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Passengers Question Rights After United Forcefully Bumps Passenger

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Shares of United Airlines stock fell in early trading Tuesday morning as the company deals with the fallout from a video that shows security officers dragging a man from an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville.

That video has since gone viral with  some on social media threatening to boycott the airline.

Doyle Davis, who was on the flight 3411, said he believes the way that the airline chose to handle it was very, very in poor taste. However, he defended those who pulled the man off of the flight.

“It is my opinion that they tried everything in their power to resolve the issue as peacefully with the least amount of violence necessary. The man just kind of ended up becoming and I don’t want to use the word belligerent because that’s not right here. He felt that his rights were being violated and I don’t necessarily disagree, that may have been the case,” said Doyle. “I do believe that the police did everything in their power to do the right thing.”

Even the White House is weighing in.

“Clearly, when you watch the video, it is troubling to see how it was handled….they have clearly stated it is their desire to review the situation, law enforcement is reviewing it,” said White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer.

Airlines are allowed to sell more tickets than seats on the plane, and they routinely overbook flights because some people do not show up.

“Whether you realize it or not, when you buy that ticket from the airline it entitles them to do certain things to you,” said Attorney David Weinstein.

Weinstein says passengers’ rights when it comes to a situation like this, is spelled out in the contract you agree to when you purchase your ticket.

“It entitles them to overbook flights. It entitles them to either voluntarily bump you or if they can’t get enough volunteers to involuntarily bump you,” said Weinstein.

It’s not unusual for airlines to offer travel vouchers to encourage people to give up their seats, and there are no rules for the process. If you’re on a flight and get bumped, here’s what you can expect.

When an airline demands that a passenger gives up a seat, the airline is required to pay double the passenger’s one-way fare, up to $675 provided the passenger is put on a flight that arrives within one to two hours of the original. The compensation rises to four times the ticket price, up to $1,350, for longer delays.

“If you don’t like those terms then either drive there, take a greyhound, take Amtrak don’t fly on an airline,” said Weinstein.

When they bump passengers, airlines are required to give those passengers a written description of their compensation rights.

The incident occurred when United tried to make room for four employees of a partner airline, meaning four people had to get off the flight.

At first, the airline asked for volunteers and offering $400 per seat. When that didn’t work, they offered $800 per passenger. When no one voluntarily came forward, United selected four passengers at random.

“If there are no takers, you should be aware that it’s lottery time and your number can come up,” said Weinstein.

Three deplaned but the fourth, a man who said he was a doctor and needed to get home to treat patients on Monday, refused.

Three men, identified later as city aviation department security officers, got on the plane. Two officers tried to reason with the man before a third came aboard and pointed at the man “basically saying, ‘Sir, you have to get off the plane,'” said Tyler Bridges, a passenger whose wife, Audra D. Bridges, posted a video on Facebook.

One of the security officers grabbed the screaming man from his window seat, across the armrest and dragging him down the aisle by his arms.

United Airlines’ parent company CEO Oscar Munoz late Monday issued a letter defending his employees, saying the passenger was being “disruptive and belligerent.”

While Munoz said he was “upset” to see and hear what happened, “our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this.”

Chicago’s aviation department said the security officer who grabbed the passenger had been placed on leave.

Weinstein said the airport police were well within their right to remove the passenger. The question now centers on how it was done and the amount of force used.  Passengers say there was an easier way to get the same results with out all the attention.

“Just pay the guy more money…Give the space up,” said passenger Sheryl White.

Last year, United forced 3,765 people off oversold flights and another 62,895 United passengers volunteered to give up their seats, probably in exchange for travel vouchers. That’s out of more than 86 million people who boarded a United flight in 2016, according to government figures. United ranks in the middle of U.S. carriers when it comes to bumping passengers.

Click here for more information on your flying rights. 

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