The video immediately went viral – a bloodied passenger being violently removed from a United Airlines flight. The incident last month has cast a negative light on the airlines industry as a whole. While that particular case was settled out of court, industry officials were taken to task yesterday on Capitol Hill.
Attending the hearing was U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) who sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Farenthold says the airlines should be held responsible for actions such as overbooking, the industry practice that led to the incident last month.
“They need to be prepared to cut a deal with their passengers,” Farenthold says. “If you buy a seat, you should be entitled to sit in the seat, unless they make you a better offer and you take it.”
At yesterday’s hearing, United Airlines proposed offering passengers up to $10,000 to forfeit their seats. But Farenthold says the issue runs even deeper than compensation.
“Part of the problem and the reason these incidents I think are happening is people are upset and stressed out when they’re travelling,” Farenthold says.
In particular, Farenthold says the rush to find overhead bin space is a frequent stressor for those who end up near the back of the boarding line. To help alleviate such problems, Farenthold says the airlines should eliminate bag-check fees and stop overbooking flights
“By doing away with these bag charges, it would lower the stress levels of passengers and make the experience better,” Farenthold says.
As to whether or not the airlines have picked up on messages coming from lawmaker and frustrated passengers, Farenthold says he isn’t sure. He says the tone-deafness illustrated by American Airlines’ announcement that it would reduce legroom indicates that consumers might have to take the matter into their own hands in order to solve the problem.
“It’s a profit-driven motive and I think consumers are going to have to play a part in this,” Farenthold says. “Just saying ‘no, we’re not going to fly you if you stick us on a seat where your knees are gonna be on your chin.’”
Written by Morgan O’Hanlon.