Fact Check

Are United Airlines Passengers Wearing Crash Helmets?

A photograph used to spur heckling of the embattled airline actually chronicles a training course hosted by a German airline.

Published Apr 15, 2017

 (Jorg Hackemann/Shutterstock.com)
Image Via Jorg Hackemann/Shutterstock.com
Photograph captures United Airlines passengers wearing protective crash helmets.

The mockery of United Airlines over their treatment of passenger David Dao in April 2017 (forcibly dragging him off a flight to open a seat for a United employee) manifested itself in a humorous photograph circulated online, one supposedly showing United Airlines passengers seated in an airliner cabin wearing protective crash helmets as a spoof of the airline's recent troubles:

The image depicts the helmeted passengers below the quippy caption, "On an actual @United flight today." But another Twitter user pointed out that signage in the background of the image reflects a different carrier, Condor Airlines.

A Condor spokesperson, Susanne Rihm, told us via e-mail that the people captured in the picture are not actually passengers, but rather employees of another company taking part in a safety training course held in a mockup of an airliner cabin:

The interior shown in the picture is NOT a cabin of one of our aircraft. The picture has been taken in the course of a safety training in our safety training mockup at Condor headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

Rihm also included a picture of the actual cabin interior for Condor's 94 aircraft:

United was subjected to heavy criticism after the footage of Dao's being dragged off of a flight circulated online. The company admitted that the flight was not overbooked, contradicting earlier statements regarding Dao's forced removal from a United Express carrier.

The union representing the company's pilots released a statement blaming the incident on a "gross excessive force by Chicago Department of Aviation personnel."


Mutzabaugh, Ben.   "United 'Clarifies' That Flight 3411 was Not Oversold."     USA Today.   11 April 2017.

Associated Press.   "United Airlines Pilots "Infuriated" by "Grossly Inappropriate" Dragging of Passenger."     CBS News.   14 April 2017.

Associated Press.   "Twitter Skewers United with #NewUnitedAirlinesMotto."     Chicago Tribune.   11 April 2017.

Arturo Garcia is a former writer for Snopes.

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