What You Should Know If Your Flight Has Been Oversold

Here's what to do if a United situation happens to you.

So everyone has definitely seen the awful video of a man getting yanked out of his seat on a United flight from Chicago to Louisville. The whole video is a mess from start to finish, and later footage released of the dazed man repeating “just kill me” has not made matters better.

United is dealing with a veritable storm of bad PR. But for us lowly fliers, many of us are left wondering what to do if we’re ever in the same situation.

You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers:

1. It’s Legal For You To Be Physically Removed From Your Seat

Yep. An airline can pretty much yank you out of your seat for whatever reason they find valid. It’s sky law—their way, or the highway. Unfortunately, the terms of service on United flights say they can pull you off the plane if they deem necessary.

“They have the right to do that under the terms of carriage,” explains aviation consultant and former airline executive Robert Mann to Consumer Reports. Ah yes, the terms of carriage, something no passenger has probably ever read. Well, that fine print says an airline can kick a passenger off before the plane departs for basically any reason. OK, fine.


2. Airlines Are Obligated To Compensate You

Just because the airline can kick you off doesn’t mean they can totally screw you over. In fact, according to that carrier agreement, “UA shall pay compensation to Passengers denied boarding involuntarily from an Oversold Flight at the rate of 400% of the fare to the Passenger’s first Stopover or, if none, Destination with a maximum of $1,350 USD.” This rate is in line with the Department of Transportation’s Fly Rights.