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Knowing your rights while flying

A 31 second clip taken on a United flight in Chicago has America talking and asking: what are your rights once you board a plane? Can they tell you that you have to give up your seat?


When flying, you do have some rights, but not a lot of options when they ask you to get off that plane. You can deny the offered flight voucher and request a check, or ask to be paid back for any extra costs. You can also take that airline to court.

A stunning scene on United flight 3411 has ignited this conversation. A 69-year-old passenger was yanked from his row. His lip was cut as he was dragged off the jet for refusing to give up his paid seat. The video is hard to watch and many people are asking how this could have happened.

KXLY asked travelers at the Spokane Airport what they thought of the video.

“It's just so aggressive. There had to have been other options that they could've taken,” Lina Masino, New York, said.

“I don't think any airline should've handled it that way,” Angela Haviland, Alaska, said.

Haviland worked in the airline industry for decades.

“They went beyond what they really should have done. I mean, it looked like they knocked the person out. I don't think that was the proper way [to handle the situation],” Haviland said.

United Airlines said they needed to get a four person crew to Louisville Sunday night and asked for volunteers to take a different flight the next afternoon. Crew members first offered $400 flight vouchers, eventually offering $800. When no on accepted, four passengers were randomly selected, including the 69-year-old man. He claimed he was a doctor and needed to get home to treat patients.

United's CEO called it, “an upsetting event,” and “apologizes for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

But the overbooking, even demanding a paying customer give up a seat, is perfectly legal.

“It's part of a document that nobody ever looks at called the contract of carriage, which gives basically the airline, the pilots, the flight attendants, all sorts of rights to do pretty much whatever they want,” Rick Seaney with FareCompare said.

The Department of Transportation said it will review the incident. In the meantime, one Chicago Aviation Security Officer involved was put on leave.

ABC News contributed to this report.


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