Transportation Committee Dem Wants Hearing on United Airlines Incident

WASHINGTON — It didn’t take long for the viral video of a United Airlines passenger being forcibly dragged off an overbooked plane to make it to Capitol Hill.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Aviation, said she’s going to formally ask Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), chairman of the Transportation Committee, and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.) to convene a hearing “to examine this and other incidents on flights.”

“I deplore the violent removal of a passenger from a United Airlines flight this weekend,” Norton said in a statement today. “Airline passengers must have protections against such abusive treatment. I am asking our committee for a hearing, which will allow us to question airport police, United Airlines personnel, and airport officials, among others, about whether appropriate procedures were in place in Chicago and are in place across the United States when passengers are asked to leave a flight.”

United officials reportedly asked four passengers on the full Sunday flight from Chicago to Louisville to give up their seats to make room for four crew members who needed to travel. No one volunteered, so passengers were chosen at random.

When one passenger told to get off the plane protested that he was a doctor and needed to get back to see patients, airport police were called and he was pulled out of his seat, his face bloodied by a hit to the armrest. He was dragged down the aisle and out of the plane as horrified passengers filmed the incident.

“The only information available has been that perhaps $800 was offered to leave the flight,” Norton said. “Federal rules require airlines to give passengers four times their fare or up to $1,250 if they are bumped from an overbooked flight.”

Plus, she added, “weneed the facts on why airlines overbook so many flights.”

“If overbooking is to be permitted, there must be accountability from the airlines in exchange,” she said.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz called the incident “an upsetting event to all of us here at United.”

“I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense of urgency to work with the authorities and conduct our own detailed review of what happened,” Munoz said. “We are also reaching out to this passenger to talk directly to him and further address and resolve this situation.”