United CEO Oscar Munoz has doubled down on his airline crew’s decision to remove an elderly passenger, claiming he was ‘disruptive and belligerent’. The airline is facing a furious backlash after footage emerged of the 69-year-old, bleeding heavily after he dragged off an overbooked flight to Louisville on Sunday night.
Amidst the anger, Munoz issued a public apology saying he ‘apologized for having to re-accommodate these customers.’ But in a private email to employees, the CEO defended the crew’s actions, calling the passenger ‘disruptive and belligerent’ and praising his staff for going ‘above and beyond’.
Social media erupted immediately, labeling Munoz and United ‘tone deaf’ and ‘condescending’.
The CEO described how flight crews had offered up to $1,000 in compensation for anyone willing to catch the next flight before approaching the passenger to ‘explain apologetically’ that he was being denied boarding.
He had then ‘raised his voice and refused to comply’ with the crew’s requests to leave the aircraft, and became increasingly ‘disruptive and belligerent,’ he said. ‘Our agents were left with no choice, but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight, he repeatedly decline to leave.’
Munoz added that the passenger refused to comply with the officers who then ‘physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist – running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both out crew and security officials.’
‘While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right,’ he said.
The CEO did, however, concede that there were ‘lessons we can learn’ from the experience and that United will continue to look into the incident.
He also had a final reminder that treating customers with ‘respect and dignity’ should be matter of course, ‘no matter how challenging the situation.’ The comments have sparked outrage online with people claiming that the CEO was attempting to shift blame to the police.