Doctor Involuntarily Denied Boarding, Dragged Off United Flight, Returns Bloodied

Reader @JayseDavid was on board United flight UA3411 from Chicago to Louisville, a United Express regional jet operated by Republic Airlines.

The flight was overbooked and United was looking for 4 volunteers to give up their seat, reportedly “for [United] personnel that needed to be at work the next day.” (Bumping for crew is supported by another passenger’s account as well.) There weren’t any volunteers, so United moved on to bump passengers involuntarily.

United Express Embraer Regional Jet

What’s unusual is that the flight had already boarded. Two of the passengers United was involuntarily bumping were “an Asian doctor and his wife” however the doctor insisted that he needed to be at the hospital the next day so he refused to get off.

Then things really went downhill.

Jayse tweeted me video of the doctor being dragged off the plane:

United apologizes for overbooking, but not for the attack on the customer.

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our 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.

Things took an even stranger turn, though, when the passenger who was dragged off the aircraft got back on a litle while later:

The 1 hour 19 minute flight wound up delayed 2 hours.

Another passenger took video as well:

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. Lot of Media Coverage all day, from this afternoon thru this evening, on the highest rating news network, FOX.

    Lot of damage.

    Watch FOX news for real news……

    not the imaginary : “Putin has set this Syria chemical drop, and subsequent bombing for Trump to have a win” fantasy non news delivered by CNN.

    Watch CNN’s rating continue to drop.

    The audience isn’t that dumb.

  2. This is how fake news starts. How does anyone know he is a doctor? It may be a small issue in the story, but details are important

  3. When the elderly man was boarded, the flight was not oversold! The passenger was bumped not because there were more paying passengers than seats, but because United wanted to reduce the number of seats available – after seating passengers – in order to transport its staff. The elderly man was not “denied boarding”, he was removed from the plane after he was boarded. This action is governed by United’s Rule 21 ” REFUSAL OF TRANSPORT” none of which applied to this man *before* they told him they were kicking him off the flight.

    United employees need to read their own rules

  4. How can it be Involuntarily Denied Boarding if he had already been allowed to board and was sitting in his seat?

  5. @Dee Lyter —> This was NOT a cancelled flight, and therein lies a HUGE difference . . .

  6. so horrible company in this world!!!!! I can’t believe this happen!!! the united airline has to applozied to every one.

  7. It was a random draw, just happened randomly picked a 69 years old Asian doctor. On top of that it was UAF – United American employee First, and the poor guy was just a customer. Of course
    it was all his fault, he shouldn’t choose UAL in the first place.

  8. United should be very ashamed on how they handled this. I can see this causing way more damage to their airlines then a seat is worth.

  9. Yeah watch the pu**y grabbing FOX News, after all the POTUS tweets they cater specifically now. Between Ailes, Riley, and Napolitano anyone who believes FOX might as well start getting a subscription to the National Enquirer.
    “Most viewed” doesn’t mean “most accurate,” example, The Walking Dead has higher ratings than FOX News..

    You want semi unbiased news for USA but also big network, best bet is BBC, unless you’re interested in Brexit of course.

  10. Keep your Yellow journalistic shit crock to yourself Gary.

    Foremost huh? You are not a lawyer and not an expert on the legalities of this so stop trying to spin your tub of lard because it isn’t getting whipped.

    A lawyer by the online name of NegativeFeedback commented on this article about the United incident ( it is in the comments section at the bottom ). I think it’s important to get this out and share it everywhere, so here it is. Feel free to share or copy/paste into your own status.

    I am not a lawyer, but this person is. This is what they said.


    “Lawyer here. This myth that passengers don’t have rights needs to go away, ASAP. You are dead wrong when saying that United legally kicked him off the plane.

    1. First of all, it’s airline spin to call this an overbooking. The statutory provision granting them the ability to deny boarding is about “OVERSELLING”, which is specifically defined as booking more reserved confirmed seats than there are available. This is not what happened. They did not overbook the flight; they had a fully booked flight, and not only did everyone already have a reserved confirmed seat, they were all sitting in them. The law allowing them to deny boarding in the event of an oversale does not apply.

    2. Even if it did apply, the law is unambiguously clear that airlines have to give preference to everyone with reserved confirmed seats when choosing to involuntarily deny boarding. They have to always choose the solution that will affect the least amount of reserved confirmed seats. This rule is straightforward, and United makes very clear in their own contract of carriage that employees of their own or of other carriers may be denied boarding without compensation because they do not have reserved confirmed seats. On its face, it’s clear that what they did was illegal– they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats, in violation of 14 CFR 250.2a.

    3. Furthermore, even if you try and twist this into a legal application of 250.2a and say that United had the right to deny him boarding in the event of an overbooking; they did NOT have the right to kick him off the plane. Their contract of carriage highlights there is a complete difference in rights after you’ve boarded and sat on the plane, and Rule 21 goes over the specific scenarios where you could get kicked off. NONE of them apply here. He did absolutely nothing wrong and shouldn’t have been targeted. He’s going to leave with a hefty settlement after this fiasco.”

  11. @Pesko

    CNN have been dwarfed by Fox in the ratings these day, and for good reason.

    their so called journalists stating they believe Putin set this up for Trump to have a win in Syria, is absurd, illusionary, and ridiculous, at best and they claim to be a news network….. they’re becoming the laughing stock in the news industry, and their ratings are reflecting the major fall from their former glory.

    i particularly like watching election night reruns, when they continually claimed there was no possible avenue for Trump to win.

    and then it was history.

  12. I believe United (or rather Republic Airlines, since they were reportedly the operators for this flight) was completely in the wrong, for the same reasons pointed out by ScrewGary. In addition, the CEO made it worse by trying to blame the victim.

    Since airlines will fly their employees on competitor flights in a pinch (and they have a reduced fare arrangement), I’d like to know whether or not there were any seats available for the employees on any of these flights:

    American Airlines flight 3509 @ 6:40pm (an hour after the United flight)
    American Airlines flight 2035 @ 6:45pm (with plane change in CLT)
    Southwest Air flight 6508 @ 10:25pm (from Chicago Midway, nearly 5 hours after the United flight, so plenty of time to get to other airport)

  13. In regards to Steve’s question about putting the flight crew onto another flight. The crew had been moved to that particular flight because they had been booked to another flight first but the other flight had mechanical issues which delayed the flight they were scheduled to fly on by 9 hours. They couldn’t take a later flight because FAA regulations require a minimum amount of rest time before a flight crew can work. If they did not fly on that flight they wouldn’t have had enough time to rest before having to fly their own flight and thus the flight the following day that the crew was supposed to work would have had to have been cancelled.

    This does not excuse the way the situation was handled. It just explains why the crew had to take that particular flight.

  14. Hopefully United enjoyed the payout for what they did. On average the most expensive of flights is around $3000 and that’s for international flights. So take that figure and times it by about 3333 and you get the payout they just had to make. Good luck making that money up after everyone that has a TV or gets the news in any way saw the way the flight handled one of their “respected and appreciated” customer.

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