This Sunday, April 9, 2017, image made from a video provided by Audra D. Bridges shows a passenger being removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago. Video of police officers dragging the passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight sparked an uproar Monday on social media, and a spokesman for the airline insisted that employees had no choice but to contact authorities to remove the man. (Audra D. Bridges via AP)

After the United incident, passengers should know their rights. If bumped, ask for cash.

  • Apr. 11, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Most likely, you are one of the millions who have watched the video: A United Airlines passenger is sitting in his seat on a flight from Chicago O’Hare to Louisville when along come three Chicago airport police. One of the officers drags the man down the aisle as if he were a slab of beef.

An uproar ensues over his forced removal and continues days after the Sunday event. United’s stock drops by 4 percent. On Twitter, travelers threaten to boycott the carrier. A lawsuit is a near-certainty.

“This is a black eye on the industry,” said George Hobica, president of

To a point, United was within its rights to bounce the man from the flight, thereby freeing up his seat for another passenger (in this case an employee). Read Rule 25 in the airline’s contract of carriage. According to the document, if an airline overbooks, it must ask for volunteers to relinquish their seats. The agents usually sweeten the deal with a voucher, plus, depending on the wait until the next flight, a hotel room, transportation and meal voucher. However, if no one raises their hand, the airline must deny a passenger boarding. In this scenario, the passenger is entitled to a maximum of $1,350.

“United could’ve made this go away by offering more money,” Hobica said.

Airlines can remove a passenger from the plane if the traveler exhibits aggressive or harmful behavior. But the contract does not mention roughing up a passenger because he declines to give up his seat.

“It’s denied boarding,” Hobica said of the rule. “It’s not ejecting you from your seat.”

Several authorities are investigating the debacle, including the Transportation Department and the Chicago Department of Aviation. Travelers can also learn from this unfortunate occurrence.

First, airlines bump people. All carriers, with the exception of JetBlue, oversell flights. From October to December 2016, the DOT documented nearly 9,000 denied boardings, including 891 by United.

“Maybe it’s time to rewrite the contract of carriage,” Hobica said. He also urges the industry to resuscitate Rule 240, which requires airlines to provide a displaced traveler with a seat on a different carrier.

When an airline needs a seat for another passenger or an employee, it prioritizes its customers. At the top of the don’t-bump list are passengers with disabilities and unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 as well as members of the military. Also in the protective bubble, according to Hobica: passengers who fly first- or business-class, pay a higher fare and demonstrate their loyalty to the airline as a member of a frequent-flier program. He adds that pleading your case – that you have to attend a funeral or relieve your dogsitter – is useless.

Passengers should prepare for the reality of an overbooked plane. Take a morning flight, so you have more options if you are left behind at the gate. (The Louisville flight was the last one of the day.) If you agree to relinquish your seat, accept only cash, not vouchers, which expire after a year. (If the airline rebooks you within an hour of your original flight, compensation is not required, though Hobica received $300 for losing his seat to an air marshal on a flight from New York to Los Angeles.) If the airline randomly ousts you, don’t argue. Ask for your cash and try to enjoy an extra night of vacation.


Just Posted

Blackfalds firefighter battling cancer

A volunteer firefighter in Blackfalds for 15 years, Dave Sutherland now battling… Continue reading

Red Deer transit users are concerned about the future

But recreation centre users are glad facility hours were maintained

Community cardiac awareness dinner and show to be held

Continued focus to bring cardiac catheterization lab to Red Deer

Red Deer businesses react to 2.02 per cent tax increase for 2018

Chamber would prefer zero increase, while DBA thinks it’s reasonable

Bring on the rodeo says Red Deer County mayor

Canadian Finals Rodeo’s move to Red Deer good for whole region, says Red Deer County Mayor Jim Wood

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

RDC chosen to host 2019 men’s volleyball national championship

Sports enthusiasts in Red Deer will have more to look forward to… Continue reading

Police is still looking for Second World War army passport owner

No one has claimed a rare Second World War German army passport… Continue reading

DJ Sabatoge and TR3 Band kick off Sylvan Lake’s Winterfest 2018

Central Alberta’s youngest DJ will open for TR3 Band kicking off Town… Continue reading

Two Canadians, two Americans abducted in Nigeria are freed

Kidnapping for ransom is common in Nigeria, especially on the Kaduna to Abuja highway

WATCH news on the go: Replay Red Deer Jan. 21

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

Liberals quietly tap experts to write new paternity leave rules

Ideas include creating an entirely new leave benefit similar to one that exists in Quebec

Insurers say Canadian weather getting hotter, wetter and weirder

Average number of days with heavy rain or snow across Canada has been outside norm since spring 2013

Are you ready for some wrestling? WWE’s ‘Raw’ marks 25 years

WWE flagship show is set to mark its 25th anniversary on Monday

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month