There have been many recent stories of passengers being booted off of flights by airlines for various reasons.
The viral videos and posts usually bring up questions of passenger rights. As passengers, what can and can't we do?
Recently, we spoke to Attorney Robert Mann of Radix Law through email and below are a set of questions and answers.
All responses are from Attorney Robert Mann of Radix Law.
Q: What are our rights as passengers?
A: Right of passengers are defined by contract of carriage and by federal law. There is some overlap. The contract of carriage with an airline might disclose how a passenger can be removed for overbooked flights, or provide for removal if improperly dressed, or for other reasons. Also, under the contract of carriage and federal law, basically and generally anyone that a cabin crew or cockpit crew determines or presents a danger to others or the flight, can be removed.
Q: Is there a certain kind of verbiage we need to know in regards to knowing our rights and winning?
A: There really isn’t. Most publicized situations fall under the crew’s determination that the passenger is refusing directions and/ or presenting a danger – think; refusing to get off the phone, or putting away electronics, or not sitting or buckling, despite directions to do so. Basically, don’t get drunk, act like an idiot, or refuse crew instructions.
Q: What actions needs to be taken?
A: Due to camera phones, abusive situations are now being disclosed, when either the passenger or the crew misbehaves. Often when someone is removed for, for example, not turning off their phone, they’re met by policing authorities and interviewed for a while, and then let go. There’s not much recourse against the airline, although the airline might in its discretion refund money, rebook the passenger, or otherwise help out, again if it decides that it is appropriate to do so. Likewise, when an airline goes overboard in the treatment of a passenger (think; the recent doctor who was beaten and dragged off the flight), there can be civil recourse. There, I believe he settled with the airline.
Q: Do the rules differ per state?
A: The contract of carriage may differ in specific language between airlines, but will generally cover the same situations. Federal law controls situations when it is determined that someone is interfering with a flight crew and may be subject to arrest.
Q: What about children being kicked off for being disruptive?
A: The contract of carriage probably covers this, but it better be a situation that is beyond the pale. Kids cry when they fly. They might talk too loud, kick a seat sometimes. It would be rare for an airline to court social criticism for kicking a baby off a flight for being a baby, and nothing else.
Q: How about people that go on a plane drunk?
A: That person can be kicked off for violating contract of carriage AND, if circumstances present themselves, for ignoring instructions and/or creating a dangerous situation.
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