One day after videos spread around the globe showing a bloodied passenger dragged off a United Airlines plane, shares of the company’s stock were down 5% in premarket trading, potentially erasing as much as $1.1 billion off its market capitalization, according to MarketWatch.
Investors appear to think that the incident—or, more specifically, United’s reaction to the ugly episode—could harm the airline’s business in the long run. On Monday, as videos emerged showing security officials forcibly dragging a screaming man off the plane, United CEO Oscar Munoz wrote an email to his company saying the removal of the passenger was conducted according to company guidelines.
“One of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help,” he wrote. “Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.”
The flight from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday had been overbooked, and the company could not find passengers willing to volunteer to leave the plan to accommodate United staff who needed to make the trip. The airline then said that some passengers would be chosen randomly to be kicked off the plane against their will.
Shares of United Continental Holdings Inc. initially ticked upward after news of the incident began to spread on social media on Monday, but there has been fierce backlash to the way the company has handled the situation. It has been said that Munoz essentially blamed the victim who was dragged off the plane and injured, referring to him “disruptive and belligerent” in an email. United Airlines was widely mocked on social media when Munoz released his initial statement on the situation, in which he issued a carefully worded apology for “having to re-accommodate” the affected customers.
The videos have also gone viral in China; the man pulled from the plane appeared to be of Asian descent and spoke with an accent. United is currently the top U.S. carrier to China.