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Department of Transportation says airline could not lawfully use passenger’s race as criteria to deny boarding

April 12, 2017

Source: Tomas del Coro/Flickr/CC

 

After a passenger was forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight on Sunday night, the U.S. Department of Transportation is reviewing the incident. Here is the DOT's updated statement:

 

The Department of Transportation’s Office of Aviation Enforcement and Proceedings began its initial review of United Airlines Express Flight 3411 on April 10. The Department remains committed to ensuring that airlines comply with consumer protection regulations and will not speculate during the review process on this matter.

 

The passenger is identified as Dr. David Dao, a Chinese-Vietnamese American doctor from Elizabethtown, Kentucky. Questions arise on whether his race or ethnicity had something to do with the selection of the involuntarily resignation of his seat. The Department of Transportation addressed passenger rights and its oversales rule in the official response sent to me seen below. It states that airlines cannot discriminate based on race or ethnicity:

 

If there are not enough passengers who are willing to give up their seats voluntarily, an airline may involuntarily deny boarding to passengers based on criteria that it establishes, such as the passenger’s check-in time, the fare paid by the passenger, or the passenger’s frequent flyer status ... However, the criteria cannot subject a passenger to any unjust or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage.   For example, an airline could not lawfully use a passenger’s race or ethnicity as a criterion.    

 

United Airlines had "overbooked" their flight, and asked passengers to voluntarily give up their seat, for which there were no takers. Thereafter, the airline claims to have randomly selected passengers, who already boarded, to involuntarily leave the aircraft. Later, it was also found that the flight was not overbooked, but rather the four seats were needed make room for United employees.

 

When Dr. Dao did not voluntarily resign his seat, citing that he had patients to see in the morning, Chicago Department of Aviation security officers forcibly dragged him out of the aircraft. His glasses were knocked to the bottom of his face, while he was bleeding from the mouth, as other passengers looked on with distress and confusion. Dr. Dao was later found back in the aircraft, bleeding and holding on to curtains repeatedly saying "just kill me."

 

There is currently a White House petition leading with the hashtag "#ChineseLivesMatter."  Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has also called for a hearing on the incident.

 

#AmyLieuPresents will continue to follow this story.

 

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