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United Boss Praises Staff, ‘Stands Behind’ Them After Overbooking Debacle

It is one of the most shocking examples of airlines’ savage treatment of customers ever recorded. So how come United’s CEO is ‘commending’ his staff?

Many brand advisers would suggest it would be a good time for United to stop digging.

After the airline was savaged on social and mainstream media when a paid-up passenger was forcibly dragged off a plane after refusing to get off an overbooked flight, it might have been time for a little quiet reflection and silence.

Instead, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz has poured fuel on the fire by issuing a giddy-up email to his staff Monday night, praising his employees “for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right,” and apparently standing behind the company’s treatment of the unlucky passenger.

With the skies never having looked less friendly—thanks to the video posted on Facebook on Sunday evening that showed security officers pulling the passenger from his seat and dragging him down the aisle of a plane, after which he was then pictured staggering around with blood on his face—Munoz doubled down on blaming the passenger, sharing with his staff the airline’s account of the incident which stated he was “disruptive and belligerent.”

In a note accompanying the recap, obtained first by CNBC, an only partially apologetic Munoz insisted: “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.”

According to the internal recap of the incident, which was published in full by Business Insider, when crew members first approached the passenger to tell him to leave, he “raised his voice and refused to comply,” and each time they asked again “he refused and became more and more disruptive and belligerent.”

Crew members, the recap alleged, “were left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight,” and added that at one point the passenger “continued to resist—running back onto the aircraft in defiance of both our crew and security officials.”

Munoz acknowledged to employees that the company could learn lessons from the incident.

United has already been accused of badly handling the fallout from the incident in public statements.