WASHINGTON – White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday a passenger being dragged off an United Airlines plane by force was “troubling” and that President Donald Trump has viewed a video of the incident.
A male passenger was removed from a Louisville-bound flight Sunday by Chicago Department of Aviation police. Spicer said reviews of the matter were mainly between United Airlines “local matter.”
United CEO Oscar Munoz said an internal review of the forced removal would be done by April 30.
Asked at the daily briefing if Trump has seen the video, Spicer said, “I’m sure he has.”
Asked how the president reacted, Spicer said: “I don’t think anyone looks at that video and isn’t a little disturbed that another human being is treated that way. But again, I don’t — I think one of the things that people have to understand is that when there is a potential law enforcement matter, for the president to weigh in pro or con would prejudice a potential outcome.
“So I don’t want to get in — but I think clearly watching another human being dragged down an aisle, watching, you know, blood come from their face after hitting an armrest or whatever, I don’t think there’s a circumstance that you can sit back and say this probably could have been handled a little bit better, when you’re talking about another human being.
“But again, I don’t think that it is my place to get in the middle of judging how a company dealt with this. I think there is clearly going to be enough review both on a corporate side and then on a law enforcement side on how this was handled.
“But I think from a human-to-human standpoint, to watch a human being get dragged out an aisle with their head banging off armrests and not think that it could have been handled better — I would assume that we could probably all agree on that.”
Spicer was first asked whether there should be a government investigation in United or the airline industry as a whole when it comes to passenger treatment.
“I would just say that I think there have been clearly — law enforcement is reviewing that situation. I think there’s plenty of law enforcement to review a situation like that,” Spicer said.
“And I know United Airlines has stated that they are currently reviewing their own policies. Let’s not get ahead of where that review goes. It was — it was an unfortunate incident. Clearly, when you watch the video, it is troubling to see how that was handled.
“But I’m not going to — they have clearly stated their desire to review the situation. Law enforcement’s reviewing it. And I think for us to start to get in front of what should be a very — you know, a local matter, not necessarily needing a — a federal response.”
The Department of Transportation said late Tuesday in a statement that it launched an initial review of the Sunday events on United Airlines Express Flight 3411, to determine if United complied with “the Department’s oversales rule” and other regulations.
Airlines are heavily federally regulated businesses, with DOT and Congress weighing in on rules for treating passengers bounced from flights.
In a statement released on Tuesday, United CEO Oscar Munoz said “the truly horrific event that occurred on this flight has elicited many responses from all of us: outrage, anger, disappointment. I share all of those sentiments, and one above all: my deepest apologies for what happened. Like you, I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way.
“I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right.
It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.”