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United CEO defends actions of flight crew against 'disruptive and belligerent' passenger

In a letter sent to employees on Monday night, the CEO of United Airlines stood firmly behind the actions taken by the flight crew of an overbooked flight headed from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday evening and the Chicago aviation officers who dragged a screaming passenger off the plane.

Several passengers filmed the incident, which started after the airline asked four customers to give up their seats so flight crew members who needed to get to Louisville could board the plane. When no one accepted, United picked random passengers to go, and one of them, a 69-year-old man who said he was a doctor and had to get to Louisville to see patients Monday, refused to go. Officers were called and forcibly removed him from the plane, dragging him through the aisle as he screamed. The man later returned to the plane with a bloody face.

United gave a terse statement after the footage went viral, saying the customer "refused to leave the aircraft voluntarily and law enforcement was asked to come to the gate," and the Chicago Police Department released a statement claiming the passenger fell. United CEO Oscar Munoz didn't do his company any favors with the letter he wrote to employees, declaring that the flight crew "followed established procedures" in having the man dragged off the plane. He claimed the passenger was "politely asked to deplane," but he was "disruptive and belligerent" and "defied" officers. Munoz said there are lessons to be learned from the dramatic incident, but told his employees he "emphatically stand[s] behind all of you."