The Transportation Department said it is investigating the incident to determine if United violated consumer-protection or civil-rights laws. When no one volunteered, a United manager came on the plane and announced that passengers would be chosen at random.
"Because United has such a catastrophic PR problem, this case has a much greater value than such a case would normally have", he said. "You're relying on the airline".
"We don't just fly into action when someone calls us", he said. Officials have refused to say what procedures should have been followed. "That plane had to depart".
Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines' parent company, described the event as "upsetting" and apologized for "having to re-accommodate these customers". Airlines for America, a group representing most of the big USA carriers, says the practice lets airlines keep fares low while managing the rate of no-shows. "But to just randomly say, 'You're getting off the plane, ' that was awful". That's when the altercation happened.
The announcement Wednesday from the city's Aviation Department comes two days after another officer involved in the Sunday night confrontation was put on leave. Everyone wondered why United didn't simply sweeten the offer until four passengers agreed to get off.
"People on the plane were letting them have it", Bridges said.
"Most of the time if you order someone to get off, they'll get off".
"I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard", CEO Oscar Munoz said.
The passenger was identified as Dao, a 69-year-old physician from Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Later he's seen standing in the aisle saying quietly, "I want to go home, I want to go home".
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Federal rules allow airlines to sell more tickets than they have seats, and airlines do it routinely because they assume some passengers won't show up. "They should have gone up higher".
Passengers were twice as likely to get bumped from Southwest Airlines.
After passengers had already boarded the plane, United said it needed to clear some seats for four members of another flight crew who needed to get to Louisville.
After a three-hour delay the flight took off without the man aboard, Bridges said. He said other passengers did the same.
The matter has deeply damaged United's public image and seemed to crystallize many people's negative feelings toward the airline industry.
The airline offered passengers up to $800 to give up their seats before it began choosing people to leave, according to other passengers.
Munoz also said the company would reassess policies for seeking volunteers to give up their seats, for handling oversold flights and for partnering with airport authorities. Christie, a Republican, said bumping passengers off flights is "unconscionable".
Hobart declined to say how the airline compensated the passengers who were forced to leave the plane, saying he did not have those details from employees on the scene. She said seeing her father removed from the Sunday flight was "exacerbated" by the fact it was caught on video and widely distributed. "There's a lot of ways United could have handled it, and that was not one of the good ways".
"The man handled it wrong", he said.