BIRMINGHAM, Alabama. United Airlines may face several lawsuits as a result of its policies and practices for bumping passengers off overbooked flights. When a passenger was filmed being forcefully dragged off a United Airlines flight, the video led to public outrage and serious backlash for the airline. According to the New York Times, the passenger’s lawyer claims that, in the incident, the man suffered a broken nose, knocked out teeth, and has since suffered sinus problems that may require reconstructive surgery. The passenger’s lawyer claims that a “culture of disrespect” has led to more incidents similar to the one that resulted in United’s public relations disaster. Yet, part of the problem stems from the fact that passengers may not always know their rights when they are being bumped from an overbooked flight.
According to CNN, airlines often overbook flights. In most cases, some passengers don’t show up, allowing airlines to make money and ensure that everyone gets a seat. But, when all passengers show up to their flights, airlines may face a situation where they don’t have enough seats. In most cases, the airline will announce that the flight is overbooked and ask passengers to give up their seats in exchange for vouchers. However, CNN reports that sometimes volunteers may get less than they are entitled to receive than if they are bumped. Vouchers may have limitations and expiration dates and, once you volunteer, you are bound to the terms of the deal. However, if you are bumped, airlines must offer you cash and must find you another flight.
Carriers that need to bump passengers must follow federal law. If they cannot get you to your destination within one hour of your estimated arrival time, they are required to pay. If you arrive one to two hours late, you may be entitled to cash that is double your fare. If you are over two hours late, you may be entitled to compensation that is 400% of the fare. You have the right to demand a check instead of a flight voucher. If you are offered flight vouchers, remember that they could have expiration dates, limitations on holiday flights, and must only be used with the airline.
Finally, if you feel your rights have been seriously infringed, don’t cash your check right away. For instance, if the cost of your bumped flight exceeds what you are paid, you always have the right to sue, but only if you don’t cash the check. If you have been injured on a flight, or suffered a loss due to being bumped off a flight, you have rights.
Passengers should never be forcibly removed from a flight unless they are posing a danger to others around them. There have been conflicting reports about whether the removed passenger on United was acting aggressively before he was removed. However, according to Fortune, another woman is suing United, claiming that she was asked to move to a downgraded seat, without explanation. She claims she was physically moved and not told her rights. She is pursuing $150,000 in punitive damages.
Airlines are subject to federal laws and regulations. If you have suffered an injury on a flight or suffered losses due to the actions of an airline, you may have important rights. Marshall P. Whalley & Associates are personal injury lawyers who are closely watching how airlines’ policies adapt in the wake of recent incidents.