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45 page ‘contract of carriage' details airline passenger's rights

Airline can bump passengers off crowded flights

SAN ANTONIO – It is the video that has sparked debated across the nation, an airline passenger being forcibly removed from his seat when after refusing to give it up.

The CEO of United Airlines apologized for the incident Tuesday, but many people are quickly trying to read up on what rights they have as passengers.

“It was quite disrespectful, the way they went about the whole situation,” airline passenger Marlon Gillhespy said.

RELATED: Passenger dragged off overbooked United flight

No matter the disrespect, passenger rights are well-documented in the fine print all passengers agree to when they buy a ticket.

The 45-page-long “contract of carriage” explicitly lists what is allowed, and that does included bumping passengers from overbooked flights.

Airlines say there are lots of reasons they overbook – the biggest being to account for no-shows. In many cases, and they vary by airline, passengers are given incentives to get off an overbooked flight.

Bill Holler is one of them.

READ MORE: United loses $250 million of its market value

He said he got a free trip to New York City once when he got bumped.

But if there are no takers, the airlines choose, often by cheapest fare or who boarded last; however, they will not break up families flying together.

“As a paying passenger, personally, I think it is not right,” Gillhespy said. “You pay your tickets expecting to get a seat.”

For those bumped involuntarily, there is recourse.

“In most cases, the airline has to re-book you in a timely manner – or pay you,” Lauren Lyons Cole, with Consumer Reports, said.

RELATED: United CEO apologizes for 'truly horrific' passenger incident

On domestic flights, if an airline re-books a passenger and they arrive 1-2 hours later than their original arrival the airline must cover the cost of the ticket and pay the one-way fare, up to $675.

Those delayed more than two hours or if the airline does not make arrangements, passengers are due four times their one-way far, up to $1,350.

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