Canada, inspired by UA fracas, will set new overbooking rules


Transport Canada, which is working on a “Passengers’ Bill of Rights” to set rules for flight changes, airline fees and lost bags, will add bumping rules to the bill.

The announcement came in the wake of the United Airlines incident in which a passenger on a United Express flight was grabbed by a Chicago airport policeman and dragged off the plane.

The airline was trying to make room for four deadheading crewmembers who needed to get to Louisville, Ky., to work on another flight.

But United originally characterized it as a case of overbooking, and that impression went viral, along with graphic videos of the event.

Transport Canada, which is working on a “Passengers’ Bill of Rights” to set rules for flight changes, airline fees and lost bags, will add bumping rules to the bill.

The announcement came in the wake of the United Airlines incident in which a passenger on a United Express flight was grabbed by a Chicago airport policeman and dragged off the plane.

The airline was trying to make room for four deadheading crewmembers who needed to get to Louisville, Ky., to work on another flight.

But United originally characterized it as a case of overbooking, and that impression went viral, along with graphic videos of the event.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he had seen the video and “was very disturbed by what happened. Certainly we want to make sure that it does not happen in Canada.”

He said the new regulations would be effective in 2018.

When he introduced the plan last fall, Garneau said, “This will create a more predictable and reasonable approach that will ensure that Canadians understand better what their rights are as they travel by air.”

But as eruptions over the United incident continue on social media, it has become clear that an alarming number of Americans, despite having consumer protection rules for airline passengers in place for years, are unaware of their rights – or lack of them.

Debates continue over the fact – for some a revelation – that an airline can for any reason remove a passenger who has paid for his ticket, has created no disturbance and has violated no rules. It’s perfectly legal.

“It’s part of a document that no one ever looks at called the Contract of Carriage,” Rick Seaney, chief executive officer of FareCompare, said. That document spells out that the airline, pilot and flight attendants “can pretty much do what they want,” he said.

Legal or not, United CEO Oscar Munoz vowed that the airline will never again take an incident this far.

“This can never, will never happen again on a United airlines flight,” he said in an interview with ABC News.

Specifically, he said, the use of law enforcement aboard an aircraft “has to be looked at very carefully.”

Munoz also seemed to be weighing whether the industry might be better off forfeiting a sliver of its all-encompassing power.

He noted that the process of dealing with overbooking generally works well when it is conducted gateside. “But to remove a booked, paid, seated passenger … we can’t do that. No one should be treated that way.”



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