What Rights Do Airline Passengers Have?
What Rights Do Airline Passengers Have?

The treatment of passengers by airlines has been a hot topic recently. One of the most highly publicized incidents was a doctor being dragged off a United Airlines flight after refusing to give up his seat on an overbooked flight. Dao suffered a concussion and a broken nose, and he lost two front teeth. The incident sparked outrage for consumers, and the passenger, David Dao, has sued the airline.

The incident has brought up a relevant question: what rights do airline passengers really have? According to Consumer Reports, most airlines do not guarantee passengers many rights. They are guaranteed a refund if the flight is overbooked and they can’t board, but that is usually the extent of it.

Legally, passengers are not guaranteed a flight arrival time. Additionally, if they purchased a nonstop flight, the airline can still change that and add in a layover. Overbooking flights is also legal, which is why airlines sometimes ask for volunteers to take a different flight. If you are involuntarily bumped from a flight, the airline does not owe you any money if they rebook you to reach your destination with an hour of your original arrival time.

In the case of Dao, United Airlines was within their rights to remove him from the flight. They randomly selected Dao to be bumped from the flight and offered compensation for the inconvenience. Although Dao had purchased a ticket, the airline was not legally obligated to allow him to stay on the airplane. Unfortunately, there simply are not any rules that protect consumers from these practices.

What About Federal Laws?

The government has a few rules intended to protect airline passengers. For instance, airlines cannot keep passengers in an airplane on the tarmac for more than three hours. Additionally, if an airline mistake causes a passenger to be 1-2 hours late on a domestic flight, or 1-4 hours late on an international flight, the airline must pay the passenger double the cost of their one-way fare. If your new arrival time is more than 2 hours late for a domestic flight, or more than 4 hours on an international flight, you are owed four times the cost of your one-way flight.

It’s important to note that you are entitled to a cash payment in these instances. The airline might offer you a voucher, but you can refuse and ask for cash instead.


Discrimination on Airlines

In addition to complaints about general mistreatment, there have also been complaints about discrimination on airlines. It became such a problem that the NAACP issued an advisory about American Airlines. According to the organization, African Americans who traveled with the airline could be subject to discriminatory or unsafe conditions. The group cited four incidents in which African Americans were either removed from an American Airlines flight or forced to give up a first-class seat.

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker has responded to the advisory with an announcement that the airline is taking action to educate employees on diversity and inclusion. Every employee will undergo implicit bias training. Additionally, the airline will conduct a diversity analysis of the company and overhaul its process for addressing discrimination claims. The NAACP has called the response positive, but will continue to monitor the airline for discrimination issues.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against by an airline, you can file a complaint with the Department of Transportation. The organization investigations violations of consumer protections and civil rights by airlines. The NAACP is also encouraging passengers to alert them if they have experienced discrimination by an airline.

“The mistreatment of passengers by airlines is unacceptable. Customers deserve better from these companies,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the California personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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