After public outrage over a United Airlines passenger being forcefully removed from an overbooked flight, Michael Fedorko, the Police Superintendent of the Port Authority of NJ and NY, released a statement in which he promises that Port Authority Police Officers will not physically remove any passengers from an overbooked flight at any airports in their jurisdiction. This new rule also applies to Newark Liberty International Airport.
According to Superintendent Fedorko, in the event where an airline does ask for assistance in removing a passenger in an overbooked flight, the commanding officer will inform the airline that this is “an internal non-law enforcement related matter” and that “the PAPD will not respond to this type of request.” Remarkably, this policy has already been in effect for years and this statement serves as merely a pledge to continue the commitment to protect passengers.
This statement comes days after United Airlines faced international outrage after a passenger who refused to give up his airplane seat for an employee was beaten and removed by three Chicago Department of Aviation Officers. The scandal began when United Airlines attempted to entice four of the passengers on a full flight from Chicago to Kentucky to give up their seats to United Airlines employees who wanted to board the flight so they could work the next day.
When no one accepted an $800 offer as compensation as well as a replacement flight a few days later, the airline randomly picked four passengers to “volunteer” to leave. Three of them voluntarily left but the fourth passenger, a 69-year-old Asian doctor named David Dao, calmly refused to leave because of commitments with his patients the following day. In response, the three officers at the scene physically assaulted and dragged Dr. Dao off the plane while other passengers complained and recorded the incident. Some accounts even claim that he later managed to escape and re-board the plane.
According to his lawyer, Dr. Dao faced a concussion, a broken nose, and two broken teeth as a result of the removal and had to be hospitalized for several days. Although he cannot recall the incident (likely due to the concussion), Dr. Dao does plan to pursue a lawsuit. Meanwhile, the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, stunned the public when he initially claimed that Dr. Dao was belligerent and had to be removed because the flight was overbooked; however, both of these claims are plainly false. The CEO did later apologize formally, but by that point, United Airlines stock had begun to plummet due to the threat of boycotts by passengers.
However, what is most stunning was the behavior of the officers at the scene. As mentioned before, these men are part of the Chicago Department of Aviation Officers and have no right to board planes and remove customers as a result of a customer service dispute. According to Jeff Redding, the deputy commissioner overseeing airport security, they were supposed to only contain the situation until the Chicago Police Department could arrive and handle the situation. As of now, the officers are on paid leave.