View from the Wing shares a note sent from United CEO Oscar Munoz to employees this evening concerning Flight 3411. In it, Munoz staunchly defends United but offers up a morsel of evidence previously not revealed.
Here’s the letter, in its entirety, courtesy of @jonostrower—
Like you, I was upset to see and hear about what happened last night aboard United Express Flight 3411 headed from Chicago to Louisville. While the facts and circumstances are still evolving, especially with respect to why this customer defied Chicago Aviation Security Officers the way he did, to give you a clearer picture of what transpired, I’ve included below a recap from the preliminary reports filed by our employees.
As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this. While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.
I do, however, believe there are lessons we can learn from this experience, and we are taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding this incident. Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.
Summary of Flight 3411
- On Sunday, April 9, after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded, United’s gate agents were approached by crewmembers that were told they needed to board the flight.
- We sought volunteers and then followed our involuntary denial of boarding process (including offering up to $1,000 in compensation) and when we approached one of these passengers to explain apologetically that he was being denied boarding, he raised his voice and refused to comply with crew member instructions.
- He was approached a few more times after that in order to gain his compliance to come off the aircraft, and each time he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.
- Our agents were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight. He repeatedly declined to leave.
- Chicago Aviation Security Officers were unable to gain his cooperation and physically removed him from the flight as he continued to resist – running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.
Now We Know Why All the Passengers Had Boarded
Many have asked why would passengers be boarded in an oversell situation? How could United be so dumb as to load everyone, even potential involuntary bump candidates? Now we know why.
According to Munoz, crewmembers approached the podium “after United Express Flight 3411 was fully boarded” and informed the gate agent “they needed to board the flight.” Now it makes sense why the passengers had to be removed from the aircraft!
What is isn’t clear is whether the crew was late or whether the crew was booked on that flight at the very last minute. If this was a last-minute assignment, then it is understandable why the crew showed up after other passengers had boarded. If they were late, well…what happens when we are late for a flight? We’re generally out of luck. Perhaps those crewmembers should have been told to go rent a car and drive to Kentucky if they didn’t want to be truant for their Monday flight.
Why Munoz Had No Choice But to Defend His Employees
Gary’s absolutely right in noting the “lack of acknowledgment of the worst element of what happened — whitewashing, even — that a person was dragged off and bloodied by airport police is a failure of tremendous proportions.” There is no excuse for that omission.
But the tone of the letter is exactly what I would expect. Indeed, Munoz had no other viable choice. Had he not said, “I also emphatically stand behind all of you” he would viewed among his own “troops” as turning against them. Had he highlighted the physical abuse suffered by the removed passenger rather than verbal abuse hurled on United employees by the same passenger, he would have to contend with employees questioning his allegiance.
To his credit, Munoz stated, “Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation.” In a sense that addresses the bloodied man without addressing him by name.
He does have a name, though, and I assume in the coming days he may even become a household name.
Munoz is in an incredibly difficult position with this incident. Landmines lurk all around him. While every path down this road may lead to destruction, he could not but defend his employees for handling an oversell situation exactly as the manual prescribes. Now let us hope that he will also condemn the brutal tactics used to subdue this passenger, should the investigation verify that such manhandling was as totally unnecessary as it now appears.