The Chatter

Sen. Chris Van Hollen Creates Act in Wake of United Airlines Controversy

The local U.S. Senator is speaking out for consumer travel rights.

By Michelle Evans | April 13, 2017, 12:00 am

-Chris Van Hollen Facebook
The Chatter

Sen. Chris Van Hollen Creates Act in Wake of United Airlines Controversy

The local U.S. Senator is speaking out for consumer travel rights.

By Michelle Evans | April 13, 2017, 12:00 am

-Chris Van Hollen Facebook

On April 12, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen announced the “Customers Not Cargo” act, which will prohibit the forcible removal of a passenger after boarding a flight due to overbooking. This new piece of legislation comes on the heels of a viral video showing a United Airlines passenger being forcefully ejected from a flight.

The video showed Dr. David Dao, with a bloodied face, being heaved and dragged through the aisle of a plane departing Chicago for Louisville on April 9. To accommodate for an overbooked flight and no volunteers coming forward to leave the plane, United Airlines randomly selected four passengers and when Dao refused, the Chicago Aviation Police forcibly removed him.

“It is outrageous that airlines can bodily remove passengers after boarding rather than providing appropriate incentives to encourage volunteers,” Van Hollen tells Baltimore. “A lot of people don’t realize that airlines currently have the legal right to forcibly eject a passenger who's already on board. And that’s just not right.”

Van Hollen explains that his proposed legislation doesn’t prevent airlines from the common practice of overbooking, but requires them to instead offer sufficient incentives to passengers to encourage the voluntary release of seats. While the United passengers were offered $800 to de-board, Van Hollen argues that should have happened before passengers boarded the plane, not afterwards.

“Right now you have this perverse system where airlines are able to offer incentives to get passengers off flights,” he says. “But if they forcibly eject somebody or, say, voluntarily bump you, the financial risk for overbooking should be on the airline, not the passenger.”

The cause is especially important to Van Hollen, whose father shared a similar, albeit less violent, experience.

“My father, who passed many years ago, was thrown from a flight,” he says. “He wasn't on board yet, but it was the last flight for the day, he was about 83 years old at the time. That’s why we named the bill Customers Not Cargo. [Airlines] overbook and then tell passengers they can’t get on.”

On April 11, Van Hollen and 13 other members of Congress sent a letter to the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Muñoz—who originally praised the work of the Chicago Aviation Police and later publicly apologized to Dao—requesting answers about the current policies in place.

The same day, Muñoz released a statement, saying “no one should ever be mistreated this way.” He continued and said that United Airlines will “take full responsibility” and the airline is conducting a review, in which results will be made public by April 30.

Van Hollen and fellow Congress members have not yet received a response from Muñoz, but remain optimistic that they will. He has begun circulating the Customers Not Cargo act with hopes of gaining co-sponsors in time to introduce the bill to the Senate—in less than 10 days when Congress is back in session.

Right now, he is focused on spreading the word about the bill and highlighting Dao’s experience. Dao’s attorney, Thomas Demetrio, said at a news conference on April 13 that his client was released from a Chicago hospital after suffering a concussion, broken nose, missing teeth, and the need for reconstructive surgery.  

“It’s one thing to read about a passenger that was mistreated,” Van Hollen says. “It’s much different to see it with your own eyes on a video. It really adds transparency and accountability to the process. This is a passenger’s rights issue; it’s a consumer rights issue. It has created the opportunity for action.”

 




Meet The Author

Michelle Harris is the digital content producer for Baltimore, where she covers news, community, sports, and beauty.



You May Also Like


News & Community

Constant Gardener

As the times and terrain change, the Meyer Seed Company remains rooted in Baltimore.

The Chatter

Getting to Halethorpe’s Guinness Brewery Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

A new bus route will make direct trips from downtown Baltimore to the facility.

The Chatter

As Hurricane Dorian Travels Up The Coast, Experts Assess Baltimore’s Storm Readiness

Taking stock of the city’s preparedness in the case of a major weather event.


The Chatter

H.L. Mencken House Preservation Efforts Take Shape

The famed Baltimore writer’s home will be a museum that tells all sides of his story.

Charmed Life

Hanifa is the Baltimore Fashion Brand You Need to Know About Right Now

From showing at New York Fashion Week to styling Lizzo and Kylie Jenner, Hanifa is on the rise.

The Chatter

Pimlico Renovations Will Impact More Than Just Preakness

Agreement between city and track officials aims to revitalize Park Heights as a whole.

Connect With Us

Most Read


History of Baltimore's Bygone Synagogues Captured in New Plein Air Art Exhibit: Collection of oil paintings on view at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation through October 28.

The Mare Projects Connects Communities in the African Diaspora: Works from their first-ever residency program will be on display at Gallery CA.

The Orioles Aren’t Moving Out of Town, But They Have a Long Way To Go: Putting a wrap on relocation rumors and the O’s predictable 2019 season.

A New Production of 'The Phantom of the Opera' Is Headed to the Hippodrome: Go behind the mask with the tour's Phantom, Derrick Davis.

New City Council Bill Could Ban Plastic Bag Use Across Baltimore: A vote next week could set in motion a bill that reaches the mayor’s desk.