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United Overbooked a Flight, then Literally Dragged a Ticketed Passenger off the Plane

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United Overbooked a Flight, then Literally Dragged a Ticketed Passenger off the Plane

A couple of weeks ago, United earned near-universal scorn for their decision to make 10 year old girls change out of leggings because they didn’t comply with the dress code that United has for passengers flying on the company’s dime, and Sunday night, they upped the ante. Here’s a video of the incident.

United released a statement to NBC News confirming @JayseDavid's assertion that they overbooked a flight, and then basically said “it's not our problem.” Per United:

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our flight 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. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to the authorities.

I love the phrase “we apologize for the overbook situation”—like someone other than a price-gouging airline put too many people on that flight, and the executives at United are the real victims here. United told the passengers at the gate that they were overbooked, yet they still boarded the entire plane. They offered $400 and a night at a hotel to anyone willing to take a flight to Louisville the next day, and despite upping the offer to $800, no one took it. Once the genie was out of the bottle and everyone had their seats, a manager said that the computer would randomly select four people to be removed from the flight, so as to make way for United employees who needed to be in Louisville for another flight.

Once they selected the man in the video, he refused to leave, and Aura D. Bridges, another passenger who filmed the incident, told the Courier Journal that the man said he was a doctor, and needed to make it to the hospital to treat patients by Monday morning. United decided that getting their employees to where they needed to be was more important than getting a hospital employee to his job, and so they called the cops to drag a paying customer off the plane. Per the Courier Journal:

The man was able to get back on the plane after initially being taken off—his face was bloody and he seemed disoriented, Bridges said, and he ran to the back of the plane.

So to recap, in a blind pursuit of profit, United overbooked the flight, didn't offer enough to entice anyone to get off the plane, then in order to get their own employees on the flight, they removed ticketed passengers, and when one wouldn't comply with their orders, they called the cops to pull a supposed doctor off the plane—bloodying his face in the process. It's like they looked at their decision to discriminate against 10 year old girls' fashion choices, and tried to see if they could find a way to be more unreasonable. Now, there is a valid point hidden in all this:

I have an idea: don’t overbook the flight in the first place, and then make other people pay for your incompetence and greed. Or, if you’re so desperate to get your United employees to Louisville for another flight, I’m fairly certain that other airlines were flying planes out of Chicago, and GASP! United may have to hand money over to a competitor. But like nearly all short-sighted decisions done in the name of profit, they went for the current money grab and hurt their long term gains by effectively filming a commercial that will divert FAR more money into their competitor’s pockets than buying four tickets for their employees would. Watching a multi-billion dollar business hire police to forcibly remove a paying customer not doing anything illegal is a jarring reminder of who really controls this country. Corporations clearly aren’t people, because citizens don’t have anywhere near this much power in the United Corporatist States of America.

Jacob Weindling is Paste’s business and media editor, as well as a staff writer for politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.

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