United Defends Having Passenger Dragged Off Overbooked Flight After He Wouldn't Give Up His Seat
The man said he was a doctor and could not leave the overbooked flight because he had patients to see
A United Airlines passenger was dragged, bloodied and bruised, from a Louisville-bound flight from Chicago on Sunday after he refused to give up his seat.
Video of the footage showed a man violently pulling the screaming passenger from his seat and dragging him through the aisle of the plane at the O’Hare International Airport. United spokesman Charlie Hobart tells PEOPLE that the flight was overbooked and officials asked for volunteers to give up their seats.
“When we didn’t get the number of volunteers we needed then we had to follow Department of Transportation procedures and ask that customers, four of them, exit the aircraft,” he says.
“One customer refused to do that after we had explained the situation and apologized and let that customer know what we were gonna do on his behalf to get that customer to where he needed to be. He still refused, at which point we had to involve the Chicago Police Department.”
Hobart says it was not United employees, but Chicago police that forcibly removed the man from the plane.
Passengers were offered $400 and a hotel stay to give up their seats to stand-by United employees heading to Louisville for a flight, Audra Bridges, who shot the footage, told the Courier-Journal. When no one volunteered, the offer was increased to $800.
Four people, including the passenger, were then picked at random to give up their seats. But the man told officials that he is a doctor who had patients to see early Monday, the Courier-Journal reports.
Footage of the incident showed the man being thrown against an armrest by security and dragged as one woman screamed, “Oh my God! Look at what you did to him.”
He was eventually allowed to re-board the flight, NJ.com reports.
Bridges told the Courier-Journal that the passenger seemed disoriented when he returned and had a bloody face. She said a medical crew came on the plane to treat the man.
She said that “everyone was shocked and appalled” by the incident.
“There were several children on the flight as well that were very upset,” she told the publication.
Facebook footage of the incident has amassed more than 5,000 shares.