Friday, December 15, 2017
   
Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

United apologises for violent removal of passenger

Airline practice of overbooking flights in focus after video of man dragged off plane goes viral.

The chief executive of United Airlines has apologised for an incident in which a passenger was dragged off a plane, and promised a thorough review of the airline's practices. 

The apology came after a torrent of criticism of the carrier's action on a flight on Sunday and its initial explanation of it.

In images now seen around the world, a passenger was forcefully removed and bloodied in the process - the entire event captured on video by passengers and posted on social media.

The 69-year-old passenger, Dr. David Dao, had refused to be "bumped" from the overbooked flight - an airline practice that has come under increased scrutiny since the incident.

"I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologise to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard," CEO Oscar Munoz said.

"I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right."

The comments were in stark contrast to the company's initial response, in which it seemed to at least partially blame the passenger.

US media published an email Munoz sent earlier to employees, in which he said the passenger "defied" authorities and "compounded" the incident.

"Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this," the CEO wrote.

Racism allegations

Munoz said Tuesday that the company will conduct a "thorough review" of its procedures, including "how we handle oversold situations" and how the airline partners with airport authorities and law enforcement. 

But the public relations damage was done, with calls for boycotts and the US Department of Transportation promising a review of the airline's actions.

The fact that Dr. Dao, an American citizen, was of Asian origin has raised questions of racism, not least in China, a major destination for United.

Calls for a boycott of the airline have appeared on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

In the US, the head of the Chinese American Citizens' Alliance, an advocacy group, said he may ask members not to fly United to the group's upcoming convention in Chicago.

An attorney for Dao's family said he is in a Chicago hospital getting treated for his injuries.

"The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received. Currently, they are focused only on Dr. Dao's medical care and treatment," said Chicago attorney Stephen Golan.

It was the second time in about two weeks that the airline found itself in the middle of a firestorm.

In late March, two teenagers were prevented from boarding a flight in Denver because they were wearing leggings.

The airline defended its action at the time by saying the girls were flying on passes that required them to abide by a dress code in return for free or discounted travel for family members of staff.

Overbooking of flights

The passenger on the overbooked Sunday plane en route from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky was one of four people involuntarily bumped to make room for a United flight crew. 

The incident shone a light on the practice of overbooking and bumping passengers off flights, which airlines increasingly rely upon to avoid losing money on empty seats when some passengers do not show up for scheduled flights.

If they were to stop overbooking, "the only way of trying to compensate for that over the long term would be to raise fares on everyone else," industry analyst Robert Mann told the AFP news agency.

Instead, airlines sell more tickets than there are seats on a plane, and are generally able to properly forecast demand to avoid major disruptions in getting passengers to their destinations, Mann said.

But they sometimes miscalculate and inadvertently book more passengers than a flight can handle.

In those instances, airlines offer travel vouchers and cash compensation to entice passengers to voluntarily give up their seats for later flights.

When such enticements do not work, airlines have wide latitude under the law.

"If you're still in the terminal waiting to board, you can be told you can't board, even if you have a reservation," Mann said.

"And once you're on board, you are subject to being deplaned based on the order of the crew. So you don't really have any rights."

Last year, 434,000 passengers volunteered to be bumped from flights, while another 40,000 were bumped involuntarily and compensated.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe via RSS or Email:

Democrat Doug Jones defeats Roy Moo...

Read More

Fragile Arctic is here to stay: Rep...

Read More

Lawmakers seek probe into alleged T...

Read More

Alabama to vote in high stakes Sena...

Read More

Trump wants tightened immigration l...

Read More

Women demand probe into alleged Tru...

Read More

Global_News

Amnesty International calls on Saudi-led bloc to lift blockade of Qatar, which it says is harming thousands of families.

Read More

Donation

Thanks to all of our supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press!

Enter Amount:

Featured_Author

Login






Login reminder Forgot login?

Subscribe to MWC News Alert

Email Address

Subscribe in a reader Facebok page Twitter page

Week in Pictures

From snowfall to sunshine

Palestinians hold 'day of rage'