HOUSTON: United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz addressed the latest controversy in a statement posted on Monday (Apr 10) on the airline's Twitter account.
"This is an upsetting event to all of us," Munoz said, adding that the airline was conducting a "detailed review of what happened".
"We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation," he said.
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0— United (@united) April 10, 2017
The incident occurred on Sunday on a United Express flight bound for Louisville, Kentucky, from Chicago. United Express flights are operated by one of eight regional airlines which partner with United.
The airline said it had asked for volunteers to give up their seats on the flight, and police were called after one passenger refused to leave the plane.
A passenger on the flight said that the man refused to give up his seat, saying that he was a doctor and had patients to see in the Louisville area in the morning.
The hashtag #BoycottUnited was trending on Twitter, and a smartphone video posted online showed three Chicago Department of Aviation police officers struggling with a seated middle-aged man.
Tyler Bridges, who posted video of Sunday's incident on Twitter, wrote: "not a good way to treat a doctor trying to get to work because they overbooked."
He described passenger reaction on the plane as "disturbed".
"Kids were crying," he said.
Bridges also wrote that the man appeared bloodied by his encounter with law enforcement officers and posted a video showing him later running back on the plane, repeatedly saying, "I have to go home."
The man appeared to be pacing and disoriented.
In a statement local reports said was circulating on Twitter on Monday, the Chicago Police Department said: "A 69-year-old male Asian airline passenger became irate after he was asked to disembark from a flight that was oversold."
The statement added that the man "fell" as aviation officers "attempted to carry him off the flight".
"His head subsequently struck an armrest causing injuries to his face," the statement read, adding that he was taken to Lutheran General Hospital "with non-life threatening injuries".
US airlines are allowed to involuntarily bump passengers off overbooked flights with compensation, if enough volunteers cannot be found, according to the US Department of Transportation.
STRONG REACTION TO CEO STATEMENT
Response to Munoz's statement was highly critical.
One Twitter user, Tessa Dare, called on Munoz to "try again" as far as apologising was concerned, saying: "Apologise for abandoning your responsibility to passenger safety. Apologise for not calling an ambulance for a dazed, bloodied man."
She added in another tweet: "Apologise for creating and allowing a corporate culture that says it's okay to treat passengers with such disregard and disdain."
@united Apologize for abandoning your responsibility to passenger safety. Apologize for not calling an ambulance for a dazed, bloodied man.— Tessa Dare 🐐 (@TessaDare) April 10, 2017
Others were peeved at Munoz's oblique wording in his tweet. "'Re-accommodate! You assaulted a paying customer, knocked him out and dragged him off a plane," screenwriter Jon Spaihts commented, adding in another reply to the tweet that bumping paying customers was an "outrageous business practice".
@united "Re-accommodate!" You assaulted a paying customer, knocked him out and dragged him off a plane.— Jon Spaihts (@jonspaihts) April 10, 2017
Anthropologist Michael Oman Reagan wrote: "'Re-accommodate', really? What horrifying corporate hell-zone do you live in that you think that's the word describing what you did?
"Tell me why I shouldn't cancel my flights and rebook with another airline that won't call in state violence to solve a seating issue."