United Airlines has gotten themselves into some real trouble lately: On Sunday night, United forcibly removed a paying customer from a flight. The video is going viral and the internet is reacting, to put it mildly, and it's not looking pretty for the airline. This is at an especially bad time, considering that United recently got bad press for barring two teens in leggings from boarding a flight. This episode is looking like it might be even worse.
It all began with a situation that we've all experienced before. United overbooked a flight from Chicago-O'Hare Airport to Louisville International, so they offered a voucher and a hotel in exchange for passengers to voluntarily give up their seats.
Then, things started to get weird. United let passengers board the plane, but then once everyone was seated, they said that four people had to give up their seats to make way for United crew members who needed to be on the flight. They bumped up the voucher amount, and when no one took it, they said they would draw people at random.
One man whose name was drawn claimed to be a doctor and said that he wouldn't get off a flight that he had paid for, saying that he had patients to see the next morning. When he wouldn't get off the plane voluntarily, security personnel came on and violently dragged him off. Videos of the incident make it pretty clear that the scene wasn't pretty, and you can hear people around the doctor shouting in alarm.
"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 apologize for the overbook situation," United said in a statement.
Twitter, as you might be able to guess, has not been kind to United, and the reactions range from snarky to straight up furious. On the snarky side, people are making some pretty pointed political comparisons and envisioning what it must be like to be United right now:
I've watched that @united incident 20x from multiple angles and I don't see an end to this that doesn't include the doctor owning an airline— Liz Finnegan (@TheGingerarchy) April 10, 2017
United forcibly removed a Doctor that paid for his seat.— Tommy Campbell (@MrTommyCampbell) April 10, 2017
Can United now forcibly remove the guy that paid for his seat in the White House?
United: Sorry we dragged you off the plane— AC (@alexanderclang) April 10, 2017
Passenger: Sorry isn't going to cut it.
United: Here man, take this Pepsi. It's on us.
Some people are clearly making United's PR go insane by imagining the ways they could have handled this instead:
As for "What was United supposed to do?," there's an obvious answer: offer more money. Someone would eventually agree to take later flight.— James Surowiecki (@JamesSurowiecki) April 10, 2017
Surely, the airline would have been happy to spare a few hundred more dollars in exchange for this fallout.
Considering the number of people saying that they're going to fly with literally anyone else, this could turn out to be a costly mistake.
I fly 1000's miles per year. Easy decision to never book flight on @united. Don't want to be assaulted because they overbook— Mark Cuban (@subzerov690) April 10, 2017
And some people — well, these people are the comedic geniuses you need to put all of the ridiculously bad news stories in the perfect context.
Mmm. Think United Airlines have solved their own over booking problem.— Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret) April 10, 2017
However you want to look at it, United Airlines is in hot water, and it was totally avoidable. Next time, maybe, don't let the passengers board first? Or offer more money. Or for goodness sake, send your crew there overland — the trip from Chicago to Louisville is only about five hours.
United is not making it better with their statement, which merely apologizes for overbooking the flight. Whatever the airline decide to do in the future, though, this episode is not going to help them gain any new passengers to fill those future flights.