Video of passenger being dragged off airline makes travelers rethink their rights

United Airlines issued a statement Tuesday.
Video of passenger being dragged off airline makes travelers rethink their rights

A video depicting a United Airlines passenger being dragged off a flight has sparked backlash across the country as people question what rights they have as passengers.

On Sunday night, United Airlines asked for volunteers to get bumped from a flight traveling from Chicago, Illinois to Louisville, Kentucky. The airline said it needed to make room for airline employees, and even offered $800 flight vouchers as incentive. When no one gave up their seat, four passengers were selected at random. Dr. David Dao was one of them.

Though it is legal for an airline to bump passengers from its flights, travel expert Steve Danishek believes the situation on the United Express Flight 3411 could have been handled differently.

“The protocol for this situation broke down horribly. But the protocol usually works. So, they’re going to have to understand why it didn’t happen this time and who’s at fault,” Danishek said.

When people agree to purchase a ticket from an airline, they are essentially entering into a contract with the airline and agreeing to a long list of terms and conditions called a “Contract of Carriage”, though Danishek said people rarely read the fine print.

“That is the binding document here. Once you click that button, that binds you.”

These terms are not exclusive to United Airlines. Danishek said all airlines typically overbook their flights in the event some passengers don’t show up.

But not all travelers are against this policy. Judy and Arlen Bright are frequent travelers. On Tuesday morning, they were at Tri-Cities Airport getting ready to board a flight back to Green Bay, Wisconsin.

“We have four flights today, I hope one of them gets bumped,” said Judy Bright.

The couple said they are usually open to taking free vouchers from airlines in exchange for their seats.

“The guy was being unreasonable, said Arlen Bright in response to the video of Dao. “Plus, I heard it got up to 800 dollars… that’s not a bad deal.”

Travel experts advise people to join an airline’s loyalty program to avoid being bumped off their flight. Danishek said airlines will usually bypass first class passengers, mileage members, and partner mileage members first.