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United Airlines CEO says employees ‘followed established procedures’ to remove belligerent passenger

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of United Airlines has said that employees “followed established procedures” in dragging off a passenger from an overbooked US domestic flight.

In a letter to employees, Oscar Munoz said he was “upset to see and hear about what happened”.

But he said that the passenger had been “disruptive and belligerent”.

The airline earlier said that it was investigating what happened after videos provoked a social media outcry.

The footage taken inside the airliner shows a man being pulled out of his seat and dragged down the aisle. He is later seen with blood on his face.

The man has not been officially identified but a passenger who sat next to him said that he said he was originally from Vietnam and had been living in Louisville, Kentucky, for about 20 years. He said he and his wife were both doctors. The flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday evening had been overbooked.

The airline wanted to get four passengers to leave the flight to make room for four staff members.

Mr Munoz has faced criticism on social media for his response to the incident.  He told staff in the private email that he was “upset to see and hear about what happened” but defended United employees. “Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this,” the Associated Press quoted the email as saying.

“While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right.”

Mr Munoz wrote that the passenger refused to voluntarily leave the plane, with staff “left with no choice but to call Chicago Aviation Security Officers to assist in removing the customer from the flight”.