United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz says employees had "no choice" but to call security officers and have a man dragged screaming off a plane because a crew member needed his seat on the overbooked flight. In a letter to United staff, seen by ABC, Munoz describes the incident in Chicago Sunday as "upsetting," but says employees followed correct procedures in dealing with the "disruptive and belligerent" passenger, who refused to get off the plane when told he had been randomly selected to lose his seat. Munoz may have made his airline's PR nightmare even worse with his attempt to excuse the treatment seen in disturbing video of the incident, the Los Angeles Times notes. In an earlier statement, Munoz apologized only for "having to re-accommodate these customers." In other developments:
- The officer who forcibly removed the 69-year-old passenger from the flight to Louisville has been suspended pending an investigation, TMZ reports. "The actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department," the Chicago Department of Aviation said.
- The Department of Transportation tells Business Insider that it is reviewing the incident. "While it is legal for airlines to involuntary (sic) bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers, it is the airline's responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities," the department said in a statement.
- The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that social media "exploded" with criticism of United on Monday, especially after the CEO's statements. "Couldn't overbooking be addressed at check in/the gate instead of letting too many people on the plane and then dragging them off," one user tweeted at the airline.
- A source tells the Courier-Journal that the name of the passenger, who said he was a doctor with patients to treat the next morning, is David Dao. He reportedly sought hospital treatment after the incident. United says it is trying to reach out to him.
- Slate describes the incident as a "symptom of the airlines' ridiculous overbooking system" and explains how it got to this point.
- The Independent reports that Jimmy Kimmel was one of many late-night hosts and other celebrities slamming United. "I've been to 100 games in stadiums with 50,000 seats, they never sell the seat two times to one person, but for some reason, airlines cannot figure this out," he said.
- Eric Schiffer of Reputation Management Consultants says United may have committed "brand genocide" with the "gruesome, epic-scale" PR disaster, the San Francisco Chronicle. "This is everything that you learn as a brander as to what not to do," he says.