BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Senator Chris Van Hollen announced Wednesday that he is introducing legislation that would “prohibit airlines from forcibly removing passengers after they have already boarded the plane due to overbooking or airline staff seeking to fly as passengers.”

This comes in the wake of outrage at a video of a United Airlines passenger being dragged off a plane that the airline originally said was overbooked, which was flying from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport to Louisville, Kentucky Sunday night.

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As it turns out, United randomly selected the four passengers, including Dr. David Dao, to be removed to accommodate crew members who were needed in the destination city the next day.

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Van Hollen wrote to his colleagues this morning to invite them to co-sponsor the legislation. It read:

Dear Colleague,

We were all shocked and outraged this week when United Airlines forcibly and brutally removed Dr. David Dao from Flight 3411. 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.

Department of Transportation regulations make it clear that passengers must be compensated when they are involuntarily bumped prior to boarding, and many airlines offer incentives for customers to voluntarily rebook. These rules and the practice of overbooking should be reexamined to protect passengers. As we do that work, we should act immediately to ensure that airlines cannot force passengers who have already boarded to leave the plane in order to free up seats for others. Instead, they must provide sufficient incentives to encourage passengers to voluntarily deplane.

It is outrageous that airlines can bodily remove passengers after boarding rather than providing appropriate incentives to encourage volunteers. Airlines should resolve these common overbooking issues prior to boarding. I hope you’ll join me in introducing the Customers Not Cargo Act, which would direct the Department of Transportation to update the oversales rule (14 CFR Part 250) to prohibit airlines from doing what United did to Dr. Dao this week. Instead, airlines would have to offer appropriate incentives to solicit volunteers, and do so before boarding whenever practicable. This narrowly-targeted update would protect the rights and dignity of passengers while ensuring that airlines retain flexibility to manage oversales.

If you would like to join as a cosponsor of this legislation, please contact my office.


Chris Van Hollen

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