Booker, Menendez Want to Clamp Down on Airline Overbooking

U.S. Sens. Bob Menendez (left) and Cory Booker. PolitickerNJ

NEWARK — Following the removal of a United Airlines passenger from an airplane by force last month, two New Jersey Democrats are proposing new legislation that would take aim at airlines’ practice of overbooking flights and denying service to ticketed passengers.

At a news conference in Newark Airport, Sens. Cory Booker and Bob Menendez said their bill would sharply reduce instances of overbooking and impose other new regulations ahead of the June 30 deadline to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Authority’s agreements on funding and policy priorities.

Changes include doing away with the $1,350 cap on payouts for ejected passengers and forbidding airlines from rejecting travelers who have already boarded the aircraft, as in the most recent United case. Security staff physically dragged a Kentucky doctor, David Dao, from his seat when he declined to leave the plane, and video of the incident quickly spread across the Internet.

“It should be a cost consequence to the airline and their bottom line,” Menendez said of the bill, the aptly acronymed Transparency, Improvements and Compensation to Keep Every Ticketholder Safe (TICKETS) Act. “They’re making some record profits. We’re just simply saying that if $1,350 doesn’t solve your problem, the you shouldn’t be limited to $1,350 so that you can avoid incidents like we saw in the United flight.”

“United Airlines might now change some of its policies, but that’s not industry-wide change,” Booker said. “We have a lot of leverage coming with the FAA reauthorization and I think you’re going to find a lot of bipartisan desire to create more accountability for the airlines.”

The bill also would require airlines to specify its policies on voluntary and involuntary denial of boarding, as well as have the U.S. Transportation Department review federal policy on how many tickets airlines may sell over the limit of what they can accommodate on a flight. Flight crews would also be required to provide sixty minutes’ advance notice of a denial of service.

Booker, Menendez Want to Clamp Down on Airline Overbooking