will. Use your critical thinking and look at the root of the problem especially before you speak. Put yourself in his shoes if you can’t do that, try to ask yourself if your son or daughter wanted to get home and they did that to him/her would you the way about it?

    P.s- That fat lady that said garbage about forigers should have also been removed for being an extremist. Forigners need to get it out or whater is a racist or religious agenda another word for that is jihadist. Muslims that want kill everybody else are extremists fat bitches that hate people out ignorance are using the same thought process. Try a book instead of a pizza next. I feel like her feeling comfortable enough to say that in public indacates a need of people pointing out this sort of ignorance if nobody says it they can’t change all people of this world just simply want to live well and be happy applying your first world problems to any one Is weak be happy thst soldiers arent shooting out in the street, or your not being dragged off of a plan and dont qualify an immoral act because it’s the rules say it’s ok, if laws or regs say that removing this man was ok the rules need to be or are we as a people saying this is how we treat people? If that is truely how the majority feels I’m defecting because that’s hypocrisy to what America shows and is supposed to be.

  57. Also why should my comment be moderated? If anybody CENSORS including removing, highlighting or changing a single word in or changes in any way my words on any of my comments don’t post anything.The fact that you moderate shows you fear words. My creator gave me the right to free speech, free press, and free protest. Moderation is a another word for propaganda- to sway emotion through any media to direct the buying of product, service or idea. Diconary Definition

  58. I normally do no comment on posts but this is the worst article I’ve seen written about this incident. He did not deserve that kind of treatment and I hope you get treated like that one day. FAA tells you to comply for safety reasons. This was pushing it.

  59. Wow I completely disagree with you, Ben, and feel like you are being blind to the situation at hand just because you love flying so much. United messed up in using forcing to drag this guy off the plane and bumping his head rather forcefully! I think he was knocked out for a while! This is not appropriate behavior for any airline. United has also been terrible approximately 50% of the time I have taken it (flying once a month). I will no longer be taking United flights after seeing their fake non-apology “apology” to this situation.

  60. All you people in these comments that even slightly seem to think this is ok regardless of the request for him to leave…..are completely off your rocker ! I read how some of you are justifying their efforts blah blah blah! What losers you are ! Including you, Lucky! United has plenty of money and ways to have done this differently !! The airways are just used to overpowering people when THEY OVERBOOK!!!!! No one likes to lose their seat to get home or elsewhere when they have paid, boarded and followed the rules! Most of us do have good reason to get on our way! Stop protecting big business like this or it will become the norm and next time it may be YOU, even if you volunteer to go!! Or a different circumstance where they decide roughing you up is acceptable! This man was no criminal and it’s appalling to see this in America! You all need to screw your heads on straight! I’m more angered at you complacent , ” turn away” type attitudes!!!!

  61. This post is awful. I am so very happy that the guy fought back for his rights. The airlines in the U.S. have turned into a total disgrace. They use public land (airport) and subsidized fuel — it’s high time that we re-regulate the level of services that they MUST provide the American citizen.


  62. Why would you make any comments Lucky if you don’t know all the facts. You know what assume does it makes an ASS of U and ME. They offered $400 then $800 no takers so lets assault under the guise of regulations. If you don’t know the facts SHUT THE HELL UP CUZ YOU SOUND LIKE AN IDIOT. There is no way this is how you treat a paying customer. Offer the right incentive and get the proper result. You call yourself an “expert” you’re a joke

  63. well the USA is learning well from dictatorship countries, if the person does not volunteer lets persuade him to “volunteer”!

  64. When United overbooks a flight they believe they are allowed to use the power of the state, police powers, to mitigate their bad business decision. If United survives using police officers to drag their customers off their plane due to ongoing bad business decisions, it will be major change in how police powers are used in this country.

    These are business decisions, nothing more.

  65. “So while I hate seeing stuff like this, it was entirely avoidable if the guy had listened. I know air travel can be frustrating, but ignoring crewmember instructions will never end well for you, at least in the US.”
    There is an alternative – bump up the amount being offered so that there is incentive for a customer to voluntarily get off. You and the airline are airline first. This is United’s own predicament and they are the ones who should put out – not a customer. What did the customer get offered – a new ticket and a later arrival – where is the upside to the customer for being put out?.

  66. I just wanna say I’m glad I read your follow-up post before I read this. And thank you for apologizing in that post.

  67. Late edit – just saw that they offered $800 and then used force. I’ll amend my comment to that they should have kept going up. Forced removal is never an answer

  68. We can all argue that United should have or should not have overbooked the flight, or that they should have offered more money. Whatever.

    But there’s absolutely no excuse for assaulting a passenger, causing him to bleed and then dragging him through the aisle like a dead animal. This is yet another example of dehumanisation of the general population by the police force of the United States.

  69. @Lucky
    ” At the same time, the alternative here was just continuing to ask him to leave the plane, and when he refused, then what? Ask someone else, and then they refuse? Clearly no one wanted to get off the plane, or else this situation wouldn’t have unfolded the way it did.”

    If United were to keep upping the offer, says to $5000 or maybe $10000, I’m sure someone would take it. Surely $10k is much much cheaper than the PR mess United has left themselves to. Shame on you Lucky for being corporate shill.

  70. United was just plainly wrong. Very simple offer of cash and then offer more until you get enough volunteers. Yes, he should have complied, but he NEVER should have been put in that position by an airline that did not care enough about its customers to just raise the bid.

  71. This is so DISTURBING ! And I can’t believe people agree with having him being forced out of a plane. Seriously…. just to allow crew members to get in ????? Screw them !!! I paid the ticket … I need to get to my destination ….. company issue …. THEY have to figure it out!!!!!!!

  72. @Steve Wolf Excellent point. Airlines should not be allowed to use police powers to enforce their poor business decisions.

  73. Lucky, there is no way to justify bad management by the staff and airline. I am sure if I was there I would have persuaded a dozen people to take voluntary disembarkation, need skill, persuasion and civility.. I am a physician and have dealt with more seemingly impossible situations with patients family and walked off without violence.

  74. Everybody has a price. Had they raised the price to an attractive sum they would have ended up with a stampedd of volunteers!

    A round trip ticket in business tto domestic US plus $400.0 in vouchers. would have done the trick.

    I dont agree with the dragging but I also dont agree with the return to cabin. This was childish and could have been avoided.

    Sorry Ben, I dont appreciate you supporting the police state that this nation has slowly become. At the same time, people should stop acting like total brats.

  75. I disagree that the passenger was being uncooperative and belligerent. I have seen witness accounts that he acted in an acceptable manner. Not everyone is a savvy traveler. he may have thought he was being asked to volunteer and he refused. It would take anyone who is not used to this a few minutes of disbelief and questioning what was going on before accepting that they have to leave, that’s just normal behavior. I wish there was video of the crew asking him to leave.

  76. Completely, disgusting behaviour. I would never trust my life with United Airlines.
    Abuse of power, and it puts the public closer to danger with this type of reaction from so called security personnel. It doesn’t solve anything and could have all been prevented if United employed the right staff, training and security protocols. Very disturbing.
    The unfortunate part of all this is that, nothing will change. Because they don’t care.

  77. @rjb

    “My bet is that this was United Express. United Express is the single biggest detriment to United’s brand. They are just awful. When you complain to United, their response is “united Express isn’t really united.” Just pathetic all around.”

    Funny you should mention that. This was a United Express plane (Republic), nominally an Embraer 170/175 per flightaware ( Wouldn’t surprise me if United will now have to revisit their IDB payment policy per their own lawyers raging at the failure here.

  78. They let all passengers board and then asked the chap to get off the plane? If nobody would volunteer and the offer unacceptable would not it be the duty of the airline to get their crews to the place they needed to get to by private plane – I’m sure the CEO has one going spare.

  79. They have to keep increasing the offer until someone accepts and gives up their seat voluntarily. Clearly it was the bottom line and United tried to be cheap.
    Now they have the negative public reaction and have created a publicity nightmare for themselves and I for one, will never fly United again.

    Since when did obeying an arbitrary order from a corporation (not a government authority) become illegal?

  80. Here is a video from after he got back on the plane. I think he has erroneously been called a doctor due to saying something about patients, I would bet he may not be. But he is clearly traumatized and I don’t think a deliberatly unruley and belligerent pax would be behaving in this manner. Witnesses have said he was not and it seemed more like he did not understand.

  81. Despite what you say about having to comply with an airlines rules, I doubt anywhere in there does it say that you will be assaulted or forcibly removed. If he has suffered an injury, it constitutes actual bodily harm and you are in no way able to consent to a criminal offence. If that is in the terms and conditions, it would fall heavily under an unfair contract term. This behaviour is disgusting. The airline contracted with the passenger when they accepted payment to provide that service and if they can’t organise their staff by this flight then they should find alternatives. To dismiss this offence so lightly is poor judgment; there needs to be serious ramifications for both the airline and the police officers who felt that this force was reasonable and acceptable. In both cases they were wholly incorrect.

  82. When people who are supposed to protect and serve us use their power to abuse us, they should be shot. Period.

  83. FAA regulations may require you to comply with crewmember instructions, but I am sure this was never meant to be used to bump revs for nonrevs. Once anycompany not only treats it customers worse than its employees, but then uses regulation that was designed to protect them to abuse them, they should be sued – or lose their license to operate.

  84. First the passengers should have complied with law enforcement and the second issue is the airlines business practices.

    Its amazing how you all fail to recognize the first issue-comply with law enforcement-seems like continuously forgotten by society.

  85. You pay for a ticket you expect to have a seat and to arrive on time you don’t buy a ticket to arrive whenever and to be dragged off the plane they are not giving away tickets we buy them . .This is unexceptable and everybody should boycott UNITED over this so not only will they learn their lesson but every other airline too. I personally will never chose UNITED

  86. 1. Following instructions from the crew
    Only for safety and security purposes. Does not apply in this situation.

    2. No enough volunteers
    Offer more money. This is economics 101. Supply and demand.
    United overbooked for revenue. Offering compensations should be a part of their booking algorithm.

    3. Calling in police to use brute force
    Ever heard of disproportionate response?
    That’s why we haven’t nuked North Korea and potentially start WWIII.

    4. Background
    I am a million miler on United. 1K, platinum and all. I can attest that some of the crews misapply United policies and use poor judgement. Also, any survey will tell you United does not rank very high on customer service. You want good service? Try Singapore, Cathay, Emeraits etc.
    Still, United has reached a new low with this incident. Another poster was right on when he says United was using the police to make up for their operational deficiencies.

  87. Just to amend my former posting …

    United Airline has been appropriately renamed the Stick and Carrot Airline.

  88. You have no morals or scruples at all Ben…you’ll still bang on about how fantastic the very average Polaris seat is….Yet i bet you will never criticise United at all.

    If this happened on BA you would jump up and down, yell blue murder and go on about it every day for ten years.

    There’s no excuse for them dragging someone off like this. It would NEVER happen anywhere else in the World…Only in America. You just seem to brush it off as an incident.

  89. Dear Journalist,

    Please not that what are you referring as simple rules to follow on a flight do not apply on this case.
    The costumer can never be denied what he paid. It’s like if a kid bought a ice cream that he in particularly wanted now because of the circumstances, but that ice cream was given to the niece of the seller.
    In these cases, if the costumers are treated like this, it’s in no way acceptable.
    In Europe, when overbooking occurs (happened to me personally many times) the airline is obligated to find a quick solution which in most cases will provide a loss to them by sending this passengers to another plane witch provide the same flight so their flight will be approximately in the same time as its was scheduled. As I said, this has happened to me personally and once we were only two people on another plane because the flight was overbooked.

    If you rise the question of how would they know that the flight was overbooked in advanced, well the answer is quite easy. Nowadays everything in booked in advance as the prices tend to be cheaper, and there are indeed situations where last-minute booking occurs but the overselling policy on most of the airlines is that the non-existent seats not sold yet should be removed a couple of days (generally 4) prior to the flight. This simply means that they have at least two days to give the orders for the addiction of the plane and crew for the flight which is overbooked. In case of last-minute booking, they wont be able to buy ticked if there is no place available and if there is, there can be no chances of overselling.

    I really find what is happening, with this airline in particular, disturbing and hopeless but your comment on the matter made me sadder when it came to the inability realizing that big companies and crew members are always as wrong as we are, by a young journalist (future of journalist) claiming that has much experiences on matter like this. I’m sorry to say this, but as a journalist, I find it quite fundamental to make a full research before publishing your opinion and influence people who belive you have conducted your research.

    I’m very sorry for being so long and I’m also apologize if there are any typing mistakes or wrong automatic corrections!

  90. This occurred at ORD, one of United’s biggest hubs. Could they not have swapped the E170 operating the flight to a larger E175? Surely there are alternative aircraft at your main base? Last year on a flight with Ethiopian Airlines that scenario happened to me – overbooked flight, aircraft upsized from a 737-700 to a -800. We were slightly delayed due to the flightcrew needing new documents for the flight. A few passengers were annoyed because their special meals hadn’t been loaded on the new aircraft. But it was a much more pleasant way to deal with an overbooked flight than offloading.

  91. “Obviously there would ideally be another solution, but at the same time the guy sort of did this to himself.”

    Are you kidding me, Lucky?! That is the LAST thing I would expect to hear from an airline blogger. That type of comment sounds very much like blaming the victim. Shame, shame, shame on you, Lucky…very, very disappointed.

  92. 3 other passengers were also involuntarily bumped from this same flight. If we’re angry about involuntary bumps – perfectly reasonable – why are we only siding with the one who chose to make it physical?

  93. Guess that’s what happens when you constantly stuff 100 pounds of beans into a 50 pound bag….

  94. What’s the eligible compensation for INVOLUNTARY/denied boarding? 200%- up to XX% for the one-way fare paid? I would think that that amount would be higher than the travel certificates issued for voluntary customers. So they don’t get enough volunteers and the airline then selects people that have to get off (as the first 2 people did)….you will still be compensated well for the inconvenience.

  95. I’m appalled with United, even though I have refused to fly them for years. And I’m appalled that you, Lucky, are making ANY excuses: for yourself, for United, for the police/security/whatever.

    It isn’t pleasant any longer in the back of the bus. Try riding back there a lot. Actually, It is a kind of hell with every reduced size seat full. And, it is a lot more nasty than having second-rate champagne.

    Frankly, United’s treatment of this man, this CUSTOMER, is despicable, unconscionable. And, it is the kind of thing I am disgusted to see in the United States. Yes, we have come to this.

    This situation, and others like it, is a direct result of airlines #1. trying to wring every dime out of their operations to benefit top level management, #2. the bowing out of government regulation, #3. and top level corporate pressure on poorly trained gate agents and other public contact personnel to function and obey at the threat of job loss, all in a general atmosphere of force and compliance.

    Sure, there were many better ways to handle the situation. Where were the people with the authority, wisdom and training to resolve that situation?

    Finally, don’t kid yourself. Fares aren’t so almighty cheap, except for those of us who can treat travel like a hobby.

  96. Ben, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog however with this posting I’m appalled at your cavalier attitude: “at the same time the guy sort of did this to himself”. Seriously? It seems that you’re so biased towards airlines and lately even more so with United. What they did was unacceptable and avoidable – no passenger already boarded should be booted off – it’s obvious the airline didn’t compensate enough and gave preference to their crew instead. I feel you’ve truly lost touch with reality and the ‘common peeps’ since you’ve become so accustomed to airlines bending over backwards for you that perhaps you feel above it all..

  97. I understand as an “aviation expertise” and “Big Fan of United” you would always trying to be unique from the stupid public by holding different/opposite opinion. Sadly everyone could tell that this procedure is totally wrong. If the police was doing the right thing, why is he fired as a result? Again, #boycottunited.

  98. I rarely ever comment on these type of websites but this is seriously bull poop! “at the same time the guy sorta did this to himself.” seriously? are you kidding me???? This incident is 100% unacceptable! Dragging a passenger out of a plane by force??? this could have been resolved without force. they could have given money higher and higher until a passenger volunteers. America’s “token of respect” to this passenger is by dragging him forcefully out of a plane that he already paid for. This is disgusting. Where is humanity?

  99. Lucky, I too am very concerned that you feel these incidents are OK. Perhaps your focus on maximizing “cents” has focused you too much on the wrong things.

    Violence is never the only option.

  100. Let’s drag lucky off his next flight and bloody his face. This is a paying customer. The airline has hundreds of options to move their crews on many airlines. This was rediculous and explains why united is dead last in customer service.

  101. Your ethical compass is broken. United overbooked. It’s up to United to provide incentives that are good enough to convince passengers to choose another flight because of United’s own error. Thinking that this violent solution is the only way reflects very badly on your values and your intelligence.

  102. Not everyone is an English speaking jet setter like you Ben. Are you even aware of the cultural and language barriers that attributed to this problem? He is a 69 year old Asian man. I can only imagine my grandmother from India visiting and taking a connecting flight to YYZ from EWR. God knows what would have happened if she was asked to deplane after being seated. Your comments reamed of ignorance, arrogance, and insensitivity. Regardless of rules and regulations, a 69 year old peaceful man was dragged like a beast.

  103. Assualt, plain and simple. The guilty need to pay. But that won’t happen, they got badges to hide behind.

    Sh!T poor service, I already put united on my no fly list years ago.
    2 weeks ago I booked a flight. Could of saved $50 by flying united, chose to spend the extra…

  104. UA did seek for volunteers using $800 vouchers, which were very inconvenient to use. Each time you could only spend $50 and it expires within a year. T
    The law actually requires airlines to provide compensation for bumped passengers, and it can go up as high as four times of their original ticket price or higher. Delta Airlines offer one family $11,000 for bumping them.

    Someone on that flight said to the stewardess that he would take $1600 to give up his seat, but stewardess laughed at him and turned down that offer, because they got the good old way find “volunteers”, beating people up and dragging them off the plane like a rag doll.

  105. Yet another reason for me refusing to travel to or transfer in the US since 9/11 or to fly with UA Airlines. There are much to many incidents like this concerning US Airlines or immigration for my liking. I will stay with European Airlines. They may not always have the best product or service. But they know how to treat customers correctly and you very seldom hear of flight attendents on a power trip here…

  106. “Obviously there would ideally be another solution, but at the same time the guy sort of did this to himself.”

    What a disgusting thing to say which just goes to show the depth of your lack of empathy and compassion, and how far removed you are from the rest of society. I am glad there are so many other people that have come to the same conclusion and have commented along similar lines. To these other folks I can only say the best action you can take is where it’ll hurt lucky the most: don’t click on any referral links or ads from his blog.

  107. This is terribly wrong. The treatment given to this man, is wrong, if we as clients do not speak up, the same treatment will be given to us eventually. This man should not have been treated this way by United or the police. What in the hell are we willing to accept from people we are paying $$$$$ to provide us with a service. All passengers need to stand up to protect one another. The whole plane should have emptied out in protection for this man. If we do not start protecting one another, we will give our rights away, and place the service providers as our keepers/masters.

  108. Sorry to disappoint all you special little snowflakes out there. An officer of the law tells you to do something you comply. Take your situation up with the airline afterwards.

  109. All the airline had to do to get a volunteer was keep upping the ante to benefit the volunteer. They were willing to pay $800 united bucks for a volunteer. When that didn’t work they opted to use force.
    The biggest problem we face is the government having a monopoly on the use of violence to enforce will.
    The solution to this problem will come when legislation is passed that allows for an immediate and violent response by citizens to government sanctioned violence.
    Had there been a law in place allowing informed citizens/passengers to actively and violently suppress police and industry aggression this incident would not have occurred.

  110. This has to be the policy of United Airlines. IF you are randomly kicked off the plane after making reservations and paying ahead of time, you are reaccomodated in this fashion: 1) You get NO refund 2) No alternative flight 3) Put on United Airlines’ ‘No Fly’ list IF you have ANY consumer complaint filed. This IS the way the Airline becomes more profitable at the expense of customer service when overbooked. They have NO policy for substitutions or ANY recourse.

  111. “FAA regulations require you to comply with crewmember instructions, and that includes when they tell you to get off the plane.”

    Would such instruction like “fight with your neighbor” also included in this FAA regulations? Would you also like to say we should ignore the common sense?

  112. Absolutely disagree with you. Obvious we all know that you are getting paid by airline ad you to trying to whitewash the situation. Sometime, you have use a common sense to see the problem. I am going to unfollow you.

  113. Passenger brought this on himself and is completely responsible for the actions of the cops.
    “FAA regulations require you to comply with crewmember instructions, and that includes when they tell you to get off the plane.”
    This is a fact. It does not care if you agree with it, it is still a fact.

  114. So many ignorant people citing this:

    “FAA regulations require you to comply with crewmember instructions, and that includes when they tell you to get off the plane.”

    Yet people FORGOT completely that this regulation applies if it is CONCERNING safety. Pilot and crewmembers are able to eject you if you are smoking, don’t wear seatbelt, or disturbing other passengers. So, it must have a reason WHY a person is ejected from a plane. This is a fact, too. It does not care if you agree with it, it is still a fact.

  115. I am Korean. Many chinese, vietnamese and Koreans are so ignorant and uneducated to see the consequences if they disobey the authorities. thats why people in these countries are so unruly and irritating. Good job America. We need to implant your law in these countries. Life would be better here then.

  116. Jennifer, snowflake liberal!?!? 1000 flights huh… nice… and were all those coach!?!? You snowflake, spoiled, probably Republican, B…. would you have volunteered?? I’m guessing no. He was a doctor had two patients waiting end of discussion. And as for United. PR has never been there thing. The terrorists chose their airline how they ever came back from that I don’t know. Maybe it’s because they are too busy taking the wrong people off flights that they miss the right ones. Or it’s because that’s always in th back of their mind so foreigners from now on off the plane you get.

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