OMG No Words: Here’s the United Passenger After Being Dragged By Police

By now we all know the story of the doctor dragged off a United Express flight by police after he wouldn’t give up his seat when the airline asked.

United needed to fly 4 crew members to Louisville for a flight the next day, they offered up to $800 in compensation and a hotel room for anyone willing to fly out the next day, but there weren’t any takers.

The airline called Chicago Aviation Police, and three officers responding to the incident dragged the man off the plane. He returned later, bloodied.

CEO Oscar Munoz simply apologizes for having to reaccommodate passengers. But the real scandal here is the police response.

I hadn’t seen this video of what the man looked like when he returned to the plane. He mumbles, ” “just kill me, just kill me.”

Chicago’s Department of Aviation says,

The incident … was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by our Department. The officer has been placed on leave effective today and pending a thorough review of the situation.

The officer ‘is on leave’.

Meanwhile according to the Chicago Police Department (a different administrative unit from the Aviation Police),

[T]he man “fell” on his face and injured himself. CPD issued a statement on Monday, described the passenger as “irate,” and said aviation security officers “attempted to carry” the man off the plane “when he fell.”

While United is being roasted for this, the horrifying story here appears to be police misconduct.

Given that when crew order you off the plane, you have to get off the plane and considering law enforcement was involved and conflict ensued things could have been even worse — the passenger could have been accused of terrorism with some doubt as to whether they’d be heard from again.

Still, this is horrifying.

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. He wasn’t bleeding when dragged down the aisle…
    So, they got him off the plane– mission accomplished.

    BUT YET HE WAS bleeding later, profusely, from the face?
    And, it’s because he fell? Sounds like something an abuser claims about his wife’s mysterious bruising…

    There’s no way those guys were mainline CPD Aviation police in blue jeans and looking like ex-Special-Ops fighters.

  2. It’s a well known local story that Chicago has a massive problem with police overreacting with force then resulting in payouts to victims. The amount Chicago pays in settling claims against the police force is staggering. A report from 2016 puts the tab at $210 million plus interest for misconduct from just four years 2012-2015.

  3. The problem is what you hand-wave away at the end of the piece.

    “they could have just called him a terrorist and no one would seen him again, ha-ha!”


  4. what, exactly, did United think was going to happen after it made the phone call to the Big Bad Attack Dogs to clean up the mess it made?

  5. This poor dude is a whackjob. Regardless of UA, CPD, airport cops’ involvement, whatever.

    “Just kill me”? God Almighty.

    A doc? A person with lives in his hands? Please. The more I hear, the better UA looks.

  6. “[T]he man “fell” on his face and injured himself.”

    Really? The video obviously shows the officer forcefully pulling the passenger which led to the injury. Sheesh.

  7. Obviously there’s a price at which United could have auctioned off the (get out of your) seat. I don’t get why they weren’t required to find that price. They could have had a reverse auction, as I’ve seen airlines do. I’ll bet when they got to $3-4,000 they’d have gotten a taker, or probably before.

  8. Over reaction by police? yes, probably. But the passenger shares a lot of the blame too. United not getting its crew in place would have meant a lot of other people would have missed their flight (and perhaps another doctor not getting to his/her hospital). The passenger refusing to give up his seat effectively means he thinks he is more important than the rest of the passengers on his plane as well as the one the crew needs to get to. And his muttering “just kill me”? Really?! Who wants to be HIS patient?

  9. What’s still “horrifying” to me is that airlines such as UA can do such things with impunity under federal government protection.

    I, unlike this fellow, would have gone quietly. His actions, however intemperate, have spotlighted the current state of affairs.

  10. *$800 in vouchers that will expire worthless in a few months and a dirty Chicago airport hotel.

    United needs to match market rate of offering Amex gift cards that never expire and then lead the way by letting the customer pick their hotel for the night (Marriott, SPG, Hyatt, etc).

  11. Are you kidding me? Blaming it on the police?! Sorry, but when you call the *Chicago Police*, a widely-known corrupt organization that is as reckless and violent as any in America, you’re asking for your customers to be beaten.

    You are completely out of touch with reality if you think this isn’t United’s doing. By policy and by action, they demanded a customer be beaten senseless rather than owning their mistake. Stop posting these foolish delusions and excuses if you want to maintain your reputation.

  12. Thank you Gary for at least highlighting this incident! I believe that this is a much bigger story than people and United realize and that it will get much bigger and worse for United. I believe that, in part, “this could have been me” feeling is is driving a lot of people’s disgust and horror at what happened. What if I was on my way to a wedding that was tomorrow, or to the Hospital where a loved-one was seriously ill, or on my way to a serious job interview, would I too refuse to give up my seat and, if so, would I too be beaten, bloodied and dragged off the plane? United is a particularly tone-deaf company that tends to treat its customers with a particular intense disregard and carelessness that borders on the sadistic. So the fact that United is in the middle of this “sh#*-storm” probably bothers fewer people than would otherwise and they kinda deserve all that they get.

  13. The disobeying a flight crew member statute or reg (whichever it is) should be amended to specify that the order must be related to safety, ie., Not simply a “because I said so” or related to revenue management. Clearly it was the availability of law enforcement that led UA staff to choose to have a passenger forcibly removed instead of raising their compensation offer to get a volunteer.

  14. I wish I had a job where whenever I wanted some leave I could beat up or shoot somebody. Cops get PAID administrative leave whenever they screw up. I can imagine the conversation at a hypothetical police station
    Cop 1: Man my Girlfriend wants to go to the catskills but I am out of vacation days
    Cop 2: Why dont you shoot someone? You will get 7 days of Administrative leave while its investigated
    Cop 1: Cool!

  15. I don’t think its a matter of him being more important but as important as other passengers. A passenger was forcibly removed, involuntarily after United only offered half the maximum statutory value of being denied a seat.

  16. I wasn’t happy to be told to leave my seat due to overbooking, but leave I did. The last thing I want is to become a member of the “no fly list” or be regularly selected for enhanced screening.
    Seeing he refused to disembark, the passenger escalated the situation and was injured. And this is acceptable behavior from a doctor of all people?

  17. The lesson here: Use force. More force than your adversary.

    Mistakenly book the wrong flight? Gate agent won’t let you switch? Force her!

    Flight attendant won’t refill your drink? Force him!

    As long as we’re all allowed to use force, I’m good…’cause I’ll win. 🙂

  18. I find it unbelievable that you keep defending United in this. United, and United alone, created this situation by failing to offer sufficient compensation for someone to give up their seat.

    I imagine that, if $800 actually meant eight Benjamins rather than some hard-to-use voucher with strings attached that would have been enough to get someone to volunteer right away. Regardless, it only takes a minute to offer a few hundred more dollars. You really think that no one would have budget for $2000?

  19. @Tom that is true! I was left by AA stranded 12 hours because an airplane malfunction (overnight)(AA have a century old fleet) and the gate agent coundnt rebook me to any other flight because there was none. Next time I will call the local police and ask them to “force her” to book me on another flight. Maybe she will fall during the procedure by accident and she will pass out and bleed. Looks like the perfect reaction for my inconvenience…. (please note this is all sarcasm)

  20. Airlines should be required to reverse auction seats when they have over-booked a flight. This passenger, or any other passenger as applicable, could have made alternative arrangements with that cash. No excuse for the police pig-dogs using excessive force.

  21. Asked the same on other threads but no response. Any lawyers here who know the answer? IDB rules are for denied boarding. Once the passenger is on board he/she has boarded. Logically speaking IDB rules no longer apply and the Airline simply cannot ask someone to deboard unless its a safety issue. Anyone who can comment on this authoratatively? Did United break the law?

  22. In your previous posts you were happy to speculate on the mistakes United and the passenger made.

    It comes as no surprise to learn it never crossed the mind of a white guy who lives in Austin that the police might be at fault here.

    Don’t talk to the police. Don’t call the police.

  23. @Prabuddha

    United owns the aircraft. If they ask you to leave–for any reason–you are trespassing if you refuse. It’s up to the police to decide how to deal with a trespasser.

    Also, FAA regulations give broad authority to the flight crew members, including the deplaning of passengers.

  24. “While United is being roasted for this, the horrifying story here appears to be police misconduct.”

    C’mon, Gary. This is like an aviation crash: it’s a series of missteps that must be taken back to the first step. Don’t blame the crash on the engines failing because the pilot forgot to check the fuel before they took off.

    United should be roasted for this because they called the police in the first place due to their gross incompetence and mismanagement of the situation. They absolutely own every part of this subsequent to their poor planning and failing to empower their employees appropriately.

  25. Lets start from the beginning. United needed the seats for crew to fly a flight from Louisville later that night. Did United not know 4 hours earlier that they needed crew in Louisville? Or, more fundamentally, why do they not have crew in Louisville 24 hours before their flight? If I had to be at work at 5pm and told my employer, sorry I’m 5 hours away from the job, guess I can’t start work, it would be a firing offense. Yet airlines let crew “live” hours away from their duty station, then take up revenue seats to get to the place where they “start” their job. This is the real problem.

  26. I experienced a similar situation that didn’t turn out as badly. Nobody wanted to give up their seat and the airline felt they needed to seat two people after the plane was full. They told a very elderly Korean woman and her sobbing daughter that they were the ones selected to be removed, and were adamant about it. Disgusted, another gentleman and I volunteered to give up our seats to allow those two to stay on board. We got routine compensation, and were revolted by the situation. It was a few years ago now, and I don’t remember which carrier it was.

    The laws on compensation need to be firmed up. Voluntary denied boarding is one thing – some people are happy to have it, including me sometimes – but in the case of involuntary denied boarding the compensation needs to be much greater – Say $500 per each hour of delay, up to a maximum of $5,000, plus lodging (if overnight) in a good hotel, and full meal expenses. This will be a disincentive the for the airline to do it; will be fairer to the person denied boarding; and will step up the compensation for volunteers in order to avoid it.

  27. @Mike I suggested earlier that the police may be at fault, we don’t have footage showing exactly what happened before the passenger was removed or while he was off the aircraft. This new video adds additional and very persuasive circumstantial evidence however.

  28. The probl with many police officers is they have an inferiority complex because they have no marketable skills other than beating people up. Give me a chance to unload on a doctor, woman, old person and many of them do. If confronted by another man they simply gang up and three peace officers kick his butt.

  29. Security “officers” charged with enforcing this sort of thing have the mentality of bar bouncers. That is really the issue here. This passenger could have been escorted out with just 1/10th the brute force that was apparently deployed in this instance. It is the sort of over the top brute force that bar bouncers use to “escort” out a drunken and incapacitated patron or anyone suspected of making trouble — they are not interested in why; they just brutally toss you out. There is seldom a need for the brute force, but that’s what happens when a person with a lot of muscles and little gray matter is put in charge of anything. He becomes a hammer and anything or anyone he faces is a nail that must be pounded in…

  30. It occurs to me that United could have easily chartered a private jet to take their employees to Louisville.

  31. Let’s wake up the sleeping elephant in the room. The doctor was Asian, would it have ended differently, if he were white?

  32. For everyone that wants the airlines to pay more in compensation (or just stop overselling seats altogether), are you prepared to pay more for your tickets as a result? You know good and well that lost money is made up elsewhere by businesses. While the situation looks horrible, there’s no way businesses can allow a situation where flyers know the compensation will just keep going up until there’s a taker.

  33. United should change their motto to:
    “Fly the bloody friendly Skies!”

    My main concern here whether FAs and UA captain lack basic skills to communicate with the passenger, explain the procedures, and also listen to the arguments why the passenger insisted on flying.
    Also, UA knew that they need those 4 seats. Why did they board the plane then?

  34. The passenger could have avoided this by cooperating with flight crew orders as is required by law

  35. @Andy — you are a sick man. If a flight crewmember ‘ordered’ you to S his D, you would do it ‘as is required by law’ and you would expect no sympathy from any others, right?

  36. I experienced a similar scenario on Delta, LGA-DCA. They needed to get crew/pilots to D.C. When their initial comp offer didn’t generate enough seats, they just kept raising the offer. 600, 700, 800, etc. At $1,000 they had sufficient volunteers. Not sure why United couldn’t have done the same.

  37. I know this is going to be controversial and may get me banned but here goes. Blacks are pissed upon in US society. They get a very unfair deal in life and have a massive chip on their shoulder as a result. They cannot retaliate against whites who are in control. However given a chance to take their mad out on an Asian (who are harped upon as a model minority and always pushed into the Blacks’ face as in why cant you be like the Asians) would a black cop/security guard use more force than necessary?
    And will Chicago a historically Black city investigate a Black cop for racism against an Asian?

  38. Gary Leff, you suck. Have some compassion for the man. Why pick a bone with people putting the blame on United? There’s plenty of other situations for that.

  39. Misconduct of an all-muscle, no-brain police officer is the culprit here. The situation on its own — an overbooked flight, someone has to get off — is not at all that unusual. Anyway, the Chicago Department of Aviation believes one of the “cops” went over the top:

    ” Late Monday afternoon, the Chicago Department of Aviation said one of the officers involved in the incident had been placed on leave. “The incident on United flight 3411 was not in accordance with our standard operating procedure and the actions of the aviation security officer are obviously not condoned by the Department,” the agency said in a statement. “That officer has been placed on leave effective today pending a thorough review of the situation.””

  40. For an airline who knows how to increase prices systematically not to be able to increase systematically the amount paid to people to voluntarily disembark is disingenuous. Bravo to this guy for not falling for this type of corporate abuse.

    The real story here is that U.S. law makes it cheaper for United to kick a doctor off the airplane, and get taxpayer-funded goons to do their dirty work, than do the only correct thing, which is to get volunteers at ANY cost.

    Now — will Congress fix the issue?

  41. So, it’s not necessarily pretty what happened but not a surprise either. The airline told him he was bumped. He refused to leave the plane. What did he expect to happen? United called security to remove him. They probably didn’t need to be so enthusiastic about it, but their job was to remove him from the plane.

  42. Stop referring to this passenger as a “man”. He is an impetuous child. If any passenger ever bothered to read the contract-of-carriage minutia, they would know this is a distinct posssibility and the carrier holds all the cards. I have zero sympathy for this passenger.


  43. That was absolutely horrible what United did to that passenger. Physically pulling him down the aisle shows no respect to a human and more so a doctor.

  44. Gobble gobble you shill motherfucking sack of shit. You too’ logicpolice, you sheeps asshole.

  45. @Darlene Pattison — Simple question: There is a disturbance in your neighborhood. You call the cops or 911. Police officers show up, but rather than to try defuse the situation, they inflame it by roughing people up, or a trigger happy cop shoots and kills someone. Is it your fault for calling the cops?

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