Reed, Senators Put United Airlines on Hot Seat Following Forcible Removal of Passenger
Senator Reed criticizes forcible removal of passenger and demands answers from
United Airlines CEO
WASHINGTON, DC – Following the forcible removal of a United Airlines ticketed
passenger from his seat on Flight 3411 from Chicago, Illinois to Louisville,
Kentucky, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and 20 of his colleagues in the U.S. Senate
are demanding answers from United’s CEO. The 21 Senators asked a series of tough
questions they want answered by an April 24 deadline, when the Senate reconvenes.
In the letter, the senators call on United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz to provide a
more detailed account of the incident and United’s policy on boarding then removing
ticketed passengers to accommodate United Airlines personnel.
“Consumer trust and confidence are critical to ensure this industry continues to
thrive, and we hope United Airlines will work diligently to immediately address this
incident and make necessary improvements to ensure it does not occur again,” the 21
U.S. Senators wrote.
They also asked why the full federal compensation amount of $1,350 was not offered
to those passengers involuntarily and forcibly removed from Flight 3411 and whether
that cap serves any benefit to consumers.
“Every flying passenger deserves to be treated with respect by the airlines.
United’s handling of this situation was completely unacceptable. United needs to
review this incident to prevent it from recurring and Congress needs to examine ways
to better protect all consumers,” said Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the
Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD).
In addition to Senator Reed, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz
(D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Ed Markey
(D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy
Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Al Franken (D-MN), Catherine
Cortez Masto (D-NV), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Duckworth
(D-IL), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Sherrod Brown
The full text of the letter follows:
Dear Mr. Munoz:
We are deeply concerned by the recent incident aboard Flight 3411 in which a United
Airlines passenger was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago, Illinois to
Louisville, Kentucky to instead accommodate United Airlines personnel. The
Transportation Security Administration and United Airlines cleared the passenger to
fly, and he trusted that he would travel on that flight in exchange for the purchase
of his ticket.
While it is common practice for commercial airlines to sell more tickets than there
are physical seats on an aircraft to account for potential “no-show” passengers,
overselling tickets can have severe consequences for the travelling public.
At a time when the airline industry is earning record profits, it is our hope that
the industry can make great strides to improve customer service and implement best
practices. Consumer trust and confidence are critical to ensure this industry
continues to thrive, and we hope United Airlines will work diligently to immediately
address this incident and make necessary improvements to ensure it does not occur
As we in Congress continue to examine this incident, please assist our efforts by
responding to the following questions:
* What is United Airlines’ standard operating procedure when deciding to
forcibly remove passengers, including those resulting from involuntary denied
* How many times in the last year has United Airlines removed a passenger
that has already boarded a plane due to overbooking or other reasons outside the
customer’s control? How many of these passengers were forcibly removed?
* When a passenger is involuntarily denied boarding or asked to deplane due
to overbooking, at what stage of the trip does United Airlines provide the passenger
with a written statement describing his or her rights and explain why the passenger
was involuntarily denied boarding or removed from the aircraft? Was the passenger
on Flight 3411 provided these requirements prior to his forcible removal from the
* A federal cap exists on the amount of money a commercial airline may
compensate a passenger for being involuntarily denied boarding or rescheduled for a
flight. Why was the full amount of $1,350 not offered to passengers aboard Flight
3411 before the passengers were involuntarily denied boarding and forcibly removed?
Does the $1,350 cap serve any benefit to consumers?
* Was the Louisville-bound flight oversold prior to including the four
United Airlines personnel reported to have been granted seats to enable them to
reposition from Chicago to Louisville? If so, were there alternative flight or
ground transportation options for these four crew members that could have ensured
they arrived in Louisville with sufficient time to board their next flight? Did
United Airlines have the ability to assign other crew members to that flight
departing from Louisville?
* Does United Airlines limit the number of airline tickets that may be
oversold on each flight?
* When purchasing tickets, does United Airlines provide a passenger with
information that the flight has been oversold, so that ticket consumer can plan
accordingly for the possibility that they may be involuntarily denied boarding for
their purchased flight?
* Describe the internal investigation that United Airlines will pursue
regarding this incident, including the name(s) of the individual(s) in charge of the
investigation and the expected completion date for the investigation.
* Has United Airlines implemented any policy changes as a result of this
* Is it the policy of United Airlines to use taxpayer-funded law enforcement
to forcibly remove paying passengers for non-security reasons?
* In a dispute such as the one that occurred on Flight 3411, what recourse
or appeal process do passengers have to dispute an action taken against them by
United Airlines during their travel?
Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. Please provide a response no
later than April 24, 2017.