United Airlines under fire for dragging passenger from flight: What other airlines do when overbooked

Planes on the tarmac at Changi Airport.
Planes on the tarmac at Changi Airport.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Airlines that fly out of Singapore tell The Straits Times they may offer alternative bookings to accommodate passengers on overbooked flights.

A spokesman for Jetstar said: "Airlines in this part of the world have a much more conservative approach to overbooking than airlines in the United States."

The airline will offer a seat on the next available flight if a passenger cannot be checked in for a flight due to overbooking, and other options such as vouchers for refreshments or flight travel.

The issue of what airlines do when they are overbooked is now a hot talking point.

On Sunday (April 9), United Airlines was caught in a social media firestorm after a passenger on one of its overbooked flights was filmed being dragged from the plane.

The airline had to fly four of its staff members to a connection and decided to bump off four passengers from Flight 3411, from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky, to make space for the staff.


Related Stories: 

One of the passengers was seen being dragged down the aisle on his back by his hands, body limp, bleeding from the mouth, glasses askew and shirt pulled up above his navel.

A spokesman for Scoot and Tigerair said it was an industry practice for airlines to accept slightly more flight bookings than the number of seats in the aircraft, as almost every flight has a small percentage of passengers who do not show up for their flights.

The spokesman said Scoot and Tigerair offer affected passengers hotel accommodation if the next available flight is not within the same day. The airlines' spokesman added: "Alternatively, guests who prefer to make their own travel arrangements will be refunded their full airfare."

According to Singapore Airlines' website, there is a "slight chance" that a flight seat is not available for which a passenger holds a ticket. If a flight is overbooked, the airline first asks for volunteers willing to give up their reservation "in exchange for a payment of the airline's choosing".

"If there are not enough volunteers, the airline will deny boarding to other persons in accordance with its particular boarding priority. With few exceptions, persons denied boarding involuntarily are entitled to compensation.

"The complete rules for the payment of compensation and each airline's boarding priorities are available at all airport ticket counters and boarding locations. However, some airlines do not apply these consumer protections to travel from some countries, although other consumer protections may be available."