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Bipartisan group demands answers on United incident

Bipartisan group demands answers on United incident

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is demanding answers from United Airlines and the Chicago Department of Aviation about why a passenger was forcibly dragged off a flight on Sunday evening.

The top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee requested a full accounting of the incident, which they called “disturbing.”

Videos emerged on Twitter showing security officers dragging a man down the aisle of a United flight by his wrists, after he refused to give up his seat to accommodate airline personnel. No one volunteered to be bumped off the flight, so passengers were selected at random.

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“We recognize the importance of having passengers comply with lawful crew instructions, but it is hard to believe that some combination of better planning, training, communication, or additional incentives would not have mitigated this incident or avoided it altogether,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter.

“United Airlines’ explanation of the incident has been unsatisfactory, and appears to underestimate the public anger about this incident.”

The letter is signed by Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge Schumer kicks into reelection mode The Hill's Morning Report - Biden shifts on filibuster MORE (R-S.D.), ranking member Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonTrump hands Rubio coveted reelection endorsement in Florida Overnight Defense: Top House Armed Services Republican talks National Guard at Capitol, Afghanistan, more | Pentagon chief visits Afghanistan amid administration's review | Saudis propose Yemen ceasefire Bill Nelson's nomination as NASA administrator is replete with irony MORE (D-Fla.), Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntSunday shows preview: Democrats eye two-part infrastructure push; Michigan coronavirus cases surge DC delegate pushes for removing Capitol fence despite car attack Coons says bipartisan infrastructure package 'likely' to be smaller, not fully financed MORE (R-Mo.), and Sen. Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellSenators urge Energy chief to prioritize cybersecurity amid growing threats Murkowski votes with Senate panel to advance Haaland nomination Regulators keep close eye on Facebook's deal with Australia MORE (D-Wash.)

They want to know by April 20 about the aviation department’s security protocols for responding to these situations and if the passenger resisted removal passively or did something threatening to law enforcement.

The security officer involved in the dragging incident has been placed on leave, pending an investigation.

The lawmakers are seeking information from United, under the same deadline, about when United first become aware of a crew scheduling mix-up that required passengers to give up their seats after boarding and if other options were considered.

They also want to know how the airline selects passengers for involuntary bumping; what compensation was first offered to volunteers; what assurances were provided to customers who were forced to give up their seats; and if United considers bumping a passenger to accommodate employees the same as an “oversold” sitation.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerThe first Southern state legalizes marijuana — what it means nationally H.R. 1/S. 1: Democrats defend their majorities, not honest elections McCarthy asks FBI, CIA for briefing after two men on terror watchlist stopped at border MORE (D-N.Y.) is also leading a separate request for more information about the debacle.

“Overselling tickets can have severe consequences for the travelling public,” the group of senators said. “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.”

Airlines are allowed to overbook flights and bump passengers against their will.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) says when that occurs, airlines are required to first offer volunteers compensation in exchange for their seats before bumping someone involuntarily.

Anyone bumped against their will may be entitled to compensation, the agency says, and must be given a written statement detailing their rights and explaining how the airline decides who gets on an overbooked flight and who doesn't.

The DOT has launched a review of the incident to ensure the airline followed all protocols.

“While it is legal for airlines to involuntary bump passengers from an oversold flight when there are not enough volunteers, it is the airline’s responsibility to determine its own fair boarding priorities,” a DOT spokesperson said in a statement.