United Passenger Dragged From Overbooked Flight


United Airlines; photo courtesy of Travel + Leisure

Bita Zadeh, Photojournalist


The very concerning scene captured on cellphones by United Airlines passengers went beyond the typical nightmares of travelers on an overbooked flight.


On Sunday, April 9th, a man on a United Airlines flight was forcibly removed from his seat and was dragged down the aisle by a plainclothes police officer. In total, four passengers had been selected to be bumped, and three left without any issues. This unidentified man who refused to be bumped from the plane screamed as the security officer wrestled him out of his seat and dragged him down the aisle by his arms. His glasses slid down his face, and his shirt rose above the midriff as uniformed officers followed and everyone on the flight watched this play out.


Charlie Hobart, a United spokesman, said in an interview on Monday that “we had asked several times, politely,” for the man to give up his seat before force was used. “We had a customer who refused to leave the aircraft,” he said. “We have a number of customers on board that aircraft, and they want to get to their destination on time and safely, and we want to work to get them there.”


About 4 passengers documented the man’s anguished protests and how he was treated, and those videos spread very rapidly online as people criticized the airline’s tactics. It has been said by the authorities that a security officer involved in this situation had been placed on leave, and the Federal Transportation Department is investigating whether the airline complied with rules regarding overbooking.


Since the incident, United has changed its policies so that crew members will no longer be allowed to displace passengers who are already seated on the plane. Off-duty airline crews are now required to check in at least an hour before a flight leaves. The purpose is to avoid having to find a seat for a crew member after all the passengers have already boarded. United also will no longer ask law enforcement officers to remove passengers from flights “unless it is a matter of safety and security,” according to a statement.


The shocking videos raised many questions about the common practice of overbooking and just how far airlines will go just to sell all of their seats. Particularly annoying, it has been said that the airline was looking for extra seats for some of its employees. Passengers should have the peace of mind to know they will not be dragged off a plane once they are in their seat.