Bill Introduced to Protect Fliers from Being Violently Dragged Off Planes

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Bill Introduced to Protect Fliers from Being Violently Dragged Off Planes

'Airlines and corporations clearly are not people, because if they were, a number of them would have been arrested and prosecuted'

The Customers Not Cargo Act was drafted after a viral video over the weekend showed police officers violently dragging a man off of a United Airlines flight because he refused to give up his seat for crew members. (Photo: Alec Wilson/flickr/cc)

File this under "bafflingly necessary."

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) on Wednesday introduced legislation that would prohibit airline carriers from forcibly removing passengers from flights that are overbooked, oversold, or in the case of crew wanting to travel as passengers. Instead, the companies would be required to offer appropriate incentives to encourage volunteers.

The Customers Not Cargo Act was drafted after a viral video over the weekend showed police officers violently dragging a man off of a United Airlines flight because he refused to give up his seat for crew members.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter, Van Hollen described the footage as brutal and urged lawmakers to co-sponsor the bill.

"We were all shocked and outraged this week when United Airlines forcibly and brutally removed Dr. David Dao from Flight 3411," he wrote. "That is why I'm introducing the Customers Not Cargo Act to prohibit airlines from forcibly removing passengers after they have already boarded the plane due to oversales or airline staff seeking to fly as passengers.... This narrowly-targeted update would protect the rights and dignity of passengers while ensuring that airlines retain flexibility to manage oversales."

Dao was one of four passengers randomly selected to be removed from the flight from Chicago, Illinois to Louisville, Kentucky on Sunday to accommodate the crew members. He resisted because he had patients to see at home, which lead to aviation police assaulting him and dragging him off the flight. According to his attorney, who spoke at a lengthy press conference on Thursday, Dao suffered a concussion, a broken nose, and lost two teeth. He will now have to undergo reconstructive surgery and is expected to sue the airline company.

Meanwhile, International Business Times reported Wednesday that United has spent more than $41 million to lobby against consumer-friendly causes over the past decade. That includes $7.26 million fighting legislation mandating minimum seat sizes, prohibiting airlines from charging customers bathroom entry fees, and requiring them to let families sit together.

"Airlines and corporations clearly are not people, because if they were, a number of them would have been arrested and prosecuted for assault, theft and/or bad public interactions with their customers," Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen, a watchdog group, said Thursday. "Senator Van Hollen's legislation is a timely and overdue step to reassert the rights and importance of the American consumer in the marketplace and in our democracy."

As Campaign for America's Future blogger Dave Johnson wrote in an op-ed Wednesday, quite simply, "In a democracy, We the People are in charge. We are the boss of the corporations. At least that's how it's supposed to work."

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