United Airlines clarifies: Flight that sparked controversy was not overbooked
United Airlines said Tuesday that the flight that placed it at a center of a firestorm following a viral clip of a passenger being dragged off of one of its planes to make room for its employees was never overbooked.
Jonathan Guerin, a spokesman for the airline, clarified earlier reports that claimed the plane was overbooked, telling USA TODAY that each of the 70 seats on Flight 3411 were filled by passengers. He made a point to clarify that the four passengers, including Dr. David Dao of Kentucky, had to be removed to make room for four of its employees needed in Louisville, Kentucky, for a "downline connection" the next day.
Three of the four passengers, all of whom had been selected at random, left the plane peacefully. Dao refused to.
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"They were considered 'must-ride' passengers," Guerin said in statement.
United Airlines has weathered waves of outrage as it has scrambled to address footage showing police officers forcibly dragging a passenger off a flight.
CEO Oscar Munoz sent a letter to airline employees Monday blaming the passenger for being "disruptive and belligerent" following his forced removal from a plane in Chicago, which failed to appease most customers and was highly critiqued by public relation analysts.
Munoz later released another statement Tuesday apologizing for the horrific event and stated that "no one should ever be mistreated this way."
The company saw its value plunge more than $800 million by midday Tuesday in the wake of the incident.