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Wed, Oct. 23

Editorial: Air travel getting dangerous; what would you do?

Just when you thought passenger challenges for United Airlines could not have gotten worse, they did.

The same day a 69-year-old Vietnamese-American was dragged from a plane after refusing to give his seat to a staff member, a Canadian man – on a trip from Houston to Calgary – was stung by a scorpion.

The arachnid fell from an overhead bin and onto the man’s head during lunch on the April 9 flight, according to the Associated Press. United Airlines has offered compensation.

As for the man who was dragged from his flight, he is closing in on a lawsuit, his attorney has said. He reportedly lost two front teeth and suffered a broken nose and a “significant” concussion in the incident.

If you saw the video, the verdict from armchair quarterbacks could go either way. Still, it raises the question of travelers’ rights, especially when it comes to overbooking.

Why do airlines overbook? Overbooking on flights happens all the time. Airlines boost profits by overselling, betting against the number of passengers who will miss their flights.

In this case, the problem arose because United decided at the last minute to fly four staff members to a connection point and needed to bump four passengers to make way for them.

When there’s an overbooking issue, the first step is to offer an inducement to the passengers to take a later flight. On that fateful day, passengers were offered $400, a hotel room for the night, and a flight the next afternoon. When no one took the offer, the amount was upped to $800. Still none bit, so a manager boarded the flight and informed passengers that four people would be selected to leave the flight.

Who to select is based on several factors, but frequent fliers and higher fare-paying passengers receive priority to stay aboard, a spokeswoman for United told the AP.

While United, and Chicago airport security in particular, should have handled the incident and its following public relations fallout better, we’re left with two conclusions.

Sadly, it appears, airline travel is the only form of travel in which you can buy a ticket, board on time, and still get “bumped.” That should change.

Finally, however, we all should carry the same responsibility of doing what we’re told. Like a police officer telling you to keep your hands in full view, or when and how to step from your car, passengers of any form of travel – when told to leave or move – should comply, especially in today’s highly charged environment of airport security.

Let the arguments and claims of compensation follow.

Will this incident affect your choice of airlines the next time you want to fly? Will its outcome have an effect on how you will respond to orders? Let us know your opinions by emailing In addition, visit for our latest poll question on the subject.

We want to hear from you.

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