Report: United threatened first-class passenger with handcuffs to leave overbooked flight

United Airlines, which has been embroiled in a bitter public relations battle after video emerged of a passenger being forcibly dragged off a plane, reportedly threatened a first-class passenger with handcuffs in a separate incident last week.

Geoff Fearns, who purchased a full-priced first-class ticket to travel from Hawaii to California, was asked to get off the plane by an airline employee because the flight had been overbooked, according to The Los Angeles Times.

“That’s when they told me they needed the seat for somebody more important who came at the last minute,” Fearns told the newspaper. “They said they have a priority list and this other person was higher on the list than me.”


Like the passenger removed in the viral video from last week, Fears had already been seated on the plane.

“I understand you might bump people because a flight is full,” he said.

“But they didn’t say anything at the gate. I was already in the seat. And now they were telling me I had no choice. They said they’d put me in cuffs if they had to.”

The airline moved Fearns to an middle seat in the economy section of the plane, where he said he sat between a couple in the throes of an argument.

Upon returning home, Fearns wrote to the airline’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, asking for a full reimbursement of the price he paid for the ticket and for United to donate $25,000 to a charity of his choosing. United responded by telling him a refund would not be possible, but offered the difference in price between what he initially paid and the economy seat. They also offered him a $500 credit to put towards another ticket.

“Despite the negative experience, we hope to have your continued support,” an airline customer service representative reportedly wrote to Fearns. “Your business is especially important to us and we'll do our utmost to make your future contacts with United satisfactory in every respect.”

News of Fearns’ experience with United follows days of bad press for the airline due to a viral video showing a man being forcibly removed from a flight after refusing to disembark from the aircraft due to overbooking.

Democrats have called for congressional hearings after the man, bloodied, was dragged from a flight.

Munoz on Tuesday issued a second apology after calls for his resignation followed to the initial video. United's stock plunged in the wake of the incident.

United was also mocked for an incident last month in which two girls were barred from boarding a flight because they were wearing leggings.