The internet was captivated on Monday by controversial footage that showed a man being physically removed from his airline seat and dragged down the aisle — all because the airline overbooked the plane.
The incident took place Sunday night on a United Airlines flight traveling from Chicago to Louisville. The airline announced that it had overbooked the flight and offered $800 to four passengers who would be willing to leave the plane and reschedule for the following day.
After nobody jumped at the proposal, United used computer software to randomly select four passengers who would be forced to leave.
While three of the passengers grabbed their belongings and willingly left, one doctor aboard the plane was unwilling.
In light of his refusal, United sent a security team of three large men to physically remove the man from his seat.
The passenger was bloodied and dragged down the aisle, while others on the plane were mortified and pleaded for the encounter to stop:
According to the doctor, he had patients to see the following morning, which is why he so desperately needed to get home.
Countless people on social media reprimanded United in the wake of the incident for its inhumane treatment — and many vowed to never fly United again:
While the airline did publicly apologize for the situation, United CEO Oscar Munoz’s tone was quite different when discussing the situation with his employees, according to USA Today.Bloomberg/Getty Images
Munoz reportedly penned a private letter to his staff commending them for their actions. He said the 69-year-old passenger was “disruptive and belligerent” and actually praised his staff for going “above and beyond.”
— Chandramouli Dorai (@moulidorai) April 11, 2017
While Munoz said he “deeply regrets the situation,” he added:
“Our employees followed established procedures dealing with situations like this. […] I stand behind all of you and want to commend you for going above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”
Since Munoz’s letter got out, people have become outraged even further:
— Kazzim Zongo (@Kazzim10073) April 11, 2017
Oscar Munoz's official statement and staff email is embarrassing & will be studied as what not to do in all crisis comms classes this week
— Alex (@AlexandraJBarth) April 11, 2017
The unrelenting wave of criticism comes as a far cry from the praise Munoz was receiving just last month.
Munoz, who has been described as the “charismatic CEO of United Airlines,” was named PRWeek’s U.S. Communicator of the Year in March. He was the fifth recipient of the prestigious title.
Through this award, Munoz was credited for United’s “best full-year on-time performance” and its 27 percent increase from the prior year, helping it compete with Delta and American Airlines.
Now that Munoz finds himself in a public relations nightmare, time will tell whether or not that increase will continue in 2017.
Munoz has yet to respond to his leaked email.