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Passenger forced from overbooked flight; what are the rules?

Photo: MGN/Pixabay

Video of a man being forcibly pulled off a United Airlines flight is going viral. The video shows police officers pulling a man from his seat and down the aisle of the plane after he was bumped from the flight and refused to get off the plane.

United Airlines says, they were trying to make room for four employees on the overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville , but what does that mean?

According to the Department of Transportation's website, "most airlines overbook their scheduled flights to a certain extent in order to compensate for "no-shows."' When a flight is overbooked, the Department of Transportation requires airlines to ask people to voluntarily give up their seats in exchange for compensation.

In the case of United Airlines Flight 3411, no one volunteered to give up their seat, so the airline selected four people to leave the plane, according to a report by the Courier-Journal in Louisville.

In a phone interview with the Associated Press, Charles Hobart, a United Airlines spokesman said, the airline followed the right procedures.

Below is part of the Contract of Carriage Document listed on United Airlines website. The Contract of Carriage is what passengers accept upon purchase of a ticket. The document lists the company's guidelines on how to handle situations in which passengers are 'Denied Boarding Compensation':

"Denied Boarding (U.S.A./Canadian Flight Origin) - When there is an Oversold UA flight that originates in the U.S.A. or Canada, the following provisions apply:

Request for Volunteers - UA will request Passengers who are willing to relinquish their confirmed reserved space in exchange for compensation in an amount determined by UA (including but not limited to check or an electronic travel certificate). The travel certificate will be valid only for travel on UA or designated Codeshare partners for one year from the date of issue and will have no refund value. If a Passenger is asked to volunteer, UA will not later deny boarding to that Passenger involuntarily unless that Passenger was informed at the time he was asked to volunteer that there was a possibility of being denied boarding involuntarily and of the amount of compensation to which he/she would have been entitled in that event. The request for volunteers and the selection of such person to be denied space will be in a manner determined solely by UA.

Boarding Priorities - If a flight is Oversold, no one may be denied boarding against his/her will until UA or other carrier personnel first ask for volunteers who will give up their reservations willingly in exchange for compensation as determined by UA. If there are not enough volunteers, other Passengers may be denied boarding involuntarily in accordance with UA’s boarding priority:

Passengers who are Qualified Individuals with Disabilities, unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 years, or minors between the ages of 5 to 15 years who use the unaccompanied minor service, will be the last to be involuntarily denied boarding if it is determined by UA that such denial would constitute a hardship.

The priority of all other confirmed passengers may be determined based on a passenger’s fare class, itinerary, status of frequent flyer program membership, and the time in which the passenger presents him/herself for check-in without advanced seat assignment."

When it comes to compensation, the Contract of Carriage states United Airlines will pay passengers denied boarding a flat rate of 200% of the fare with a maximum $675 if the airline offers alternate transportation is planned to arrive at the passenger's destination between one and two hours after the original flight. If the alternate transportation is more than two hours after the planned arrival, the airline will compensate passengers 400% of the fare with a maximum $1,350. There are exceptions.

Other airlines have their own policies when it comes to overbooked flights.

To lessen the likelihood that you would be bumped from your next flight, make sure to check in as soon as the window opens. That is usually 24 hours in advance.


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