Schakowsky joins protests against forcible removal of United Airlines passenger


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) speaks at an Open Communities event in February. On Monday, she released a statement condemning United Airlines’ forced removal of a passenger from an overbooked flight.

Rishika Dugyala, Reporter

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) released a statement Monday criticizing United Airlines’ policy and handling of an incident this weekend, after a video surfaced of the forcible removal of a United Airlines passenger off an overbooked flight from Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

In videos circulating around social media, a man on an overbooked United flight departing Sunday evening from O’Hare was pulled from his seat and dragged through the aisle by a plain-clothed police officer. Uniformed officers followed as surrounding passengers protested and filmed the confrontation.

The videos show the man shouting as he is being pulled, his glasses slipping down his nose and his shirt rising to expose his midriff.

In a telephone interview with The New York Times, United spokesman Charlie Hobart said four passengers were chosen to be bumped when no one volunteered to leave, and three went without incident. The fourth individual was asked “several times, politely” to give up his seat before force was used, Hobart said.

United CEO Oscar Munoz called the event “upsetting” and apologized for having to re-accommodate customers.

“Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened,” Munoz said in a Monday statement. “We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”

Schakowsky said United choosing to forcibly remove the passenger, rather than increase its offer for monetary compensation until a passenger chose to leave willingly, was “absolutely unacceptable.”

At a minimum, she said, United should change its policy and give full restitution to the individual.

“The response from United Airlines has been brazenly inadequate,” Schakowsky said. “Their apology over having to ‘re-accommodate’ passengers is completely insulting, and their attempt to pass the buck by blaming the Chicago Police Department for the incident demonstrates that they do not understand the gravity of this incident.”

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