United and Other Airlines Overbook Flights Because It (Usually) Pays Off | AARIAN MARSHALL 04.10.17. 6:17 PM


Everyone has an air travel horror story, usually one including some combination of delays, lost bags, smelly seat-mates, and cranky personnel. Yet most everyone’s tale of woe would pale in comparison to that of the man who was dragged off a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare airport Sunday night.

United Airlines had overbooked the Louisville, Kentucky-bound flight, and offered up to $800 for anyone willing to wait for a later trip. Not enough people volunteered, so the airline selected four people—already in their seats—to leave behind. Three got off the Embraer 170 jet willingly, according to The Chicago Tribune, but the man in question refused to get up.

Airport police boarded the plane and pulled the man (whose name has not been revealed) from his seat. Video shows them dragging him down the aisle, his mouth bleeding, as horrified flyers scream in the background. “Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement.

While it was the airport police who extricated the man, the public has aimed its fury at United—and at every other airline that routinely sells more seats than it can fill.

How is this a thing, the people rage? The short answer: Because it’s financially smart. The good news: It’s getting better. Kind of.

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