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How Did This Happen on A U.S. Flight? Could It Happen to You



by G. Brown

The viral video has left people numb wondering could they be dragged, punched and bloodied from a flight that they paid to be on?  The short answer is yes.  As we saw, it happened to a doctor on that United Airlines flight who was physically removed from his seat by police because the airlines overbooked and wanted his seat.

The Chicago to Louisville flight had more passengers than seats and  the general offer of gratuities (we’ll give you a free ticket voucher for another flight in the future if you take a later flight now) failed.  No one was willing to change their schedule around to help the airlines out of its jam caused by their own greed of overbooking.

You can hear the man wailing and screaming as police reach over to grab him out of his window seat, then drop him to the floor before dragging him to the door.  Other passengers came to his defense yelling stop…and this isn’t right.

How the unfortunate victim was chosen from a plane full of passengers isn’t clear, but people suspect because the airline profiled him for being Chinese. The man protested making it clear that he is a doctor who needed to stay on the flight to get to his destination and his patients.  He was chosen along with three other passengers.

Not just United but all airlines have the option to force “involuntary de-boarding” if they overbook, which apparently happens too often.  Delta Airlines is said to be the worst offender of the overbooking scenario, but if you’re a frequent flyer you know it can happen with any airline and you’ve probably run into the overbooking problem at least once.  By established Federal Regulations, airlines are required to ask for volunteers to give up their seats before resorting to the involuntary means.

Here’s what you need to know about your rights if you find yourself in a similar situation.

  • Airlines can offer up to $1,350 in exchange for passengers giving up their seats
  • You can be denied boarding a flight if it is already full, but for some reason all the passengers were on-board this United flight instead of being notified at check in that the flight was full.
  • The airlines can forcibly remove you legally, but the video of the United flight may leave the airlines open to legal challenges on the grounds of unnecessary force.  Still, the airline may come out on top even then since the passenger was asked to disembark and refused.

So it looks like the airlines can treat passengers anyway they want without fear of much legal retaliation.  But that doesn’t mean United gets away unscathed.

The social chatter of disgust and anger is enough to hit the airlines where it hurts…fewer passengers.  Earlier this week, #NewUnitedAirlinesMottos was the top trending topic on Twitter that in brutal, hilarious fashion went after the giant corporation.  More than a few posters thought a cultural reference to “The Walking Dead” and that infamous Negan baseball bat cliffhanger scene was more than appropriate for United.


















That last particular tweet was pretty much spot on in summing up how big airlines and giant corporations in general think of their customers. Basically they adhere to a ‘deal with it’ attitude.  You may think ‘so what, United gets dragged on social media for a while and that’s all’. But ask Pepsi about the PR fall out when publicity goes nuclear.   Speaking up through hashtags and social media may seem  and how the power of the people  can bring a corporation no matter how big to its knees when they unite.

What do you think….should airlines be barred from this type of treatment to their customers in the future? Should they not be allowed to overbook in the future? Should the man dragged from the flight sue United?  Is this kind of corporate bully behavior to be expected from now on?

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