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United Airlines abuse video may be the wake-up call fliers need

This Sunday, April 9, 2017, image made from a video provided by Audra D. Bridges shows a passenger who was removed from a United Airlines flight in Chicago. Video of police officers dragging the passenger from an overbooked United Airlines flight sparked an uproar Monday on social media, and a spokesman for the airline insisted that employees had no choice but to contact authorities to remove the man. (Audra D. Bridges via AP)

Traveling by air these days has become about as enjoyable as a trip to your family dentist for a root canal.

On second thought, after the latest dust up with United Airlines, the dentist’s office may be more preferable.

At least when you see your dentist, the odds are pretty good that you will leave with your teeth in better shape than when you went in, unlike what happened on United Flight 3411 to Louisville.

As more information comes out about the unfortunate travels of Dr. David Dao, we learned that he sustained substantial injuries: A broken nose, concussion and two of his front teeth were knocked out.

So unless you are OK with being bullied and treated like less than a human, you should stay away from airports all together it seems.

By now, I would say most Americans have heard about this event, but the question of what rights we have as airline passengers seem to be a bit murky.

Discussions in some cases turn into ugly debates regarding whether or not Dao actually deserved the treatment he received or if United Airlines, who once marketed themselves under the slogan “come fly the friendly skies” was in fact being a bully who abused a paying customer to put their own interests first while hiding behind their “small print,” or if they were within their rights.

For years now, airports have allowed TSA agents to mistreat airline passengers in their travels but this is the first time (that it has been reported anyway) that a customer has been beaten bloody on the actual plane.

Usually, this special treatment is reserved prior to boarding.

If you are selected to be one of the lucky recipients of a pat down or worse, you have no say in how you can or cannot be treated. It is as if people have become conditioned to check their rights and dignity with their baggage.

Is it any surprise we are hearing the argument from some that Dao actually deserved what he got?

Where else besides the airports do we tolerate being exposed to such indignities? The airport has become a place where we have allowed ourselves to be subjected to the most unconstitutional and dehumanizing actions.

Less than three years before Dao was forcibly extracted and dragged from one of its aircrafts, United Airlines had assured federal regulators that all of their ticketed passengers are guaranteed seats on fights. It seems that, while some protections may be in place, consumers do not know of them.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced Thursday he intends to introduce legislation that should help prevent airlines from forcibly removing a ticketed passenger from a flight. While this is good news, I am hoping that Congress can revisit how the TSA treats people while they are investigating the airline industry as a whole.

Knowledge is power and I encourage you to know your rights before your next trip to the airport. You can read them on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website.

However, there is much room for improvement with the ever-growing sea of rules and regulations put in place to keep us “safe.”

If you find yourself getting bumped from a flight before new legislation comes to pass, you should know that, for an involuntary bump, the maximum compensation according is $1,350; no vouchers — only cash. This was not offered on United Flight 3411 and, if the airline had, maybe it would have found its four volunteers.

It could be less depending on certain circumstances and, in some cases, you are not entitled to anything at all if you are accommodated to arrive at your destination close to your originally scheduled time.

If one good thing can come of Dao’s horrific experience, it may be that we have awakened from our indifference to realize that freedom and human dignity are much more valuable than security and nobody should ever be treated with such sheer and blatant disregard.

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