On April 9, 2017 United Airlines reminded us how paying passengers are just cargo. A man who was boarded, seated, and ready to fly home from Chicago’s O’Hare to Louisville, Kentucky was dragged off the aircraft by thugs of the Chicago Aviation Security Department. Since then, UA apologists have made reference to a “contract of carriage” which (allegedly) authorized the airline’s rude ejection of a paying passenger to make room for some United employees who wanted or needed to reach Louisville.
Here is a link to the United Airlines Contract of Carriage:
You will note among the “definitions” the following description of “oversold:”
“Oversold Flight means a flight where there are more Passengers holding valid confirmed Tickets that check-in for the flight within the prescribed check-in time than there are available seats.”
Then there is Contract Rule 21 for “Refusal of Transport.” Rule 21 provides in part that:
“UA shall have the right…to remove from the aircraft…any Passenger…”
The reasons justifying a Rule 21 removal are related to failure to pay, safety, and (bad) behavior. As for the ill-fated Louisville passenger, all accounts describe him as well-behaved until he began yelling to protest his removal from the flight. Accordingly, Rule 21 does not authorize what was witnessed on cell phone video.
More popular with UA apologists than Rule 21 is Contract Rule 25 titled “Denied Boarding Compensation” and pertaining to “Oversold” flights. According to UA Contract Rule 25:
“When there is an Oversold UA flight that originates in the U.S.A. or Canada, the following provisions apply:”
The Rule then describes how “volunteers” may be awarded compensation for relinquishing “confirmed reserved space” and how boarding may nonetheless be involuntarily denied a ticketed passenger. There is no part of Contract Rule 25 that addresses the forcible removal of a ticketed passenger who has already boarded and taken his seat.
Was the United flight even “Oversold?” The UA flight crew solicited volunteers to give up their seats to other UA employees who sought passage to Louisville. There is no claim that the hitchhiking UA employees had purchased tickets.
Why were all the passengers allowed to board when denial of boarding is the less objectionable remedy? The reasonable inference is that the passengers were allowed to board through the incompetence of UA representatives or, similarly, that the request for crew transport to Louisville came at the last minute.
The brutal, involuntary removal of the (as yet unnamed) Louisville passenger is seen by this Blogger as in breach of contract; tortious; and criminal. The CLB anxiously awaits the filing of criminal charges against the aviation security thugs who carried out this crime against the person and the UA representatives who aided and abetted the offense.
Addendum of April 12, 2017. Since the writing of this Article one day ago the unfortunate Louisville passenger has been identified as Dr. David Dao, whose interesting personal history is irrelevant to the crime committed against him. Moreover (since yesterday), United now concedes that the flight in question was not “oversold” in that the disputed four passenger seats were intended for the transport of a United flight crew that had business in Louisville the following day. Beware the United apologists who still maintain that an airline can forcibly remove a ticketed, boarded, seated passenger for no reason other than the airline’s convenience.