The bad publicity just keeps coming for United Airlines and its parent company United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE:UAL). On Thursday, the airline confirmed that a scorpion stung one of their passengers during one of their flights. This latest incident happened on a flight from Houston to Canada last week.
Richard Bell, of Calgary, Canada, claims the eight-legged creature landed on his head during the flight home following a vacation in Mexico. The scorpion apparently fell from the aircraft’s overhead bin. Bell said in an interview, “It fell in my hair. I grabbed it. I was hanging onto it by its tail.”
While examining the creature, which reportedly measured an inch and a half, it stung his finger. A fellow passenger reportedly stomped on the critter and another passenger informed him and his wife Linda that the scorpion might be poisonous. A spokesman for United claims that the crew took immediate action, disposed of the arthropod in an airplane toilet, and contacted a medical professional on the ground for assistance.
Reports of dangerous bugs stowing away in their cabins is the last thing that United needs right now. Days earlier, a furor erupted on social media after a video showing officers at O’Hare International Airport dragging a bloodied 69-year-old Dr. David Dao down the aisle of a United Express flight. Dao had refused to be bumped from his seat to make room for airline crewmembers traveling to crew a different flight.
The initial statements from United about the incident only fueled the social media firestorm. At first, United CEO Oscar Munoz supported the actions of the officers and crewmembers. In a subsequent statement, he apologized “for having to re-accommodate these customers.” Then, an email sent to his employees emerged where he said that the customer was belligerent and defied officers, appearing to blame the customer for what had happened aboard the plane.
After video emerged of the customer calmly refusing to give up his seat because he was a doctor who was needed at work to treat patients in the morning, Munoz walked back his remarks and issued a detailed apology. Dao’s lawyer has stated that he will “probably” file a lawsuit against the company. United has since offered to compensate all of the passengers on that flight with refunds of their ticket costs.