Searches for 'volunteer' definition on Merriam-Webster spikes 1900 percent after United Airlines incident

On Monday, a video of a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight went viral online. The crew of the Chicago to Louisville flight had asked for volunteers to step off the plane because it was overbooked. When no one volunteered, they resorted to using a computer to randomly select passengers to leave. When one man, a doctor, refused, the crew tried to force him off.

United said in a statement:

Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville was overbooked. After our team looked for volunteers, one customer refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate. We apologize for the overbook situation.

Following widespread reporting on the incident and United's statement, Merriam-Webster reported that the search for the word "volunteer" spiked 1900 percent.

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"Lookups for volunteer spiked 1900% on April 10, 2017, after video of a passenger being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago was widely circulated," said Merriam-Webster's statement.

According to the dictionary, the word means "someone who does something without being forced to do it," especially those who join the military or opt to work for no pay.

In addition to the search, the video also prompted a heavy backlash of United Airlines:

People react to United Airlines kicking a passenger off a flight
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People react to United Airlines kicking a passenger off a flight
Pepsi: We are the most hated company right now. 😓 United Airlines: 1 sec - Hold my Pepsi. #PEPSI #unitedAIRLINES
Not so friendly skies huh @united ? Makes me sick now how you treat customers. I hope he sues hard. #unitedairlines
You want passengers to give up their seats because you have piss poor planning & then beat them up? Shame on you. @united #unitedAIRLINES
Apparently @united 's inability to coordinate a flight makes violent assault against customers ok. Never flying #UnitedAirlines again
NEVER flying @united ever again! Horrific, brutal, intolerable treatment of passenger, + tone-deaf "apology" from CEO. #UnitedAirlines
Dear United Airlines: People have smart phones.
Perhaps @MerriamWebster can help #United Airlines with the definition of "volunteer"
United Airlines to United Airlines: "I see your legging-gate, and I raise you a passenger beating" #UnitedAirlines #United #flight3411
Look on the bright side, United Airlines. After this incident, you'll never have to worry about a flight being overbooked again.
You thought United Airlines was tough on folks who wear leggings. Just wait to see what they do to folks in sweat p…
Poor planning on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on ours. Fly Southwest. Fly Delta. Hell, fly Spirit. Not #UnitedAirlines

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