Rep. Al Green demands answers after United Airlines passenger dragged off plane

HOUSTON – Rep. Al Green held a news conference Tuesday after a video showing a United Airlines passenger being dragged off a plane went viral. 

United asked passengers to voluntarily give up their seats for compensation. Four crew members needed to get on the flight in order to work another one in Louisville, or else that flight would be canceled, airline spokeswoman Maddie King said.

When no one volunteered, the airline was forced into an "involuntary de-boarding situation," airline spokesman Charlie Hobart said.

United used a system that weighs a number of factors to determine which passengers would leave the flight, such as connecting flights and how long the delay would leave the customer at an airport, Hobart said.

VIDEO: Rep. Al Green news conference addressing United Airlines passenger incident

United employees explained the situation to the man several times, Hobart said. When he refused to leave, they followed Department of Transportation protocol and called local law enforcement to forcibly remove him from the plane.

Green demanded answers Tuesday from airline officials. He said there is a need for regulatory actions regarding United Airlines’ removal of passengers when a flight is overbooked.

“This is bad policy for the customer, the employees and United Airlines. All Americans should be protected from this type of forcible removal. If this can happen to any one of us without liability, it can happen to every one of us with impunity,” Green said.

Green demanded that the public be informed on the random process for selecting passengers to be removed from an overbooked flight.  He said the public should know how the selection process works.

Green said that passengers on the flight should have been offered more money to relinquish their seats. If the cap of $1,300 was reached, the airline should have offered more, he said.

Green said he believes the incident was an injustice that originated in the United board room. He said anyone in management at United who believes the action was correct should have a pay cut or be removed from his or her position. 

"To grab a person and drag them off a plane is inhumane," Green said.

Several leaders who attended the news conference called for travelers to make a choice other than United Airlines.

“I won’t use the term boycott, but I won’t be flying United,” Green said. “There comes a time when you have to take a stand. It may be inconvenient, but you have to take a stand.”

Green said he would likely protest if the issue is not reconciled.

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