Video of man being dragged from United flight raises questions a - KFVE, K5-Hawaii News Now, Local Programming

Video of man being dragged from United flight raises questions about passengers' rights

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Video of a man being forcibly dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight has not only prompted outrage and calls to boycott the airline, it also raises questions about what rights flyers have when they don't want to give up their seats. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation says most airlines over-book their flights to cover the cost of "no-shows."

When you buy a plane ticket, you're agreeing to the company's rules -- called a Contract of Carriage -- which allows the airline to bump you off an overbooked flight, whether you like like it or not. 

Industry experts say passengers should comply with these rules, however, they believe Sunday's incident in Chicago was handled improperly. 

"Usually this type of thing is taken care of before the passengers get the boarding pass and enter the aircraft," aviation expert Peter Forman said. 

As the video gained attention on social media, there were mixed reactions about United's conduct at the airline's counter at Honolulu International Airport. 

"It's their rules, but that rule shouldn't be there if this is something they have to do to enforce it. They definitely could've handled it better," said Buntola Nou, United Airlines passenger.  

"We're very pleased with the service. I just wouldn't want to fly with anybody else," said passenger Mary Nault.  

When a flight is overbooked, federal rules require the airlines to first ask for volunteers. If no one is willing to give up their seat, that's when involuntary bumping happens.

If passengers are bumped from a flight involuntarily, federal law does provide rights to the passenger.

On domestic flights, if the airline finds another flight that gets you to your final destination within one hour of your original arrival time, they don't have to compensate you.

if you arrive at your destination between 1 to 2 hours late, the airline must pay you double the value of your one-way ticket, up to $675. And that amount doubles again, if you arrive more than two hours late.

Each airline decides how many flights it will overbook, as well as rules to determine which passengers are bumped first -- for example, maybe those who checked-in last or those in the lowest fare class.  

Forman warns flyers that they could face large fines if they don't get off a plane when asked by the airline or law enforcement. However, because the airline caused the overbooking, he believes they should be willing to pay enough to get people to willingly give up their seats. 

"I would recommend the airlines do everything possible to find volunteers so this type of thing doesn't need to happen," Forman said. 

In the recent United Airlines incident, the man's seat was needed for a crew member. 

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