United Airlines recently exhibited an example of ill customer treatment and worse decision making through a very disappointing incident, where a passenger was forcefully thrown out of a boarded air plane only few minutes before the flight was scheduled to take off.
This incident has raised many questions among the regular fliers regarding what rights they have if they are trapped in such a situation, and whether its safe to fly with reputed carriers such as United Airlines that overbook most flights during the peak seasons.
What Actually Happened?
The incident that unfolded on Sunday became a top trending topic in China, as one passenger onboard the United airlines flight 3411 was taken off the plane forcefully because the flight was overbooked.
The United Airlines flight which was scheduled to take off from O’Hare Airport’, Chicago was overbooked and after it was fully boarded, an in-flight announcement was made that four passengers will need to give up their seats because four United employees had to urgently travel to Louisville.
United, first offered compensations ranging from $400 to $1000 to entice people to voluntarily give up their seat on the flight. When no one took the voluntary offer, United crew used a computer program to randomly choose passengers who would be bumped off the flight. The first two passengers bumped got off the plane without much trouble , however , when Dr. David Dao’s seat was pulled by the program things did not go as well. Initially, he agreed to get off the plane, but, when he realised that they will be able to take the next flight only on Monday,which would mean he couldn’t attend to his patients the next morning, he rejected the offer.His refusal to leave the flight didn’t bode well with the airline crew, who then called security to violently drag Dr. Dao off the flight.
Many other passengers who witnessed this incident recorded it on their phones and tablets, and the video of the incident spread across the social media like wildfire.
The video recording posted by Tyler Bridges on Twitter showed that the violently removed passenger managed to get back on the flight but with blood on his face.
Take a look at what happened in the flight.
What to do if you find yourself on an overbooked flight?
Finding yourself on an overbooked flight is not an uncommon scenario these days. What’s less common is that someone is dragged off an overbooked flight because they refuse to voluntarily give up their seat.
When the airlines know that a flight is oversold, they ask for volunteers to give up their seats in return for a compensation, which is usually a monetary reward or a travel voucher along with a seat in another flight.
If you are bumped off an overbooked flight, you are paid a compensation which depends on how long the passenger is delayed.
If the airline re-books the passenger on another flight which reaches their destination within an hour of the originally scheduled flight, no compensation would be offered. However, if the arrival of the passenger is delayed by two to four hours, the airline is required to pay twice the fare to the destination as compensation.
Also, if the delay is more than 24 hours and the passenger would reach the destination the next day or even later, the compensation increases and the airline is also required to book a hotel for the passenger’s stay.
When the compensation offers don’t work and no passengers agree to de-board the flight voluntarily, airlines can deny the boarding or even bump passengers randomly .
Is it Legal?
Airlines have the right, but whether it is legal or not, bumping of passengers has become quite common. Every year, most airlines in America bump thousands of passengers.
As per the Federal rules, the compensations that airlines must pay to the passengers are clearly spelled out & the carriers are required by law to give the bumped passengers a written statement that explains their compensation rights.
Even though it is legal to provide compensation to the passengers that are bumped due to overbooking of flights, no customer deserves physical harm or forceful dragging off the flight.
Carriers have other rules too. For instance, United follows an algorithm before deciding whom to bump off the flight. It considers which passengers will face minimal delay in reaching their destination when they are bumped off. Also, they take into consideration that it should not break the family rules or bump off minors who are travelling alone.