Why I’m taking legislative action after the United incident

Airlines should treat passengers like customers, not cargo.

This week, many of us were shocked when United Airlines forcibly removed Dr. David Dao from Flight 3411. This should never happen. That I is why I am introducing the Customers Not Cargo Act (CNCA).

The Customers Not Cargo Act would prohibit airlines from forcibly removing passengers from airplanes when there is no public safety rationale. Instead, airlines must provide sufficient incentives to encourage passengers to voluntarily deplane.


Below is the full text of the letter I sent to my colleagues in the Senate, urging them to join me by cosponsoring this bill.

We were all shocked this week when United Airlines forcibly removed Dr. David Dao from Flight 3411. This should never happen. That is why I’m introducing the Customers Not Cargo Act to prohibit airlines that have overbooked flights from ejecting passengers.
Department of Transportation regulations make it clear that passengers must be compensated when they are involuntarily bumped prior to boarding, and many airlines offer incentives for customers to voluntarily rebook. These rules and the practice of overbooking should be reexamined to protect passengers. As we do that work, we should act immediately to ensure that airlines cannot legally force passengers who have already boarded to leave the plane in order to free up seats for others. Instead, airlines should be required to provide sufficient incentives to encourage passengers to voluntarily deplane.
It is outrageous that airlines can bodily remove passengers after boarding rather than providing sufficient incentives to encourage volunteers. Airlines should resolve these common overbooking issues prior to boarding. I hope you’ll join me in introducing the Customers Not Cargo Act, which would direct the Department of Transportation to update the oversales rule (14 CFR Part 250) to prohibit airlines from doing what United did to Dr. Dao this week. Instead, airlines would have to offer sufficient incentives to attract volunteers, and do so before boarding whenever practicable. This narrowly-targeted update would protect the rights and dignity of passengers while ensuring that airlines retain flexibility to manage over sales.
If you would like to join as a cosponsor of this legislation, please contact my office.
Sincerely,
Chris Van Hollen