The facts, as I have been able to ascertain, are as follows:
* United had a fully booked flight, but needed 4 passengers to give up their seats so the airline could shuttle a flight crew to Louisville.
* The man purchased a ticket for the flight.
* He cleared the Thousands Standing Around security theater.
* The passenger was allowed to board the airplane and take his seat.
* When nobody volunteered to take a later flight in exchange for airline credits, four people were selected to be removed from the airplane.
*This man refused.
*The cops physically removed him from the airplane.
Now I'll point that the airline has the right to refuse to allow a person to board the airplane. That's in the contract that comes with the ticket (I've read the contract... I flew weekly for business for some 4 years, so I took the time to read the contract.) But that's not what happened here... They let the man board. At that point, the airline is not covered by the "refuse boarding" clause in the contract.
While one can argue that passengers are required to follow the instructions of the flight crew, that only applies once the airplane has left the terminal. That hadn't happened yet, so that doesn't apply either.
What *SHOULD* have happened is United should have continued to raise the offer for giving up the seat. If nobody bites at the $400 offer, then raise it to $800. Then to $1200. Then higher and higher. I assure you that sooner or later people will take the offer. For $2000 and a night at the O'Hare Westin, I'd gladly give up a seat (barring special circumstances like needing to get home to a sick family member.)
But having the man physically assaulted -- and make no mistake, that's what happened -- and removed forcibly from the plane is wrong. The airline is wrong. The cops are wrong. There's no way this works out well for them.
United could have chartered a private jet to fly from O'Hare to Louisville for $15,000 or so. How much you want to wager that United's CEO and PR staff would pay $15,000 for all of this to go away?
United's CEO should get in front of the cameras, make a profound and sincere apology to this man, admit they screwed up, and give him one free airfare per month for a year in First Class.
The cops need to be fired. And charged with Assault and Battery.
What's worse is that is this tweet from the Chicago Police Department:
I hope the passenger sues the daylights out of United and the police department and wins big.
I used to fly United when I was a business traveler. Fortunately I don't have to fly for work anymore, and despite Denver International being a United hub, I'll do everything in my power to never shade the door of a United aircraft again.