When the news broke that a United Airlines passenger had been forcibly dragged out of his seat and down the aisle of a plane to make room for airline crew members, United CEO Oscar Munoz put the blame squarely on the passenger, calling him “disruptive and belligerent.” That didn’t go over well with the public, and now Munoz is doing an apology tour, promising that “This will never happen again.”
Appearing on Good Morning America earlier today, Munoz admitted that his original response to the incident may have seemed a bit icy.
“My initial words fell short of truly expressing the shame,” he explained to GMA, saying that the first statements he made did not contain an apology because he was trying to “get the facts and circumstances.”
This explanation glosses over the fact that Munoz’s Monday evening email to United staff described the facts and circumstances in detail, and made conclusions like “Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers.”
Munoz now says that this was a mistake, telling GMA, “We are not going to put a law enforcement official onto a plane to take them off… to remove a booked, paid, seated passenger; we can’t do that.”
Speaking of which, that city-operated security force — which is not officially part of the Chicago Police Department — has also come under scrutiny for the way it handled the situation. One officer involved in Sunday’s incident is currently on paid leave while the city’s Department of Aviation, which operates O’Hare International, investigates.
United Airlines has still not responded to our request for an explanation as to why it insisted on using four seats from a sold-out flight to transport crew members who weren’t needed in Louisville until the next day. The airline operates four non-stop flights from O’Hare to Louisville each Sunday, and there was still one flight remaining that the crew members could have gotten on.
Additionally, United has not answered our question about why — if these seats were so urgently needed for crewmembers — did it resort to randomly selecting a passenger to remove when there were no more volunteers willing to accept $800 in exchange for giving up their seat.
However, in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Munoz did say United will undertake a thorough review of crew movement, and of the airline’s policies for offering incentives for passengers to voluntarily give up their seats.