CEO Oscar Munoz Is Making United’s Problem With the Doctor Dragged Off a Flight Even Worse

In laying out what happened on the United Express flight headed from Chicago to Louisville last night, I’ve largely felt that United was doing its best under a set of bad circumstances.

  • They had to get 4 crew members to Louisville to operate a flight the next day.

  • They offered voluntary denied boarding compensation up to $800, a hotel night, and re-accommodation the next day.

  • When there weren’t takers at that price, they asked 4 passengers to get off the plane.

Passengers who are involuntarily denied boarding are generally entitled to cash compensation, in this case 4 times the cost of their ticket up to $1350.

United CEO Oscar Munoz in Chicago

It’s an unfortunate circumstance, but if they didn’t want to fly the next day an Uber should have been about $300 (and a four and a half hour drive).

We don’t know exactly what transpired from the time the customer was asked and refused to leave. Three officers were called, and ultimately dragged the man on the ground off the aircraft and bloodied him in the process.

Without access to video and audio of what happened leading up to this, I cannot say for sure, although my hunch is that the officers could have managed the situation less confrontationally so that it didn’t come to this. In assessing blame between United, the officers, and the passenger my guess is that United is the least to blame here.

United CEO Oscar Munoz Cutting the Ribbon on the Airline’s First New Boeing 777-300ER

But once the incident did occur, the airline’s response has been asinine.

Here’s their statement attributed to United’s CEO Oscar Munoz apologizing that customers had to be re-accommodated — as opposed to being shocked, angry, or disappointed that a customer was dragged off and bloodied.

United flight 3411.

That’s the exact wrong way to go with this. When a crisis event happens, don’t run from it run towards it so critics have nowhere to go.

Munoz shouldn’t say the customer was inconvenienced, he should say it was a terrible, horrible experience. He shouldn’t say it’s upsetting, he’s angry and he’s going to get to the bottom of it. Be active. Show actual concern, don’t be mealy mouthed.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Someone answer this for me – because I don’t understand.

    If I wanted to buy a ticket on a United flight last-second (same-day), the ticket prices are atrociously high. Everyone gets that. There is supply and demand effects – and most likely, the closer to the time of departure that you buy, the higher the price of the ticket will be.

    How is that any different from United suddenly wanting to buy a seat back from a customer who already paid for their seat? Just as above, there are supply and demand effects. In this situation, it’s exacerbated because not only is it close do departure, but hell – the people were SITTING IN THEIR SEATS! There will be a premium demanded (or a PITA factor) to get anyone to sell their seat and mess up their entire schedule from that point on.

    What makes United think they can charge me an exorbitant amount in the scenario where it’s selling tickets at high prices for same-day flights, but then not comply the same rules when buying seats back from customers?

    To put it another way, why should United be able to charge high prices on same day flights, then refuse to pay up for tickets/seats when they want to repurchase them back from customers for their own use. Seems like they want their cake and eat it too. I wish I could just refuse to pay the price for a same-day ticket, and then just use law enforcement to force my way onto the plane and into my seat.

  2. If united does this to me , I shall burn the flight and the CEO for good . Fuck United . Go to hell

  3. Would you want this CEO running your business and dealing with PR? He needs to go and not with a payoff, he’s reduced the value of the airline enough already, he should also be made to pay for that.

    It is disgusting and to make way for staff too, you can’t tell me it was not known before that they needed these seats. I hope too they were working staff and not on staff travel!!

  4. How does United not IMMEDIATELY offer passengers limousine rides to Louisville SDF PLUS the $800. That’s a 3 hour delay AT MOST. Are there no limousines at O’Hare?

  5. I wish I could just refuse to pay the price for a same-day ticket, and then just use law enforcement to force my way onto the plane and into my seat.

    …and have the right to get airport security to bloody up a few airline employees if they refuse to give me a regular priced ticket…

  6. I think the problem has been resolved for future United flights that have not been booked yet. I do not think that United will have any double-booking issues in the future. In fact, they may have difficulty filling a full flight. They earned this and it wouldn’t surprise me if they lost the business in the next few years due to plummeting values. There are a lot of choices out there and United will not one of them for many unless they start offering $39 flights to Hawaii.

    I can see where an employee(s) or agent(s) of the airline may act in a negative manner. This happens in every business. United’s response did not accept responsibility nor show any interest in the welfare of the man involved or that of the passengers who were subjected to this and delayed. The entire plane was an audience to this abuse and consequent stress and not just one man who was dragged off bleeding and humiliated. Yes, we know he hit himself. Did anyone offer comfort or assistance? Apparently not. Bad move, but no better moves following, which is why United has lost my support.

  7. I wouldn’t inconvenience the passengers or forcibly remove them. Look what a shit storm it started! If limousines were to take someone to Louisville it should be the crew. Not paying passengers. Screw that. I will never again book a flight on United.

  8. The UA violated the contractual law: the ticket is a contract between the airline and passengers and the passenger, once boarded and seated should be protected by the contract.

    UA also violated the human right by having the officers using brutal and bloody violence to remove this elderly passenger.

    UA also caused the apprenhension or psychological shock to the fellow passengers sitting in the same plane

    UA selected three chinese passengers among total four to be removed, which is a sheer racial discrimination.

    This incident is unprecedented and most notorious and showed the pattern of UA’s disgraceful history of treating its customers in the same way treating animals for the only purpose of profit making while forgetting the basics of running business, which is Customer is the king not animal

    The CEO should be fired, the management should be reorganized, the officers commited the violence to a civilian should be removed, the victim passenger should be compensated with the amount fair to heal his wound physical and psychological!

  9. So United’s union contracts make it prohibited for them to offer more than restricted-to-the-point-of-uselessness vouchers when they need volunteers to get bumped, and that justifies ‘re-accommodating’ their face? Cool story bro.

    Someone knows where their bread is buttered.

  10. The contractual issue between UA and passengers aside, I think that a charge of assault could and should be leveled against the officer that assaulted this gentleman and some sort of action against those police officers that allowed it to happen. Yes, the passenger was refusing to leave his seat, but his actions were righteous, those of the officers were not! In my opinion, the officer dragging the passenger out is nothing more than a bully abusing his authority. Fire and charge him!!!

  11. United CEO is going to have to resign, there’s no recovering from him going back and sending a statement to his employees that they did the right thing…after he apologized for them doing the wrong thing. The covers are pulled, you’re exposed as the greedy snake that you are. Be a man, take your medicine and step down before you screw something else up. What an idiot.

  12. This guy’s past does not matter, he was the victim. What next, will the accuse him of clubbing baby seals? United victimized him twice. 1. They bloodied his face 2. They slandered his character. This should never happen to anyone. The CEO should apologize. Is the CEO for United working for Delta to eliminate the competition? Then seeing how my comments disagreed with AOL’s news article and AOL censored them, is United paying some of these news services to attack the victim?

  13. The reality is United chould have done a lot more, even with bad laws like the maximum payout in place, before resorting to force by proxy.

    Your suggestion that the passages should eat the cost of their ticket and take uber is a dick suggestion.

    But reimbursing them, giving them money and paying for a private car. That is a much better deal.

    Also they did not utilize there own strenghs. If cash is not working try flights ( and not with a bunch of stupid restrictions) As I detailed in my blog I would be more tempted by free flights then by cash.

    Did United try to be creative? No because that takes competency and sometimes more money. Just like having a cabin crew give fist aid to a bleeding passenger it’s just not worth it for United.

  14. I feel the CEO should be fired, and fired today. Businesses need to understand that just about everyone is carrying with them a high definition camcorder called a cell phone. I am glad this was captured so the world could see just how these corporate thugs feels about thier customers. I personally will never fly United again and this image has forever been burned into my memory. Now the airlines are the terrorists we need to fear.

  15. United: hey buy my stuff

    Dao: yes I need your stuff to get to work.

    United: hey give me your stuff back or else…

    Dao: I paid for this already and I need to work.

    United: ok you asked for it.

    Officer dick: Hey give up that thing you bought or I will physically take it from you to give to that person over there.

    Dao: I paid for it legally and I will not comply

    Officer dick: lol your funeral. *suplex**drags Dao off plane*

    United CEO: lul too bad we had to take the time to kick u bitches off the plane. Good job lackies, u did gud werk.

    United guy: dude people are mad at you and stocks down 1 billion.

    United CEO: I’m deeply sorry for this horrific incident, we will fix this.

    Sorry this type of behavior by the so called face of the company is not ok. Munoz should be fired for sheer incompetence and ignorance. Just the lack of concern for an injured customer and actually condoning what happened only to offer a legit apology only after their stock prices were hit. Jeebus man there is stupid and then there is Munoz stupid.

    United if you want to gain back customers you fire this scumbag of a man.

  16. From what I understand, there are two important differences that should be noted:

    Passengers interviewed from the flight say flight vouchers, not cash, were offered. This would explain why no one wanted $800. It was not $800 cash, just a voucher towards a future flight; and

    Many passengers said hotel accommodations were not mentioned, meaning the airline lied. This is in addition to the ‘random computer selection’ lie, the ‘passenger was belligerent’ lie, and the ‘we offered nearly a thousand dollars’ lie.

  17. Savage. But watch Munoz’ “compensation” continue to rise. Simply appalling. The US airline universe at its ugliest.

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