A passenger seen on video being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight has caused a social media uproar.
But the company’s CEO says he stands behind his employees because they followed their exact procedures on the flight from Chicago to Kentucky. He says the man seen being removed had ignored crew requests and became "disruptive and belligerent."
Airline Ticketing Expert Rick Seaney from farecompare.com believes the much-scrutinized incident could end up costing the airlines millions of dollars in damage control.
“I thought this is a crazy cascading set of events that should never ever, ever occur,” he said.
Seaney says airlines actually use an algorithm to make that decision.
“It's based on what time you checked and how much you paid for your airfare,” he explained. “If you’re a member of the loyalty program or if you have elite status, you're less likely in each one of those cases actually be in the bottom group that gets picked.”
Passengers reported that United first offered $400 vouchers and then doubled them and added a hotel stay for volunteers to give up their seats but nobody budged.
Seaney calls the overselling of flights that is used to offset the cost of passengers not showing up an antiquated system that, in his opinion, should be eliminated.
“Everybody shows up today because there's a $200 change in cancel fee, for domestic $300 for international ticket sales, so hardly anybody ever doesn't show up,” he said.
Seaney believes it was a combination of mistakes that escalated a situation that could’ve been prevented.
“They should've definitely waited a bit and try to sort this out,” he said. “All they had to do, for example, was say this person is not leaving the flight. Does anyone else want a thousand dollar voucher? They would've had everybody on their plane raising their hand.”
In a letter to employees, United’s CEO says the passenger was disruptive and belligerent. And while he regrets the situation, he emphatically stands behind his employees.
Still, a passenger with a bloody lip, an aviation officer involved in the altercation, and a major airline trending for all the wrong reasons has United trying to get back on course.
United says it is investigating what happened and reviewing procedure.