What are your rights: Can you be kicked off of an overbooked flight?

Posted at 11:14 PM, Apr 10, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-10 23:14:05-04

The viral video of a man in Chicago, being dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight, has some travelers wondering what are their passenger rights?

Passengers were offered an $800 voucher after it was announced four travelers need to leave the overbooked plane.

When nobody volunteered to leave, three passengers were asked to leave and left without incident.

A fourth passenger refused to leave and had to be dragged out by a security team, later triggering an apology from United Airlines.

Cleveland Better Business Bureau President Sue McConnell pointed to Department of Transportation guidelines which make it clear airlines have the right to forcibly remove passengers if not enough of them voluntarily leave the plane.

McConnell said passengers are also entitled to specific compensation if they're bumped off of a flight, based on if their arrival is delayed an hour or more.

"Each airline has their own way of determining who they will voluntarily bump," said McConnell

"They may bump the people that paid the lowest amount for the fares.  Others may determine it by how early you checked in."

"The Department of Transportation actually has some very good information on its website that explains how much you're entitled to depending on when you're actually going to get scheduled destination."

Katherine Chapdelaine of Denver, in Cleveland on business, told News 5 she's voluntarily left several overbooked flights but believes federal guidelines need to changed.

"I don't think anyone should ever be forcibly taken off the plane,' said Chapdelaine.

"I mean they're paying passengers.  What about customer service right?  The customers always come first."

The Department of Transportation issued the following guidelines when it comes to compensation for passengers who are delayed to their destination by more than hour, due to an overbooked flight:

"DOT requires each airline to give all passengers who are bumped involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn't. Those travelers who don't get to fly are frequently entitled to denied boarding compensation in the form of a check or cash. The amount depends on the price of their ticket and the length of the delay:

•If you are bumped involuntarily and the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to get you to your final destination (including later connections) within one hour of your original scheduled arrival time, there is no compensation.

•If the airline arranges substitute transportation that is scheduled to arrive at your destination between one and two hours after your original arrival time (between one and four hours on international flights), the airline must pay you an amount equal to 200% of your one-way fare to your final destination that day, with a $675 maximum.

•If the substitute transportation is scheduled to get you to your destination more than two hours later (four hours internationally), or if the airline does not make any substitute travel arrangements for you, the compensation doubles (400% of your one-way fare, $1350 maximum).

•If your ticket does not show a fare (for example, a frequent-flyer award ticket or a ticket issued by a consolidator), your denied boarding compensation is based on the lowest cash, check or credit card payment charged for a ticket in the same class of service (e.g., coach, first class) on that flight.

•You always get to keep your original ticket and use it on another flight. If you choose to make your own arrangements, you can request an "involuntary refund" for the ticket for the flight you were bumped from. The denied boarding compensation is essentially a payment for your inconvenience.

•If you paid for optional services on your original flight (e.g., seat selection, checked baggage) and you did not receive those services on your substitute flight or were required to pay a second time, the airline that bumped you must refund those payments to you.