United Airlines is facing economic backlash following a video posted by a passenger showing another passenger being dragged out of an airplane by security forces.
United Continental Holdings Inc shares fell 4.4 percent, and the company’s market value has decreased about $600 million since the scandal erupted.
United Airlines is being questioned on whether it didn’t handle the situation with the passenger better, and now faces a worldwide critic that centers on the fact that the passenger was discriminated against because of his ethnic background. The passenger was Chinese, and according to him, as a doctor, he needed to make his flight see his patients.
Chinese doctor who was dragged out of flight suffered injuries to his face
The incident that went viral occurred on April 9 on a flight from Chicago to Louisville. The flight was overbooked, and United needed to make room for four crew members that were needed in Louisville. The airline asked if anyone volunteered to give up their seats in exchange for $1000, but seeing as no one volunteered, the airline handpicked four people to de-plane.
A 69-year-old male passenger, a doctor named David Dao, refused to give up his seat after being asked by United employees to leave. According to passengers on the flight 3411, Dao repeatedly said that he was a doctor and he needed to see patients the next day. However, as Dao refused to leave the plane, United employees contacted police officers from the Chicago Aviation Department, who removed Dao from the aircraft.
The event was captured by Tyler Bridges, a civil engineer from Louisville that recorded the moment when Dao was being removed from the plane. The video shows Dao being dragged across the plane by police officers. Dao had to be taken to Lutheran General Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries to his face.
Department of Transportation will investigate the incident
United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz released a statement following the events. The CEO added that United is reaching out to Dao to talk directly to him and resolve the situation. Now, the Department of Transportation is reviewing the incident, and one of the police officers involved has been placed on leave.
“This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened,” said Munoz in the statement.
The Aviation Department has not clarified why only one of the three police officers has been put on leave, as they noted that an investigation is ongoing regarding the incident.
“The Department of Transportation (USDOT) remains committed to protecting the rights of consumers and is reviewing the involuntary denied boarding of passenger(s) from United Express flight 3411 to determine whether the airline complied with the oversales rule,” said USDOT in a statement to Business Insider.
In the statement, USDOT points out that although it is legal for airlines to involuntary bump passengers from an oversold flight when there aren’t volunteers, it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its boarding priorities.
United Airlines has a clause called “Contract of Carriage,” which says that in the event where a plane is overbooked and no passenger volunteers to leave the aircraft, they can select the passengers and remove them from the flight.
United’s contract, which passengers must agree on when purchasing a ticket, says it will select who will be denied boarding on an overbooked flight based on the passenger’s fare class, itinerary, the status of frequent flyer program membership as well as the time when the passenger presents for check-in. However, United started looking for passengers to leave the plane when they had already boarded, which is very rare.
Worldwide outcry asks for boycott of United Airlines
According to passengers from the flight, Dao repeatedly said while being dragged that he was being discriminated against because he was Chinese. The video received millions of viewers on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform. Several Weibo users called for a boycott of United Airlines.
The event also outraged many users in the United States, who started hashtags on Twitter such as #NewUnitedAirlinesMotto and #BoycottUnitedAirlines. The incident became trending on the social media platform for two consecutive days.
Shares of United Airlines received initial losses when the event sparked, but by that afternoon the shares were down 2.6 percent at $69.65. United is expected to report its quarterly reports next week, which some analysts believe that it will show a drop in revenues. The shares for American Airlines rose 2.8 percent following the event.
Source: Business Insider