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Flying the "Friendly Skies"? Be an Informed Consumer. Know Your Rights.

April 19, 2017


     The incident that occurred on Sunday, April 2nd aboard a United Airlines flight departing from Chicago's O'Hare to Louisville has been declared one of the worst public relations disasters in history.  And with good reason.  Let's face it:  it is unconscionable to rip a 69 year-old, paying passenger from his seat and drag him down the aisle of the plane after he has boarded the aircraft, period.  It's even more infuriating knowing that the four seats that caused the overbooking situation were needed for United crew members who were deadheading (flying as a passenger on airline business to work another flight) to the flight's final destination in Kentucky where they were to board another flight. 


     This situation could have been avoided.  There's this little thing called 'yield management'.  United knew in advance of the flight that every seat was sold, and while the airlines are permitted to oversell their seat capacity, the gate agent should never have allowed passengers to board in the first place if they were going to need seats for crew.  Offers of compensation (see below) for 'bumping' (being denied your seat even thought you have a paid ticket and a boarding pass showing a seat assignment) are generally made while the passengers are still in the waiting area preboarding.  Those being bumped are usually the last economy fares to arrive at the gate.  


     I have experienced airline gate agents offering compensation to individuals who willingly give up their seats prior to boarding the aircraft.  In fact, I have seen people go up to the gate agent and offer their seat in advance of any overbooking announcement, in lieu of compensation plus the promise of another flight leaving in a reasonable amount of time from the original one on which they were scheduled.  I am also aware that people have been denied boarding (bumped) because they are late arriving at the gate and their seats have been sold to standby passengers.  However, in my 30+ years of flying for business or leisure, I have never seen anyone forcibly removed from their seat, while already on board, due to an overbooking situation.   


     To add insult to injury, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz's two callo