The controversy surrounding the removal of passengers from United flight 3411 earlier this week continues to grow. There wasn’t a ton of outcry early on when I posted about it. Things got much louder on Twitter overnight (and a whole lot of other places). I decided to weigh in with some more clarity on key issues here.
Some commenters on that post brought up some interesting points:
” RULE 21 REFUSAL OF TRANSPORT
UA shall have the right to refuse to transport or shall have the right to remove from the aircraft at any point, any Passenger for the following reasons: …”
None of those terms apply in this situation. Getting a crew to a destination in not a valid reason to remove a passenger.
At the risk of getting attacked (or being called a fellow nazi, etc)….I’ve been in this situation many times, as I’m sure most frequent flyers have been. It sucks, but it seems the most outraged folks maybe fly once or twice a year and don’t get the realities – especially as you indicated,on the return route crew, etc. I also find it amazing that all the other passengers had no issue pulling out their phones to record all of this activity, yet (and making an assumption here) when the gate agents announced a need for volunteers, not one came forward. So the agents had to choose someone themselves. Seeing the activity unfold, those same passengers did not stand up and say ‘this is awful, I’ll just get off and take their deal’. Personally, I believe the ‘fellow passengers’ have some culpability here. Again…..expecting that I get some blowback for this sentiment.
Iolaire brings up another point about timing:
Ed, do you really think the boarding pass was voided at the time of removal? i.e. was it verbally voided or if we look at the time stamp in the reservation system was it voided prior to law enforcement coming to remove him? That’s an interesting thing to think of, did he actually hold a voided ticket or was he just not following the instructions of crew…
Lots of issues at hand here. Before we get too much deeper, I think it’s clear there is no clear answer here. This is likely something that will need to be settled by the courts. I imagine United agrees to a private settlement offer long before it gets in front of a judge. In a way, that’s a bit of a shame as it would be good to have some clarity.
I think both Felix and Ben bring up a good point. This passenger may not have been denied boarding. If it was determined he was a properly boarded passenger, this may be refusal of transport. I don’t believe that’s the case, but I’m trying to look at the issue from all sides.
I think a good lawyer would argue the following points of “refusal of transport” apply:
- Passengers whose conduct is disorderly, offensive, abusive, or violent;
- Passengers who fail to comply with or interfere with the duties of the members of the flight crew, federal regulations, or security directives;
- Passengers who, through and as a result of their conduct, cause a disturbance such that the captain or member of the cockpit crew must leave the cockpit in order to attend to the disturbance;
The counter argument is that he only became belligerent because of United’s illegal action to remove him. I think a more valid argument to have is whether he was a “Passenger” (capital P) at the time of the incident. United defines a passenger as follows:
Passenger means any person, except members of the crew, carried or holding a confirmed reservation to be carried in an aircraft with the consent of the carrier.
Did he have a confirmed reservation at the time he was removed? Probably. Was it with the consent of the carrier? Probably not. Am I a lawyer? Nope.
I suspect that the time of his removal, he was no longer a Capital P Passenger. None of us really have that information. United probably does, but I doubt we’ll ever see a published timeline or proof of such from them.
The Final Two Pennies
There’s a reasonable chance Felix is correct here. This is an edge scenario that requires a detailed reading of the Contract of Carriage. Was United at fault for removing the passenger as “refusal of transport”?
I cited Matt’s comment above because it really does encompass the whole issue in an interesting way. Folks are blaming United for not reacting better at the time. As we parse the issue further, it’s possible United may have acted in a way that their Contract of Carriage didn’t allow. But, Matt’s point is that the passengers could have stepped up to settle the situation. I’m not sure I’d blame the passengers, nor do I think Matt is advocating doing so.
Rather, I think he’s trying to say that at the point someone looks like they’re going to get carried off an airplane for something they didn’t do, everyone involved probably could have found a little better way to handle the situation.
The post Was United Actually Within Their Rights To Remove Passengers From Flight 3411? was published first on Pizza in Motion