On April 9, what should have been a peaceful return flight home from Chicago to Louisville turned into national news when an United Airlines passenger was forcefully dragged down the aisle when he refused to give up his seat due to an overbooking issue. The internet was aflutter as pictures and videos of the ordeal surfaced showing his bloody face and limp body being heaved down the aisle to his humiliation. On April 27 news broke that a settlement had been reach for an undisclosed amount with United being the one to handle the payout and claiming that no one else was to blame. While this one was able to be settled out of court, there’s been some debate on who was truly to blame for the incident and it’s easy to point fingers, but let’s look at it from a liability insurance perspective.
There are many factors that go into determining who’s liable. United Airlines is the one who overbooked the flight purposefully. They are the ones who initiated the call for passengers to voluntarily give up their seats and when that didn’t work a random pick to choose who would involuntarily get off was performed. But it was not a United employee that performed the deed after the doctor and his wife refused to get off. United Airlines did call law enforcement in to handle the situation. This isn’t completely unheard of in airline practices. Initially, the police were called to simply escort the passenger off the aircraft so they could continue from Chicago. The “police” that were called are a part of the Chicago Aviation Department which is a department of the local Chicago city government. The officers used their judgement and in the end, they made the decision on how to proceed. So, if United Airlines only made the call, but ultimately weren’t the ones who bloodied a man’s face for all the world to see, how or why are they the ones paying the settlement?
I have a sister who is younger than me. When we were little, it was simple for me to tell her to go steal us cookies and she’d do it for the simple fact that I had authority and told her to. It’s kind of the same thing. Every time someone buys not just a United Airlines plane ticket, but any carrier ticket, you’re agreeing to their contract of carriage. This is the contract that sets rules and expectations between carriers and travelers. Some of those rules are good like not being allowed to smoke on flights, but ultimately all the airlines leave the details broad for attendants to determine. Due to the contract of carriage, United is at fault because it’s their policies that caused the eventual outcome.
While United Airlines has been on blast after more than a couple of other incidents have hit the media, it has brought attention to policies that have major issues not just with United, but many airline companies. An informed consumer is the best consumer. Now you know to read contracts of carriage for whatever airline you’re looking at before purchasing.
If you have questions regarding your insurance, ECI is always here. Contact us for an Oklahoma City insurance quote.