The recent video of a passenger being pulled off an airplane in Chicago is disturbing, to say the least. While we don’t know all the sides to the story yet, there should never be a situation in which a non-violent individual gets to the point of having to be dragged off an airplane.
Ultimately, while the airline is responsible for getting the passenger to their destination, under the airline’s contract of carriage there is some flexibility about HOW and WHEN that actually happens. You can review United’s contract of carriage on their own website. I’m sure an attorney can find justification somewhere in there, but upon first glance I can’t see where it says it’s okay to randomly select people to toss off the plane. Passengers can be denied boarding if the flight is oversold, and they must be advised that they may be subject to being denied boarding due to the oversold situation, and must, at a minimum, will be offered transportation on it s next available nonstop flight. Passengers can also be offered compensation and booked on the next flight at the discretion of the carrier.
There are reasons for being taken off the flight, usually related to safety, security, or health and ultimately the captain, as the pilot-in-command, has the final authority as to who can and can’t be on the flight. While the passenger has paid for a seat, that seat is on a conveyance operated by a business, not the government.
The police in this matter don’t have the discretion to tell the airline to allow the passenger to stay on board. It’s similar to someone being in a business and refusing to leave the premises after being asked. When the business owner calls the police and asked to have someone removed from the business owner’s property, the police remove them from the property in order to get compliance with the law. I do wonder about the technique the security/police personnel used, as there are several come-along holds that can get someone to comply but I wasn’t on scene and don’t know exactly what happened, so I can’t speak to the technique one way or the other. I hope at the end of the investigation that will surely follow, that this was just a bad decision made by an individual and not company policy.
Businesses generally have the right to refuse service, but this situation is extreme to say the least and the airline needs to not only make this right, but figure out a workable solution for the oversold situation or else the public will demand that Congress take action like they did with the tarmac delay rule.
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