Earlier this week, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced that he would introduce the Customers Not Cargo Act to ensure that ticketed passengers on airlines could not be forcibly removed from their seats “due to overbooking or airline staff seeking to fly as passengers.”
In his letter, Van Hollen cited what he called the brutal removing of Dr. David Dao from a United Airline flight by the Chicago Department of Aviation Police, which was captured on video last week. Dao, who can be seen in some videos with a bloodied mouth, has indicated that he may sue the airline after he suffered a concussion, broken nose, and the loss of two front teeth during the incident, Business Insider reports.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) also released a statement on the same day about her plan to introduce legislation that would prohibit similar forcible removals and require airlines to negotiate with passengers to give up their seats before they board their flights.
“If an airline chooses to oversell a flight, or has to accommodate their crew on a fully booked flight, it is their responsibility to keep raising their offer until a customer chooses to give up their seat," Schakowsky said in the press release.
The incident fueled a wave of criticism that many believe contributed to a drop in the company’s stock. United, which removed Dao to accommodate airline staff, has since changed their internal policies to require staff members to arrive at least an hour before departure so they will not displace customers. In a statement, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said:
"I have committed to our customers and our employees that we are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again. This will include a thorough review of crew movement, our policies for incentivizing volunteers in these situations, how we handle oversold situations and an examination of how we partner with airport authorities and local law enforcement."
The airline has yet to respond to the upcoming legislation.
In the past, United has spent millions to defeat legislative initiatives to allow families to sit together, bar airlines from charging passengers for using their restrooms, as well as delay rules involving airline fee transparency.