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Flying anytime soon? Book a flight but know your rights

Why do airlines overbook flights, and what are passengers' rights?
Updated: Apr. 11, 2017 at 12:24 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Passengers on United Airlines Flight 3411 are disturbed after a passenger was forcibly removed from a flight from Chicago to Louisville.

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Jayce Anspach was sitting in the row across from him and began recording the incident on his cellphone when the situation escalated.

"His face fell down right at my feet so I could see him clearly," Anspach said. "He busted his lip or something, so he was bleeding. They dragged him by his arms, down the aisle. His shirt (was) lifted up. It's a humiliating way to take somebody out of the plane."

Many passengers on the flight were disturbed at how he was removed, and now wonder whether it should have happened at all.

"That man had every right to remain seated," Anspach said. "He paid for it."

VIDEO: Passenger forcibly removed from Louisville-bound flight

But when it comes to overbooking, the airline makes the rules and customers agree to the rules when they purchase their tickets. For United, the rules are in their contract of carriage.

Part of the rules even include "the request for volunteers and the selection of such person to be denied space will be in a manner determined solely by (United Airlines)."

"Overbooking is not illegal," said Norma Mouser, who runs Travel Options, a St. Matthews-based travel agency. "Tthe airlines do it based on an algorithm that determines the percentage of no-shows."

VIDEO: Why do airlines overbook flights, and what are your rights?

Mouser said it's important to know your rights as a passenger, as the airlines won't always volunteer the information.

In April 2011, the Department of Transportation published guidelines for overbooking.

Depending on the length of time it takes to get a passenger to their destinations, airlines could owe passengers up to 400 percent of their one-way fare.

Mouser said travelers should check in early, get on the plane early and hire a travel agent to be a passenger advocate in case something goes wrong. She also advises travelers not to resist being removed from a plane, because it will only cause problems down the line.

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"Once security is brought in, then they put you on a no-fly list," Mouser said. "And you may continue to have problems."

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