Let’s talk about the United Debacle (And What to Do if It Happens to You)

Hi Travel Junkies,

By now I am going to assume you have seen the recent video of a man being literally dragged off a United flight from Chicago to Louisville.

Here’s the video for those of you who haven’t.

I was hesitant to even discuss this on the blog, as it has been analyzed to death, but the recent tone-deaf response from United Airlines has prompted me to say something.

First let’s quickly review the details:

  • United Airlines flight 3411 was scheduled to fly from Chicago O’Hare to Louisville on Sunday evening.
  • United claims they had an overbooked situation because they needed to transport 4 crewmembers to Louisville for a flight the next day. Failure to transport the crew could have resulted in future flight delays and cancellations.
  • United offered passengers on the plane $400 vouchers and then $800 vouchers to give up their seats. Nobody volunteered.
  • United claims they “randomly selected” 4 passengers for involuntary denied boarding and asked them to deplane. One of the four passengers selected refused to deplane, saying that he “was a doctor and had patients waiting for him”.
  • United gate agents decided to call the aviation police to assist in removing the man from the plan. Which you see in the above video.
  • The flight eventually departed after a 2 hour delay.

Technically United has the law on their side here. By purchasing a ticket with United you are agreeing to their contract of carriage, which offers them the right to remove passengers at their discretion.

United is then required by law to compensate these displaced passengers depending on the length of their delay and the price of their ticket.

The reason things got so out of hand in this case is because all of the passengers had already boarded the plane. So rather than simply preventing passengers from boarding, United had to physically remove some of them from the plane. Which is never a good look.

United also claims to have rules against offering more than $800 in compensation in exchange for bumping from your flight. Which was certainly a factor here as well. Certainly someone would have volunteered when the offer went to $1,000+.


What to Do If This Happens to You

10xT Contributor Luke Sims recently dealt with this situation when his wife was denied boarding on a flight home to New York City.

You can check out his article here for more information on how to handle this situation.

Put simply, when you find yourself in this situation you need to 1) not voluntarily accept being denied boarding and 2) comply with any crewmember instructions.

By doing these two things you will (hopefully) prevent yourself from being physically harmed and remain eligible for compensation from the airline.

You can also protect yourself by using a card such as Chase Sapphire Preferred to pay for your airfare, which offers trip interruption insurance for situations just like this.


Here’s to hoping this man is properly compensated by United for the physical harm and embarrassment he was subjected to. And here’s to hoping United learns from this incident and gets back to helping their customers “fly the friendly skies”.


Happy Travels,


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