United Airlines Causes Outrage over Passenger Removal

April 11, 2017

united-photoOn Monday morning, people across the world woke up to find a disturbing video circulating in their social media feeds. The clip showed two men forcibly grabbing a passenger out of his seat on a United Airlines flight and then dragging his body down the aisle. Blood ran down the victim’s face and fellow passengers screamed in horror. Soon the video went viral as millions of social media users directed their outrage towards United for allowing this brutal incident to happen.

The company attempted to calm some of this anger by explaining their side of the story. United representatives said that they overbooked the flight and asked for four passengers to volunteer to give up their seats. When no one elected to leave, attendants then “volunteered” four random fliers and told them to leave. Not all of the passengers were willing to de-plane, though. “One customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate,” said United in a statement. The company claims that their employees followed established procedures and that they have reached out to the passenger to “further address and resolve this situation.”
Their explanation didn’t do much to sooth the public’s fury, though. For many, it was outrageous that a company would have an established procedure in place that allows paying customers to be dragged off a plane violently and without dignity. Then people directed their anger towards the fact that overbooking flights seems to be so commonplace among airlines. Last year alone United convinced more than 430,000 passengers to leave an overbooked flight, along with an additional 40,000 people who were “involuntarily” barred from boarding. Given all the issues that many have with modern flying, it’s likely that United will have to deal with fallout from this incident for a very long time. But as one of just four major carriers operating today, it’s hard to tell if consumers will be able to successfully boycott the company as so many on social media have called to do.



  1. How can United prevent incidents like this in the future?
  2. Why is it difficult for consumers to organize a boycott of an airline like United?

Source: Susan Carey and Doug Cameron, “Videos of Man Dragged Off United Flight Spark Backlash,” The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2017.