Society

Congress To Ban Airlines From Removing Passengers

| by Jordan Smith
UnitedAirlinesPlaneUnitedAirlinesPlane

Both chambers of Congress are working on legislation that would prohibit airlines from forcibly removing passengers from a flight.

The bills, which enjoy bipartisan support in the House and Senate, were initiated in the wake of a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines flight in April, The Hill reports.

Republicans have long opposed regulating the airline industry, but some appear to have changed their mind following the United episode.

"We'd like the airlines to understand what they should be doing on their own for consumer protections that are reasonable, rational and common sense," Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, who chairs the sub-committee on air transportation, told The Hill on June 22. "And if they don't do it on their own, we're going to help them out."

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In April, security officers forcibly removed a 69-year-old passenger from a United Airlines flight. The man suffered several broken teeth, a concussion and a broken nose. He reached a settlement with the airline for compensation.

"I believe [the United incident] did play a role" in bringing about agreement on the Federal Aviation Administration legislation, Republican Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said.

The FAA legislation in the Senate is based on measures drafted by Democratic Sen, Al Franken of Minnesota. It would require airlines to specify their policies related to overbooking flights and bumping passengers on each passenger's flight itinerary or other direct communication.

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"I knew we had to come together to make sure that this kind of outrageous action can never happen again," added Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland. "We worked on a bipartisan, bicameral basis on this issue, and I’m pleased that this common-sense idea is in the proposed FAA bill. I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that it is in the final law."

However, airline chiefs maintain more regulations are not necessary. United and American Airlines have announced they will no longer forcibly remove passengers after they have boarded a flight.

According to some in the airline industry, the strong reaction to the United incident has resulted in some less welcome developments.

"A lot of flight attendants feel uncomfortable performing essential job functions and responsibilities because one angry person can change our employment status," a flight attendant told TIME.

"Just about every other flight, I would have a passenger make a reference to the United Airways incident, and be like, 'Well, you guys are always saying, please fasten your seatbelt, put up your tray tables, pull your seat back forward. What if I don't? Are you going to drag me off the plane like they did on United?'" added another flight attendant.

Sources: The Hill, TIME / Photo credit: Adam Moreira/Wikimedia Commons, Seth Johnson/Wikimedia Commons

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