Seven African American passengers were kicked off of a Spirit Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Dallas yesterday.
Los Angeles Airport police officers initially escorted just one couple off Flight 868 shortly after 7:15 p.m. local time because a white flight attendant accused a male traveler of being disruptive when he refused to get up from his seat.
…Five more passengers were asked to leave after allegedly questioning the flight crew’s motives in kicking the couple off the flight. All seven passengers were African-American.
The passengers were rebooked and given hotel vouchers.
- They claimed they were removed because they’re black. The flight attendant was white.
- They further speculated it was because the flight was overbooked.
Apparently the situation began over a dispute over a seat. One of the passengers initially asked to leave the plane would not give up their seat when asked to do so by a flight attendant after another passenger arrived with a boarding pass showing they were assigned to that seat.
After the first passengers were removed for being disruptive, the additional passengers engaging crew over the ejection were deemed to be a threat as well, though they claim to have been ‘just having the conversation’.
I wasn’t on the flight. “[W]itnesses on the flight told reporters the banned passengers were being disruptive.” I can’t independently judge that, I’m inclined to believe based on my own experience but I also realize that there can be lots of misunderstandings in these situations and that an individual’s biases can play into how they seem them develop.
What I’m more interested in is what happens when you’re being removed from a flight?
- Generally speaking a passenger removed from a flight at the discretion of the crew is going to be accommodated on the next flight. This doesn’t happen “all the time” but it does happen from time to time. With a large network carrier, like United or American, there are often several flight options to transport a passenger to their final destination. With an ultra low cost carrier like Spirit there are usually fewer flights to accommodate a passenger on. And Spirit keeps its costs low by not having the sort of agreements with other airlines that let them move a passenger onto another flight.
- In other words, the consequences of something like this can be worse flying Spirit or Frontier than Delta or Alaska.
- Airlines can generally evict passengers when the captain feels it is not safe to transport them – either for the aircraft or other passengers. That’s a judgment call that is in practice not really reviewable in the moment. After the fact, when it’s clear that employees made the wrong call airlines may bend over backwards with compensation.
- If an airline refuses to transport a passenger to their destination, the passenger would be entitled to a refund. But it’s unlikely the refund will cover the walk up fare on another airline. So working with the airline is usually the best bet.
- If a passenger doesn’t get satisfaction, the best they can hope for is to be made whole after the fact. If there are allegations of discrimination, that the customer doesn’t feel are handled appropriately, then the next step is usually filing a complaint with the Department of Transportation.
These situations are unfortunate and it’s rarely the case that they can be made to end well, or at least as well as had the situation not arisen in the first place.
Lawsuits are tough, you have to track down witnesses. They can be costly. The airlines are better-armed with lawyers. And it may take years to reach a conclusion.
Bad things happen. The best you can do is not escalate them.
- Respect the authoritah of the crew, don’t try to vindicate yourself at least to the same person who is accusing you of something. If you ask for the captain they’re likely to back up their crew member.
- If you’re removed from the flight, your first priority is to get rebooked. If there’s an overnight required, to get a hotel.
- Then deal with compensation last.