Aviation attorney delves into why United debacle happened

Aviation lawyer on United incident

KUSA - By now, you’ve seen the video of a man being forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky. 

If you haven’t, here’s the background information: the flight over the weekend was overbooked. When no one volunteered to give up his or her seat, a manager came on the plane and said a computer would arbitrarily choose four people to be taken off the flight.

One of those four, a man, who witnesses say was yelling he was a doctor and had patients to see in the morning, was forcibly removed from his seat.

He’s seen in several videos being dragged down the aisle. Chicago’s aviation department says an O’Hare airport officer involved in the incident did not follow operating procedures and is now on leave.

United said in a tweet ‘We apologize for the overbook situation.’

Witnesses say the flight took off three hours later than planned.

There's no word on what happened to that passenger or whether he is planning any legal action.

Joseph LoRusso, an aviation attorney 9NEWS spoke with, says the big issue isn’t what was in the video, it may be what happened leading up to it.

LoRusso says the question that has come up online is whether or not airlines are allowed to overbook, and the legality of overbooking.  

There's more information about what exactly airlines can do when it comes to overbooking here.

“The issue that’s coming up from this video is whether or not it truly was an overbooking situation," LoRusso said. "Overbooking is for paid passengers, or that air carrier, so if there is an overbooking situation at that time, airlines are afforded a couple different avenues to solve that problem.”

LoRusso says United is taking the correct first steps, but the next move is even more important.

“I think this is a good time to reflect and look inward, especially on the legalities of bumping a passenger and within that – looking at what really is priority at this time," LoRusso said. "You would hope they would use some common sense and some basic understanding when choosing who to bump and by that it appears this person was a doctor who had to return to a number of patients, you’d hope they’d factor that in.”

He says the bigger problem is why this happened, not how it happened. LoRusso also says a lot of people don’t know their rights when it comes to overbooking. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation has a list on its website, which can serve as a guide to what your rights are when it comes to flying.  

“I would emphasize that you do have rights as a passenger and a lot of people don’t understand that, if you asked a plane full of people, they wouldn’t know that, tell people to look it up for themselves or consult a legal professional," LoRusso said. 

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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