Airlines Couldn’t Bump Passengers Under Proposed Maryland Legislation

Viral video of United Airlines passenger who suffered a concussion, broken nose and other injuries when he was forcibly removed from a Chicago-to-Louisville flight on Sunday, April 9, by aviation security officers ignited a week’s worth of customer backlash for the airlines, and has fliers and elected officials — including Maryland’s Sen. Chris Van Hollen and state Sen. Jim Rosapepe — questioning whether an airline should have the right to bump a paying passenger off a flight. Dr. David Dao was one of four people randomly chosen to be bumped from United flight 3411 out of O’Hare International Airport so that airline employees could fly.

According to Annapolis Patch,

Both lawmakers say they are working on bills to forbid airlines from removing passengers from planes, an action U.S. airlines do routinely, although usually without physical altercations like the one in Chicago. While federal law prohibits smoking on flights and other actions, many rules are left to airlines to determine and enforce, and passengers agree to those terms in a contract of carriage when they buy a ticket, USA Today reports.

Dao was one of four people randomly chosen to be bumped from the Chicago-to-Louisville flight so that airline employees could fly. Dao was forcibly dragged down the plane’s aisle by the Chicago Aviation Police when he refused to give up his seat. Three officers have been placed on administrative leave as the Chicago Department of Aviation, which oversees the airport security force, reviews their roles in the incident.

Senator Jim Rosapepe (D, College Park) said Monday he is drafting state legislation to bar Maryland Transportation Authority Police from doing the same at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, if the ticketed passenger is not a threat to public safety.

“This is about common decency and fair play,” said Rosapepe in a statement. “If the airline wants to use a seat you’ve paid for — and are sitting in — they should pay you fair market value for it, not commandeer local law enforcement to haul you away.”

He said his state bill complements Van Hollen’s (D, Md) Customers Not Cargo Act of 2017, which would amend federal law to protect passengers across the country. Van Hollen’s bill would prohibit airlines from forcibly removing passengers from airplanes when there is no public safety threat. Instead, airlines must provide sufficient incentives to encourage passengers to voluntarily deplane, he said. While United officials reportedly offered passengers on its overbooked flight $800 to give up their seats, not enough did, which led to police removing Dao, an action Van Hollen said “should never happen.”

In the wake of the United debacle, the airline has announced it will no longer use local police to enforce their business interests rather than public safety. Delta has raised compensation to voluntarily bumped passengers to up to $10,000.

The state bill will be introduced the next time the Maryland General Assembly meets, either in a special session or in next January.

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