美联航“超售”,乘客被强制要求离机

Photo Credit: InSapphoWeTrust @ Flickr

【4.10傍晚Update】今天晚些时候,UA CEO Oscar给全体UA发信了,基本态度是认为UA首先客气的要求乘客下飞机,然后乘客拒绝并变得情绪激动才不得不请芝加哥航空安全官网帮忙。UA员工按照既有程序处理问题,并没有错误。并表示自己坚定的站在UA员工背后。CEO甚至用了disruptive and belligerent这样的词汇形容乘客。


1. 事件简述

今天有一条新闻应该是在全世界都要炸锅了:

4月9日,美联航的UA3411航班,Chicago, IL飞往Louisiville, KY,因为超售需要4位乘客自愿下机。一般来说超售自愿下机航司都会给予补偿,往往都是一定金额的航司代金券,但是今天这个航班的乘客们因为各种原因,没有人站出来表示要自愿放弃,于是UA“随机挑选”了四位乘客,要求他们离开飞机并给予补偿。其中一位亚裔乘客表示自己是医生需要赶往目的地为病人手术,拒绝下机,随后UA机组让机场警察从机舱里强制带走这位乘客,期间乘客因为争执而受伤。10分钟后乘客返回客舱,最终客机延误了大约2小时。

新闻在英文或者中文网站上都有了,比如大家可以看看BloombergWashingtonPost的报道。此外Twitter等社交网络上也有很多乘客录下的现场视频,比如Twitter用户@Tyler Bridges拍摄的:

根据UA自己承认,“超售”是因为有4位UA员工需要赶往Lousiville机场执行任务。而不是原本的票卖多了。United的官方Twitter账号随后登载了CEO的回应。

但是事情现在已经在网络上吵得不可开交了,而且舆论基本都是一边倒:UA显然是在欺负这个乘客,很多人因此表示要抵制UA。

许多网友还根据此事件制作了很多反对UA的PS图…不得不感慨人民群众确实有才啊。

此外还有人对UA选择离机乘客的标准和流程表示怀疑,根据NYTimes的报道,他们的发言人对此没有做出明确的回答:

Mr. Hobart would not say whether the bumped passengers were chosen by a computer, human or some combination of the two. But factors can include how long a customer would have to stay at the airport before being rebooked, he said, and the airline looks to avoid separating families or leaving unaccompanied minors.

2. 法律条款

想必大家最想知道的问题是:UA真的有权利这么做吗?

根据买票时需要同意的条款和FAA的规定:当一个航班超售时,他们需要寻求自愿下飞机的乘客并给予补偿。如果人数不足,他们可以自行决定哪些人不能够乘机前往目的地。

§250.2b   Carriers to request volunteers for denied boarding.

(a) In the event of an oversold flight, every carrier shall request volunteers for denied boarding before using any other boarding priority. A “volunteer” is a person who responds to the carrier’s request for volunteers and who willingly accepts the carriers’ offer of compensation, in any amount, in exchange for relinquishing the confirmed reserved space. Any other passenger denied boarding is considered for purposes of this part to have been denied boarding involuntarily, even if that passenger accepts the denied boarding compensation.

(b) Every carrier shall advise each passenger solicited to volunteer for denied boarding, no later than the time the carrier solicits that passenger to volunteer, whether he or she is in danger of being involuntarily denied boarding and, if so, the compensation the carrier is obligated to pay if the passenger is involuntarily denied boarding. If an insufficient number of volunteers come forward, the carrier may deny boarding to other passengers in accordance with its boarding priority rules.

(c) If a carrier offers free or reduced rate air transportation as compensation to volunteers, the carrier must disclose all material restrictions, including but not limited to administrative fees, advance purchase or capacity restrictions, and blackout dates applicable to the offer before the passenger decides whether to give up his or her confirmed reserved space on the flight in exchange for the free or reduced rate transportation. If the free or reduced rate air transportation is offered orally to potential volunteers, the carrier shall also orally provide a brief description of the material restrictions on that transportation at the same time that the offer is made.

在这次事件中,若 UA 真的是超售了,那么 UA 确实是遵守了先给予补偿的要求。同时在(b)部分也有规定,如果自愿下机的人不够,那么航司可以根据自己的priority rule来拒绝部分乘客登机。

此外在飞机上,机长也拥有绝对的权利,如果他认为乘客可能对飞行安全有影响,他是有权利要求你下飞机的。比如就此事件而言,如果乘客得知自己必须把位置让给机组而大吵大闹,那么机长可以行使自己的权利“请”他下飞机。可参考UA购票合同第21条:Refusal of Transport。权力是一码事,行驶权力坏了名声是另一码事。但根本问题还是,为何一定要让这位乘客来让出他的位置?此外乘客有无违反规定而使得他可以被请下飞机的行为?如果没有,那么机组也涉及到滥用权力。

而且,本事件中UA是否真的涉及overbooking其实也有待商榷。已经有律师对此表示质疑:此事并不是严格定义的超售。在著名博主 TPG 的文章下,有一位律师 NegativeFeedback 是这样回复的

Lawyer here. This myth that passengers don’t have rights needs to go away, ASAP. You are dead wrong when saying that United legally kicked him off the plane.

1. First of all, it’s airline spin to call this an overbooking. The statutory provision granting them the ability to deny boarding is about “OVERSALES”, specifically defines as booking more reserved confirmed seats than there are available. This is not what happened. They did not overbook the flight; they had a fully booked flight, and not only did everyone already have a reserved confirmed seat, they were all sitting in them. The law allowing them to denying boarding in the event of an oversale does not apply.

2. Even if it did apply, the law is unambiguously clear that airlines have to give preference to everyone with reserved confirmed seats when choosing to involuntarily deny boarding. They have to always choose the solution that will affect the least amount of reserved confirmed seats. This rule is straightforward, and United makes very clear in their own contract of carriage that employees of their own or of other carriers may be denied boarding without compensation because they do not have reserved confirmed seats. On its face, it’s clear that what they did was illegal– they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats, in violation of 14 CFR 250.2a.

3. Furthermore, even if you try and twist this into a legal application of 250.2a and say that United had the right to deny him boarding in the event of an overbooking; they did NOT have the right to kick him off the plane. Their contract of carriage highlights there is a complete difference in rights after you’ve boarded and sat on the plane, and Rule 21 goes over the specific scenarios where you could get kicked off. NONE of them apply here. He did absolutely nothing wrong and shouldn’t have been targeted. He’s going to leave with a hefty settlement after this fiasco.

3. 一点讨论

虽然UA这一次事件虽然法律上是否站得住脚仍然有待讨论,但是即使有权利这么做,当然不代表这么做就是合理的。其处理超售(尤其是因为机组要乘机而赶走乘客)的态度使得其现在成为千夫所指,也完全是咎由自取,尤其是前一周UA还刚经历过一场拒绝登机的风波(两个女孩因为穿leggings被地勤认为不合着装要求拒绝登机)。

以往类似的事件往往都是因为乘客因为这样那样的安全原因而被强制带离,这一次仅仅是因为UA有员工要赶飞机去另一个机场而强制带走乘客,也算是大开眼界了…

如果UA愿意当场把赔偿金进一步提高,或者采取其他方式将4位机组成员送至目的地,而不是呼叫警方采取强制手段,他们也就不会像现在这样成为众矢之的了。这个锅其实UA高层背得冤,也不冤。冤的是当时下指令的并不是他们,应该是当班机组,而不冤的是自己企业文化没培养好,吃了现在的亏当然得自己背。

现在想来,UA “Fly the Friendly Skies”的广告词真是讽刺至极…还是说因为飞机还没上天,所以就不用be friendly了?


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