Early Tuesday United Continental Holdings plunged as outrage over the airlines’ removal of one of its passengers from a flight went viral across social media spreading like wildfire around the world.
Stock at Untied fell by up to 6.3% prior to paring its loss and continued trading about 2.6% below its open in New York.
On Sunday, a passenger on United was dragged from one of the airlines’ flights headed to Louisville, by law enforcement officials. The passenger had refused to give up his seat and was dragged forcibly down the aisle of the aircraft as travelers yelled for officers to stop.
The incident was recorded and one of the videos was posted on social media and sent people into a huge outrage over the response by the airline.
By Tuesday the incident in China had become a huge talking point on social media and in publications. It appeared in the video as though the man pulled from his seat and dragged off the plane had been of Asian descent.
This incident is a good example of how airline bumping can cause confrontations. Carriers across the globe routinely oversell flights since at times people do not arrive for a flight they purchased and by overselling an airline covers that type of situation while maximizing its revenue.
The swift condemnation on social media, which reached Washington, came about because the passenger had not been misbehaving or a threat to security. United has said initially the flight had been overbooked, its staff picked him and he did not want to leave.
Later the airline announced that it had needed the seat for an employee.
Video on Twitter and Facebook showed the passenger being dragged from his seat and then down the plane’s aisle. It has been reported that he was a doctor and was returning from work and did not want to give up his seat.
On Monday, United CEO Oscar Munoz apologized for re-accommodating customers. In a statement he emailed he said United was carrying out a review of the incident and is seeking a resolution to the situation with the passenger who was dragged from the plane.
New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez a Democrat called the Sunday incident disturbing and the statement by CEO Munoz an empty apology.
In an internal message on Monday evening to employees at United, of which a copy was provided by the airline, Munoz alleged the passenger was disruptive and had been belligerent was asked repeatedly to leave the aircraft.