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United Airlines incident: Know your rights on an overbooked flight

CHICAGO, Ill. -

United Airlines officials are left picking up the pieces after officers with Chicago’s Department of Aviation were videotaped dragging a passenger from an overbooked flight Sunday.

United express flight 3411 was fully boarded and set to depart from O’Hare International Airport when crew members needed to board the same flight to make it to Louisville.

As you know, this video is trending and has people asking ‘how can they do that?’

Well, some of it’s all in the fine print. According to United’s Airlines policies, all flights are subject to overbooking. This can actually result in you losing your seat.

If certain circumstances like what happened on Sunday arise, this is when employees begin their process of passenger elimination according to the contract of carriage that is included when you buy that ticket. 

In rule 25, which lays out why passengers can be denied boarding, airline staff are required to  go through a list of procedures to deal with overbooking.

1. If a flight is oversold, no passenger can be denied boarding against his or her will until airline staff asks for volunteers to give up their seat willingly for compensation. 

2. According to the Boarding Priorities section, if there aren’t enough volunteers, that’s when united staff will begin denying passengers involuntarily, denying them travel.
The airline cannot deny seating to minors or individuals with disabilities.

3. The airline will move on to providing transportation for passengers denied boarding. If the airline is overbooked, their policy states that united will provide transportation without stopover on its next flight to convince you to give up your current seat.

4. If that doesn’t work, under certain circumstances, the airline will pay compensation to the passenger on the overbooked flight at either 200% of the fare to their first stopover, or 675 US dollars and transportation arrangements.

But even if the flight is not overbooked, take a look at Rule 21: Refusal of Transport. It states that United has the right to refuse transportation or to remove any passenger from the plane for several reasons including failure to comply with the contract, which is what United Airlines says happened Sunday.

So with summer travel season on the horizon, you may want to know the rules.

Click here for the link to that United Airlines contract as well as other flight contracts below.

Delta Airlines contract

Spirit Airlines contract

Southwest Airlines contract

JetBlue Airlines contract

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