Lawmaker plans to introduce bill in response to United incident

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) announced plans Wednesday to file a bill that would ban airlines from forcibly removing passengers from a plane after boarding due to overbooking or in order to facilitate movement of airline crews.

"It is outrageous that airlines can bodily remove passengers after boarding rather than providing appropriate incentives to encourage volunteers," Van Hollen wrote in a letter to colleagues asking for co-sponsors. "Airlines should resolve these common overbooking issues prior to boarding."

Van Hollen's plan to introduce what he is calling the Customers Not Cargo Act comes on the heels of Sunday's incident in which United passenger David Dao was bloodied and dragged down the aisle by Chicago O'Hare police after he refused to cede his seat on a flight to Louisville to United crew.

The incident has spawned a firestorm of reaction in the U.S. and around the world, and has thrown United into public relations crisis mode. It has also raised questions about a federal regulation that allows airlines to overbook flights.

Van Hollen said his bill would direct the Department of Transportation to update its rule related to overbooking. Under the change, airlines would have to offer what he called "appropriate" incentives to solicit volunteers, and they would have to do so before boarding whenever possible.

Current law requires airlines to pay customers up to $1,350 for involuntarily bumping a passenger from a flight, depending on how much the passenger's ticket cost and how long he or she is delayed.

Van Hollen said rules related to airline overbooking should more generally be reexamined, but added that his bill would address the narrow issue of forcibly removing passengers from a plane immediately.

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