Just because you are seated does not mean airline cant ask you to deplane...
Right, they can ask. Ask. What they can't do is drag you forcibly and smash your head on the armrest of your seat. That's called "assault".
I know, "United didn't do that, the security guys did", blah blah blah. United put everyone in that situation. UA screwed up here, plain and simple. They overbooked the flight, as is industry practice (one that needs to be seriously re-examined, btw), then they allowed those overbooked passengers to board. At that point, they're still within their rights to *ask* someone to leave. But if someone says no, common sense would suggest moving on to someone else and/or upping the incentive until somebody accepts. I've personally gone through this before, I have left a plane voluntarily when the flight attendants got to me and offered me what I considered a pretty insane amount of money to leave the plane. (I can't remember the exact amount - this was about 20 years ago - but I want to say it was something like $2,000.) Somebody on that plane would have left if the incentive was right - as they say, everybody has their price. But if somebody says they absolutely need to get home that day, hey, maybe they have a reason and there's a more likely candidate to entice off the plane for a smaller amount of cash.
The problem here is that UA screwed up and nobody at that gate wanted to take *real* responsibility for it. Call someone above you, say you screwed up, you need permission to up the limit on the incentive and/or give it in cash, or whatever. Either that, or those employees needed to be booked on a different flight, or hey, freakin' man up and charter them on a private jet to wherever they need to go. Because however expensive that would be, guess what? This is going to cost UA a lot more.
There are just so many ways UA was wrong here, it's hard to even count. Scheduling, booking procedures, boarding procedures, common sense, common decency, public relations, *probably* even the outright legality of everything they did. There are federal laws regarding how airlines handle overbookings and that's being looked into right now regarding this incident.
UA needs some serious changes, and after seeing Munoz' horrific non-apology apology today, not to mention Hobart's even worse statement, I don't see how that change is going to come without starting at the top.
I'm tired of being a wanna-be league bowler. I wanna be a league bowler!