Do passengers have rights when they fly?

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - A viral video of a man being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight has a lot of people talking about passengers' rights when they travel. But do you actually have rights?

You can hear a man now identified as David Dao screaming as security drags him off the plane, in a 30-second video shared by multiple passengers on United Airlines flight 3411, from Chicago's O'Hare Airport Sunday night. Passengers on the flight are stunned, with one woman yelling, "Oh my god! Look at what you did to him!" After Dao's mouth is bloodied from his head being hit on an arm rest.

Now United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz is trying to figure out the company's next move. A spokesperson for the airline confirmed to KSFY News that the flight was not in fact, overbooked, as was initially reported, but that extra seats were needed for crew members on the United Express flight. The crew was headed to Louisville to work on another United flight later that night.

After passengers were offered up to $800 and a rebooked flight, no one volunteered to change their plans. The United spokesperson said that's when a computer random assigned which passengers would be bumped from the flight and were told. She said three people left the flight without issue, but Dao refused after being asked several times.

Today, one Sioux Falls traveler at Joe Foss Field reacted to the video. Spencer Ulrich said he never could imagine anything like that happening on a flight.

"I was kind of surprised that they took that kind of excessive force to remove him from the plane," Ulrich said. "But I think, if that's their policy then he should've followed the policy."

It is United's policy called the "Contract of Carriage."

"I've never seen anything like this before, but United, they do have a passenger contract," said Jennifer Brinks, a travel agent for All About Travel in Sioux Falls. "They have the right to involuntarily bump someone. Should they have done that before they boarded the plane? I think yes."

The Contract of Carriage is one of those boxes you check off when you book your flight -- something along the lines of "agreeing to terms and conditions" -- but no one bothers to read it because well, it would take awhile. It's 37,501 words long and contains a lot of different jargon about what the airline can and can't do.

"For example, I picked my seat 12A, that's my seat. Well, the airline has a right to change that seat, move that seat to accommodate families with small children or elderly, people like that. The airline has that right," Brinks explained.

But there are a few tips Brinks offered to avoid getting bumped.

"Be the first half of the plane to check in rather than the last half
be checked in, [be] through security, [have your] boarding pass and at the gate -- be there early," Brinks said this is a tip she gives her clients regularly.

Another tip if you're traveling with others -- book your flights together.

"If you're traveling with small children, that's a better chance they'll keep you together," she said. "If you're all on one confirmation they're gonna see that we are together versus two separate tickets."

And there's one extra you might overlook -- that last thing that pops up trying to get your to pay a little more ...

"If you're stuck in that airport for 24 hours -- cost of food, hotel, taxi, that's covered with travel insurance," Brinks said.

Travel insurance also covers any act of God, like a weather-related cancellation, or a plane malfunction that causes you to miss your flight.

Either way, at least one traveler said, he might've stepped up if he'd seen this on his flight.

"I think I read that he was a doctor so given that situation maybe I would've considered giving up my seat for a guy like that," Ulrich said.

United Airlines' CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement today that in part read,""I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way."



 
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