Do you know what to do if you get bumped from a flight? The issue came up this week in light of an incident in which a man was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight. In videos recorded by witnesses and posted to social media, passengers and other viewers were shocked and disturbed to see the man dragged out of the plane by his arms and seemingly bleeding from the face. The reason? According to USA Today, four "must-ride" United crew members needed to board in order to crew another flight in Louisville, Ky. the next day; however, all 70 seats were already filled, and not enough people volunteered to switch to a later flight to make room for the "must-ride" passengers. The man in question had been chosen by a computer and tried to refuse, explaining that he was a doctor and had patients to get to. When he refused to leave his seat, he was removed against his will by local law enforcement.
In a statement released on Monday, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz responded to the videos, saying, "This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers." Continued Munoz, "Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened. We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve the situation."
This is an extreme situation, but it raises so many questions for anyone who flies, since getting involuntarily bumped could happen to any of us. What are your rights as a passenger if you're asked to give up your seat? What are you entitled to? What are the airline's rights? Ultimately, what do you do if you get bumped from a flight? Bustle spoke with Jay Ellenby — President and CEO of Safe Harbors Business Travel, and Chairman of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) — to get some insider information. While certain elements of your travel plans are largely out of your hands, here's what you can do to try to keep things on track.