Forcible Removal From Aircraft Could Happen To Any Of Us

Video Shows Guards Dragging Passenger Off United Flight

PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — The video of Chicago airport security dragging an innocent passenger off a United Airlines flight is shocking.

And it could happen to anyone.

You buy a ticket, get a boarding pass and seat assignment, strap in awaiting takeoff, and then airport security officials yank you from your seat just because you won’t volunteer to give it up on the airline’s command.

“Scary, scary,” said one airline passenger at Pittsburgh International Airport on Monday.

“If they are already booked, they [the airlines] should not be doing that,” said another person.

But that’s exactly what United Airlines did on Flight 3411 from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday, forcing off four paying passengers to make room for their own airline personnel.

KDKA’s Jon Delano Reports:

The problem is that too many airlines like United are deliberately overbooking their flights, and then when they ask for volunteers to give up their seats, they are not making their offer attractive enough to get any volunteers. That leads to the forcible removal of paying customers.

And believe it or not, it’s legal.

“The passenger has to obey the instructions of the flight crew,” Paul Hudson of FlyersRights.com told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Monday.

Hudson says it’s shocking but true and the airlines are to blame for increasingly over-booking their flights.

“Normally, these things are taken care of by volunteers, but if airlines won’t offer a sufficient compensation, they will not get volunteers,” says Hudson.

Out at the airport, there was one sign warning about overbooking and bumping, and United will provide a brochure on this on request.

While federal aviation rules won’t protect customers from removal, you could be entitled to up to $1,350 if travel is significantly delayed.

And then there’s always this.

Delano: “Would you fly United?”

Customer: “No.”

Not all airlines overbook, so it may pay to check out those that do and don’t.

This is a major embarrassment to United Airlines, but so far it has only apologized for overbooking and not for the mistreatment of its customer.

United Continental Holdings Inc. CEO Oscar Munoz said in a statement Monday that the incident late Sunday, which was caught on video, is “upsetting to all of us here at United.”

In a related development, the Chicago Aviation Department says the security official who dragged the customer down the aisle has been placed on leave.

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(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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