Video: United passenger bloodied after forcibly removed from overbooked flight

A passenger is dragged down the aisle on United Airlines on Flight 3411 in Chicago, Ill, April 9, 2017. The airline said the flight was overbooked and the man was randomly selected to get off the plane, but refused. (Credit: @Tyler_Bridges)
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LOUISVILLE — A video posted on Facebook late Sunday evening shows a passenger on a United Airlines flight being forcibly removed from the plane before takeoff at O’Hare International Airport.

The video, posted by Audra D. Bridges at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, is taken from an aisle seat on a commercial airplane that appears to be preparing to take flight. The 31-second clip shows three men wearing radio equipment and security jackets speaking with a man seated on the plane. After a few seconds, one of the men grabs the passenger, who screams, and drags him by his arms toward the front of the plane. The video ends before anything else is shown.

Another video posted by a woman who says she was the wife of another passenger showed the man after he was let back on board, but his face was bloodied.

A United spokesperson confirmed in an email Sunday night that a passenger had been taken off a flight in Chicago.

"Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked," said the spokesperson. "After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate.

"We apologize for the overbook situation. Further details on the removed customer should be directed to authorities."

Bridges, a Louisville resident, gave her account of the flight Sunday night.

Passengers were told at the gate that the flight was overbooked and United, offering $400 and a hotel stay, was looking for one volunteer to take another flight to Louisville at 3 p.m. Monday. Passengers were allowed to board the flight, Bridges said, and once the flight was filled those on the plane were told that four people needed to give up their seats to stand-by United employees who needed to be in Louisville on Monday for a flight. Passengers were told that the flight would not take off until the United crew had seats, Bridges said, and the offer was increased to $800, but no one volunteered.

Then, she said, a manager came aboard the plane and said a computer would select four people to be taken off the flight. One couple was selected first and left the airplane, she said, before the man in the video was confronted.

Bridges said the man became "very upset" and said that he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in the morning. The manager told him that security would be called if he did not leave willingly, Bridges said, and the man said he was calling his lawyer. One security official came and spoke with him, and then another security officer came when he still refused. Then, she said, a third security official came on the plane and threw the passenger against the armrest before dragging him out of the plane.

The man was able to get back on the plane after initially being taken off — his face was bloody and he seemed disoriented, Bridges said, and he ran to the back of the plane. Passengers asked to get off the plane as a medical crew came on to deal with the passenger, she said, and passengers were then told to go back to the gate so that officials could "tidy up" the plane before taking off.

Bridges said the man shown in the video was the only person who was forcibly removed.

"Everyone was shocked and appalled," Bridges said. "There were several children on the flight as well that were very upset."

The flight was delayed about two hours before it could fly to Louisville, and it arrived in Kentucky later Sunday night. No update was given to the passengers about the condition of the man forcibly removed, Bridges said.

One officer involved has been placed on leave, the Chicago Aviation Department said Monday.

“A 69-year-old male Asian airline passenger became irate after he was asked to disembark from a flight that was oversold…Aviation officers arrived on scene attempted to carry the individual off of the flight when he fell," Chicago Police said in a statement Monday. "His head subsequently struck an armrest causing injuries to his face. The man was taken to Lutheran General Hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Ongoing investigation.”

Travel expert Steve Danishek says the airline workers should have handled the situation at the gate, not on the plane.

“This is a disaster for United Airlines. You can’t sugarcoat this at all. It was handled poorly but it was a confluence of things that can happen on any major flight on any major carrier,” Danishek said.

He says the “contract of carriage” or fine print on passenger tickets indicates there are 46 types of United employees who have priority over ticketed passengers when it comes to oversold flights.

“Nobody ever reads it, because it rarely ever happens. Should they have drug people off the plane? I don’t think so. They should have just upped the amount, offer $2,000. I think they would have gotten a lot of hands in the air,” Danishek said.

CNBC obtained a letter sent to employees from United CEO Oscar Munoz which states gate agents offered up to $1,000 in compensation.

In a statement to media, Munoz called the event “upsetting” and “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers….We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”

United spokesperson Maddie King calls the incident “extremely rare,” and says employees followed Department of Transportation procedures when they called law enforcement.

She says any resolution will stay between the airline and the customer. 

Follow Lucas Aulbach on Twitter: @LucasAulbachCJ

The Associated Press and KING 5's Travis Pittman contributed to this report.