Days after a United Airlines passenger was forcibly removed from his seat and dragged off a flight by Chicago Aviation officers, the union representing the carrier’s pilots is speaking out, saying it’s “infuriated” by the incident, and placing the blame squarely on security personnel.
In a statement [PDF] published on Thursday — the same day the passenger’s legal team said he would “probably” file a lawsuit over the incident — the United Master Executive Council says that it waited to speak out because of the “rapid pace at which information, both accurate and inaccurate, has been released and manipulated.”
United MEC says that the safety and well-being of passengers is the “highest priority” for pilots, and the situation “should not have escalated into a violent encounter.”
“United pilots are infuriated by this event,” the statement reads, which the union says was “ultimately caused by the grossly inappropriate response by the Chicago Department of Aviation.”
The letter goes on to point out that no United employees were involved in the “physical altercation,” and suggests that “Social media ire should be properly directed at the Chicago Aviation Department.”
All three CAD officers involved in the incident have since been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
The union says that while members of local airport law enforcement are “normally important security partners” who help crew members ensure the safety of passengers, this event was an “anomaly and is not how United or the police are expected to treat passengers when there is no security threat.”
In the end, the pilots say, United must be measured in the end by more than this specific incident.
“The United Airlines MEC is confident that the steps we are taking as a company will ensure this type of inexcusable event never happens again,” the union says in closing.