United Airlines passengers in Nashville question passengers' rig - WSMV News 4

United Airlines passengers in Nashville question passengers' rights

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

After watching this video of Kentucky Dr. David Dao being dragged off of an oversold United Airlines flight for refusing to give up his seat, many United passenger say the incident left a bad impression.

"It was awful," said Sally Maison, who was flying United in Nashville. "I was appalled, and for some funny reason I wasn’t surprised.”

"That could’ve happened to anybody, and a little communication would’ve went a lot further," said Ivan Cuevas, who was also flying United in Nashville on Wednesday.

Initially, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz, who was named PR Week’s Communicator of the Year, blamed the passenger for being belligerent, setting off a social media firestorm.

"Total insensitivity," Massingale said about the company's original response. "We’re paying for your business to be there. You’re here to serve us. You’re not serving us."

But Tuesday, Munoz apologized saying it was a "horrific event." He vowed to take full responsibility and work to make it right.

The incident has left many passengers wondering what rights they have when they've paid for a flight that's been oversold.

"You’re an airline. You sell airline tickets. I buy an airline ticket. I should be able to get on your plane," Maison said.

Many would think that’s the case, but it's actually legal for airlines to overbook, and many airlines do. But the U.S. Department of Transportation requires that airlines ask for volunteers before bumping passengers to another flight. Airlines are supposed to explain to passengers why they’re being bumped, and should offer a cash option as well as a voucher if you volunteer to take a later flight.

Aviation attorney Keith Williams said there are still rules to rebooking passengers who are bumped from oversold flights.

"If the flyer is two hours late getting to their destination, the airline has to pay double what that airline fee with a cap up to $675," Williams said. "If it’s over two hours late, then the airline has to pay 400 percent of the original ticket," he added. That cap is just over $1,000.

Aviation attorneys tell Channel 4 it’s important to read the fine print on tickets because some may have clauses that mention the possibility of being on an oversold flight.

The FAA said passengers can fined for refusing to get off a flight.

Munoz said in a statement Tuesday:

It’s never too late to do the right thing. I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement. We’ll communicate the results of our review by April 30th.

I promise you we will do better.

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