The Internet collectively exploded Monday after United Airlines forcibly ejected a customer from an overbooked flight. Images and video of the passenger being pulled off the aircraft by security spread quickly on social media and on television. But while the airline issued an apology publicly for having to “reaccommodate” passengers, its internal response to its employees has taken a less contrite tone.
On Monday night, in an email to employees, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz defended some of the airline personnel’s actions, calling the passenger “disruptive and belligerent.” He also said that the still unidentified passenger raised his voice and refused to comply with the crew’s and security officers’ directions.
A video posted on Facebook on Sunday evening showed security pulling the passenger from his seat and dragging him down the aisle of a Louisville-bound plane before it took off from Chicago O’Hare International Airport. He later returned to the plane with blood on his face, repeating “I have to go home” before being taken to the hospital.
In the letter, obtained first by CNBC, Munoz further defended the actions of United employees on the flight: “Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. 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.”
Earlier in the day, Munoz said he was working “with a sense of urgency” to conduct a review of the “upsetting” incident. “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United,” Munoz said in a statement earlier on Monday. “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”
Shares of United closed up nearly 1% Monday.