Governor calls for end to overbooking practices after United Airlines fiasco
(CNN) — Disgusted by a man’s violent removal from an oversold flight, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has called for a suspension to the widespread practice of overbooking.
“To have somebody pay for a ticket, reserve a seat, be seated and then dragged off the plane physically by law enforcement officers at the direction of United (Airlines) — it’s outrageous,” Christie told CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday.
“That’s why I’ve asked the Trump administration to stop the overbooking until we set some more, different rules about how the airlines can conduct themselves.”
Christie’s state has a special interest in United’s practices because he said the airline controls 70% of the flights at Newark Liberty International Airport.
“With United, the customer is always last,” Christie said.
United CEO: This ‘will never happen again’
When United CEO Oscar Munoz first saw footage of the passenger getting violently yanked off one of his planes, he said one emotion washed over him: shame.
“It’s not so much what I thought, it’s what I felt. Probably the word ‘ashamed’ comes to mind,” Munoz told ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Wednesday morning.
“That is not who our family at United is. And you saw us at a bad moment.”
That bad moment led to Dr. David Dao screaming as he was dragged off an oversold flight Sunday night. Passengers said blood dripped from his mouth after he hit his head on an armrest.
One of the three Chicago Department of Aviation officers who dragged Dao has been placed on leave pending an investigation.
In the meantime, the CEO vowed “this can never, will never, happen again on a United Airlines flight.”
“We are not going to put a law enforcement official to … remove a booked, paid, seated passenger,” Munoz told “Good Morning America.” “We can’t do that.”
Munoz came under fire for initially praising employees in a memo and not issuing an apology to Dao for two days.
In his interview, Munoz said he has unsuccessfully tried to reach the passenger to apologize directly. He said Dao is not at fault.
“He can’t be. He was a paying passenger sitting on our seat in our aircraft, and no one should be treated like that. Period.”
Injured passenger: ‘Everything’ hurts
Dao is recovering in a Chicago hospital, his lawyer said.
When asked what injuries his injuries were, Dao said “everything,” CNN affiliate WLKY reported. Dao added that he was not doing well.
His attorney, Stephen L. Golan, issued a statement thanking well-wishers.
“The family of Dr. Dao wants the world to know that they are very appreciative of the outpouring of prayers, concern and support they have received,” Golan said.
Passenger: The man initially volunteered to leave
After passengers already boarded the plane, United said it needed to clear some seats because four members of another flight crew needed to sit down. If those crew members didn’t get on board, a United spokeswoman said, their flight would have been canceled.
But Dao agreed to get off the plane, passenger Jayse Anspach said.
“Him and his wife, they volunteered initially,” Anspach said. “But once they found out that the next flight wasn’t until (Monday) at 2:30 p.m., he said, ‘I can’t do that. I gotta be at work.’ So he sat back down.”
The harder the officers tried to get the man to leave, the harder the man insisted he stay.
“He was very emphatic: ‘I can’t be late. I’m a doctor. I’ve got to be there tomorrow,’ ” Anspach recalled.
His pleas didn’t work. Moments later, he was being dragged down the aisle. At one point, passengers said, Dao hit his head on an armrest. Video shows blood streaming from his mouth.
Chopped credit cards and tumbling stocks
The incident repulsed United customers across the country. Some protested by cutting up their United mileage cards.
“My new #united card. Not planning to fly them any more after this,” Josh Perfetto tweeted.
United also took a hit on the stock market. Shares in United Airlines slipped by 4% Tuesday, and the company’s market value plummeted by $1 billion.
Yes, this can happen to anyone
Anyone can be kicked off an overbooked flight against their will. In 2015 alone, 46,000 customers were involuntarily bumped from flights, according to the Department of Transportation.
Overbooking is legal, and most airlines do it in anticipation of no-shows, the US Department of Transportation said.
If no one volunteers to get off, the airline can select passengers for removal based on criteria such as check-in time or the cost of a ticket, according to the department’s Fly-Rights.
It’s an often-overlooked policy to which you agree when you book your tickets.
In a letter to US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Gov. Christie said the practice needs to be suspended.
“Every day passengers are being ‘bumped off’ flights,” Christie wrote.
“Passengers who have paid the fare for their ticket and reserved a seat should not be subject to this arbitrary ‘bumping’ except in the most extreme of circumstances and certainly not to accommodate employees of United Airlines.”