Can an Airline Really Just Yank You Off the Plane?:
"By now there's a good chance you've seen the shocking video from a United Airlines plane at Chicago's O'Hare airport.
The clip—in which a bloodied man is forcibly dragged off an overbooked flight to make room for an airline employee—has justifiably caused a sensation on social media. And lots of people who saw the fracas must have wondered:
Does the airline really have the right to do this?
The short answer, according to aviation and government sources, is that airlines have a lot of leeway to remove a traveler from a plane, for any reason.
"Passengers have far fewer 'rights' than they imagine," says George Hobica, president of AirfareWatchdog.com.
...That's when the "involuntary denied boarding" rules kick in, and if you want to know everything about the sorry-sounding legal term, it's all spelled out in plain English in a government consumer guide called Fly Rights.
Basically: When airlines have exhausted all other options, they have to start picking which customers they'll bump, and explain their reasoning in writing.
Usually it's based on the fare paid (whoever paid the least gets bumped first), but other factors can be weighed.
...So why can't a passenger simply refuse to leave, as the man in the video did?
(He reportedly told the crew he was a doctor and he too needed to be at his destination the following morning for work.)
Well, at that point the airline had another legal weapon:
Any action or behavior that is judged to be "interfering with the flight crew" is against the law. "Interfering" is vague and can cover a broad range of passenger behavior, and can encompass almost anything that makes the flight crew feel uncomfortable..."
Read it all!