Christie wants to stop airlines from overbooking, bumping
TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie is calling on the Trump administration to stop airlines from overbooking flights and removing passengers days after a viral video spurned outrage against United Airlines.
The video on Sunday showed a United passenger being forcibly removed from his seat, wrestled to the ground and dragged out of the plane by Chicago airport police after he refused to get up.
The plane crew had asked for volunteers to leave the plane in exchange for a stay at a hotel, $800 and another booking the next day because they wanted to accommodate airline employees in the overbooked plane to Louisville, Kentucky.
A spokesman for United said the passenger had been asked several times politely to give up his seat, because it was needed to transport a United flight team to another aircraft, and when the passenger refused to get up, police were called in to remove him.
The incident has brought attention to the airline industry's practice of overbooking flights in order to make up for no-show passenger, and bumping passengers who do show up. Meanwhile, lawmakers — from the state Legislature, to the Governor's Office, to the U.S. Senate — are taking action.
On Tuesday, Christie sent a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, asking her to immediately stop airlines from overbooking flights and removing passengers as a result.
Christie called the conduct of United Airlines abusive and outrageous.
Meanwhile, a New Jersey lawmaker is introducing his own measure.
“This legislation will prohibit airlines from forcibly removing any New Jersey seated passenger on a flight at airports within our state,” said Assemblyman Ron Dancer R-Monmouth.
“I will see to it along with my colleagues in a bipartisan way, that we will protect our passengers seated on an airline in the state of New Jersey.”
Dancer said the measure being crafted will specify fines and penalties for any airline violating the statute.
“Those passengers on that plane paid for their seat, they were issued a boarding pass, they were cleared by TSA, and passengers need to be better protected in the state of New Jersey from such abusive behavior,” he said.
Dancer said at first he couldn’t believe what he was seeing when he watched the video.
“Once I understood that ... this was for real, this happened, I said this will not stand,” he said.
Dancer said the airline should have offered even more cash compensation to get more volunteers.
“In my opinion it would have been much cheaper for them in the long run [...] by just increasing the bidding,” he said. “If they had done this you’ll get passengers that will gladly, voluntarily give up their seat.”
United CEO Oscar Munoz on Tuesday issued yet another apology after his initial statements to the public and to his employees were widely criticized for its euphemistic speech that some said avoided responsibility.
In his new apology, Munoz said the airline would conduct a "thorough review" of its booking policies and release their findings by April 30.
"I want you to know that we take full responsibility and we will work to make it right."
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he and his colleagues wrote to Munoz asking the company to explain their overbooking policies by no later than April 24.
"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 relations and implement best practices," the letter says, adding that lawmakers were "deeply concerned" by the incident.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.