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Senate Law & Public Safety Chair Greenstein Statement on Forced Removal of Flight Passengers Due to Overbooking

Senator Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex and Mercer, addresses the State Senate after being sworn in to office.

TRENTON – Senate Law and Public Safety Committee Chair Linda R. Greenstein today expressed her outrage in light of the videos of the violent removal of a passenger on board a United Airlines flight from Chicago, IL to Louisville, KY on Sunday that have sparked fury across the nation. She has requested legislative staff to research legislation that would prevent similar situations from happening in New Jersey, including any action needed to fill gaps in federal regulations that may have permitted this incident.

“What happened on that plane in Chicago is deeply troubling, to say the least, and must never be allowed to happen in New Jersey,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer and Middlesex). “It’s one thing to deny boarding to passengers due to overbooked flights, and offering them the compensation they are due under existing federal regulations, but it’s another to physically remove someone with such brute force after they’ve already been seated on a plane. It’s simply wrong.”

While overbooking is legally permitted and practiced by airlines, current federal regulations by the Department of Transportation require compensation for involuntarily denied boarding. DOT requires airlines to pay cash or by check to passengers denied boarding against their wishes 400 percent of the fare, up to $1,350, for domestic flights that delay a passenger from reaching his or her destination by more than two hours. DOT also requires each airline to provide all passengers denied involuntarily a written statement describing their rights and explaining how the carrier decides who gets on an oversold flight and who doesn’t. A consumer guide to air travel that outlines consumer rights for overbooking is available online.

“Airlines should exhaust all options to entice passengers to voluntarily give up their seats on an overbooked flight before boarding, and they have guidelines for selecting passengers when there aren’t enough takers,” added Senator Greenstein. “We can’t allow this to ever happen again. I will be looking into action we can take at the state level to prevent the forced removal of a passenger who has already boarded a flight due to overbooking policies and that will fill any existing gaps under current federal regulations that allowed this shocking event to happen.”