United Airlines incident - legal or not?

United Airlines incident - legal or not?
(Photo Source: WLOX News)

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - The now-viral video of a United Airline passenger being dragged from a flight to make room for off duty crew members is sparking wide spread outrage.

Airports are still buzzing about the disturbing video. Family members and friends waiting for the United Airlines inbound flight from Houston Tuesday joked with each other about whether their loved ones made the flight or not.

But all jokes aside, the incident has many people wondering what their rights are as a passenger in those situations and while flying.

"That's insane to do that when someones paid for a ticket," said Cindy Lazer.

Lazer landed in Gulfport Tuesday afternoon on United Airlines Flight 3918.

"United has been bad from what everybody was saying, flights and stuff, even coming down here"

The incident seen in the video shows airport security dragging Dr. David Dao off of a flight traveling from Chicago to Louisville on Sunday.

"To just drag someone off a flight is crazy," Lazer said.

United's explanation that four passengers needed to give up their seats on that overbooked flight in order to transport four off-duty crew members needed to work an outbound flight.

"Well, why didn't they use a crew they had in Louisville already, what's wrong with that? Why didn't they just hire another crew," Lazer asked.

Even after offering up to $1,000, no one was willing to wait for the next flight; which was scheduled for 3 p.m. the following day. The airline began booting people from the flight.

"I think it's crazy. They should of just offered more money. Somebody would have obviously taken it if they offered enough money," Lazer said.

But the ongoing question - can airlines legally do that? The answer is yes.

When purchasing a ticket, fliers enter into a contract of carriage that the seat isn't guaranteed. What happened on that flight was involuntary denied boarding; a last resort. Airline officials say it happens a lot more frequently than the public realizes.

After coming under fire and releasing conflicting statements following the incident, United Airlines released a statement on Tuesday saying the airline will conduct an internal investigation into the incident.

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