United Airlines has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately. The company has been an easy target for jokes and criticism following a blunder that occurred when a passenger was removed from an overbooked flight in April. You may have seen photos or videos of a bruised and bloodied passenger named David Dao being dragged off the plane by law enforcement agents. It turns out that Dao was one of four passengers selected at random to get bumped from the infamous flight incident. The reason for the overbooking issue was that United staff members needed to board the flight.
This high-profile incident may have left you wondering how United decides who to bump from overbooked flights. You may even be wondering if you have any options if you're selected to leave a flight once you've already taken your seat. Take a look at how and why United chooses passengers to bump, and find out if there's a way you can protect your seat.
Who Is Likely To Get Bumped From A United Flight?
There has been a lot of talk about the random process behind determining who gets bumped from United flights. Saying that the process for selecting who will get bumped from a flight is random isn't exactly accurate. There are a few factors that can increase your odds of being bumped from a United plane.
It turns out that how much you paid for your seat could determine whether or not you'll actually be taking the journey with your fellow passengers. Passengers who pay the least for their tickets are actually placed at the top of the list for being bumped in the case of an overbooked flight.
However, paying the same fare as the other people around you won't necessarily save you. All other passengers are actually sorted based on when they checked in for the flight. Many people consider the process random because it is done through an automated system.
Gate agents have no control over who gets bumped and who stays on a plane. The one lesson to learn from the recent incident is that attempting to argue with airline personnel or gate agents probably won't work to your advantage.
Who Won't Get Bumped From A United Flight?
There is one way to guarantee that you can avoid being bumped from your flight when you travel with United going forward. Members of United's MileagePlus loyalty program will never be bumped. Of course, the only time this policy won't be upheld is if every passenger on a flight happens to have MileagePlus membership.
The airline would then simply bump passengers with the lowest membership status in that case. United also exempts unaccompanied minors and passengers with disabilities from being bumped from flights.
Will United Make Policy Changes?
United hasn't been silent in the face of criticism from the public, though. The airline has already announced that it will be adjusting its policies regarding how it removes passengers from flights.
United will no longer require customers seated on planes to give up their seats involuntarily for reasons other than safety or security.
One other big change is that United will now limit the use of law enforcement to situations that involve safety and security issues only. The airline faced harsh criticism for bringing in so much force to handle a passenger who didn't pose any obvious threat during the recent incident.
Additionally, United will increase customer compensation incentives for voluntarily giving up a seat to a maximum of $10,000.
All of these changes went into effect before the end of April. Well, at least United isn't wasting any time when it comes to fixing the underlying issues that led to what many consider to be the biggest public relations blunder of the year.