United To Pay Compensation To Plane Passengers, But What Rights Do You Have?

PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA/AP) – United says passengers on United Express Flight 3411 are getting compensation equal to the cost of their tickets.

United spokeswoman Megan McCarthy said Wednesday that the passengers can take the compensation in cash, travel credits or miles.

Flight 3411 on Sunday night from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, was sold out and passengers were in their seats when the airline said it needed to find room for four crew members who were commuting to their next assignment, a United Express flight in Louisville.

A 69-year-old passenger who did not want to give up his seat wound up being dragged off the plane by security officers. United CEO Oscar Munoz has apologized for the incident, and he vowed Wednesday that it will never happen again.

But what rights do you have as an airline passenger?

Caitlin Driscoll with the Better Business Bureau of Western Pennsylvania tells the “KDKA Morning News” that airline passengers have rights, but it depends on what airline you use.

“As an airline passenger, you essentially agree to follow that airline’s rule and standards which may vary from airline to airline and this makes it so important to read and understand the fine print before purchasing a ticket,” says Driscoll.

Driscoll says the BBB receives questions on whether or not overbooking flights is a legal practice. She explains it is.

“This is a common practice utilized by many airlines in order for them to help completely fill seats of an aircraft. Unfortunately, as in [the United Airlines] incident…in some cases, passengers are left behind or bumped as a result,” she said.

There are policies that are mandated by the Department of Transportation that need to be followed by airlines when someone is bumped off an overbooked flight.

“If a flight is overbooked, airlines are required to ask for volunteers first to give up their seats in exchange for compensation. However, the form or amount of compensation isn’t mandated,” Driscoll says.,

She adds if you volunteer to be bumped in exchange for compensation to ask about any restrictions, including expiration dates.

If a passenger is not voluntarily bumped, Driscoll says, “The Department of Transportation does require each airline to provide a written statement describing the passenger’s rights and also how the carrier decided who gets on an oversold flight and who does not.”

More information can be found at www.bbb.org/pittsburgh/

Listen to the “KDKA Morning News” with Larry Richert and John Shumway weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on NewsRadio 1020 KDKA.

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