Passengers' rights when a flight is overbooked

April 10, 2017: Cell phone video of a United Airlines passenger being forcibly removed from a plane is raising questions about passengers' rights on an overbooked flight.

A disturbing video spreading on social media of a man being forcibly removed from a United Airline flight headed from Chicago to Louisville on April 9 is causing concern among passengers arriving in East Tennessee. 

"I wouldn't want to be sitting there while he's getting dragged down the aisle, screaming," said Jeffrey Alpert, a passenger at McGhee Tyson Airport. "And I wouldn't want my kids to see that either."

The video shows a man being dragged down the aisle of an airplane after United Airlines overbooked a flight, and witnesses say no one volunteered to give up their seat. 

"As a passenger who's been asked before to get off an airplane, you know, you've paid your fare," said John Razmus, another airline passenger. "You've paid your ticket. You don't want to give up that seat." 

Stephanie Milani, the Tennessee public affairs director for AAA-The Auto Club Group, said the airline does have the right to bump passengers in an overbook situation. 

"You think that you have paid for this ticket and that guarantees you a spot on the airplane," Milani said, "but the airline does have the right to bump a passenger." 

MORE: What rights do overbooked fliers have? Not many.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, overbooking is not illegal, and airlines use this practice to make up for "no-shows." 

Milani said the airline must ask for volunteers to give up their seats first, and she said this may be the time when a passenger has the most bargaining power. 

"If you wanted to get reimbursed for overnight expenses, for a meal or hotel, you may be able to do that if you volunteer," she said. 

However, if no one volunteers, the airline can start involuntarily bumping people off the flight. 

Milani said the airline is required to give the passengers a written statement with their rights and a statement describing how they choose who is booked or not booked on an oversold flight. 

To avoid being the one bumped from a flight, Milani recommends arriving early at the airport, checking in for the flight online or through an app and buying travel insurance.

"They go by the same fare, and it is the last person who checks in is typically the first person to get bumped off of the flight," she said. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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