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Outrage grows over passenger dragged off United flight

Posted April. 12, 2017 07:03,   

Updated April. 12, 2017 07:21

A YouTube video showing a passenger being dragged off an overbooked United Airlines plane by security officers has sparked outrage. As the passenger is reportedly of Chinese descent, the issue has escalated into a controversy on racism.

On Sunday, an overbooked United Airline from Chicago, Illinois to Louisville, Kentucky had to look for four passengers who would volunteer to take the next flight. While the airline company offered 800 U.S. dollars to each volunteer, no one volunteered to give up their seat. Then, the company selected four through a computer lottery.

One of them, a man who appeared to be of Asian ethnicity identified himself as a medical doctor and refused to get off, saying he needed to be at the hospital the next day to see his patients. United called police officers, who wrestled him out of his seat and dragged him down the aisle by his arms. During the process, the passenger drooled blood after being slammed into an arm rest, with his glasses fallen off. The Associated Press reported that the man claimed he was chosen because he was Chinese.

United Airlines parent United Continental Holdings apologized for the overbooking but explained that United followed the protocol with the forceful removal of the passenger. United's current chief executive, Oscar Munoz, sent an open letter to the company's employees, saying the employees followed established procedures. The letter triggered another controversy as he sounded like defending his employees.

Social media users are blasting United's overreaction and attitude. As the victimized passenger was identified as a 69-year-old doctor of Chinese descent, angry Chinese social media users took to China's top micro-blogging site Sina Weibo to express their anger with the U.S. airline. The incident was top on Weibo on Tuesday, with the hashtag "#United forces passenger off plane." Related news items garnered more than 100 million views in less than a day. Some Internet users called for a boycott of United Airline, posting photos of their membership cards cut in half with scissors. American pop singer Richard Marx also expressed his will to join the boycott.

Su-Yeon Kim sykim@donga.com