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United Airlines may have misled federal regulators in 2014

The video showing Dr. David Dao with his face bloodied, being removed from United Airlines Flight 3411 at Chicago’s O’Hare airport Sunday evening went viral. Since then, there have been calls for boycotting the airline and the resignation of United’s CEO Oscar Munoz. The company’s market capitalization dropped $255 million yesterday and people are demanding airlines no longer be able to oversell seats or bump ticketed passengers from flights. The video also shows United may have misled federal regulators three years when the airline responded to rule changes suggested by the Department of Transportation.

Three years ago, federal regulators proposed rule changes for airlines. The feds wanted changes to require airlines to fully disclose what comprises the fees airlines charge to their customers. One of these changes was a requirement airline companies set out exactly how much passengers were being charged to reserve assigned seats.

Yesterday, International Business Times reported they have reviewed what United Airlines filed with the regulators in response to these proposed changes. United Airlines opposed the suggested change that the cost of reserving seats have to be disclosed.

In its filing, United argued it made no sense to have to disclose the amount of being assigned a seat because, “Every ticket, of course, guarantees a passenger on a seat on the plane with no additional seat-assignment charges.”

Later on in the filing, United Airlines said every passenger who purchases a ticket will be assigned a seat at no additional charge. “Therefore, the rule does not need to prescribe how carriers must disclose charges concerning advance seat assignments because passengers need not purchase this service to receive a seat assignment.”

In other words, once a passenger purchases a ticket, he or she has purchased a seat on a particular flight. A seat is guaranteed.

Flight 3411 was full but not overbooked. But United decided they had to fly four crew members to Louisville, the plane’s destination, so the employees could fly out of that city the next day. Since there were no additional seats, United offered four volunteers $800 and a night’s accommodation to leave the plane but there were no takers. So United chose four passengers and told them they had to leave the aircraft. One, Dr. David Dao, refused to leave saying he was a doctor and had to see patients the next day. Security officers were called who were then recorded by passengers forcibly removing Dao from the plane.

READ ALSO: United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz makes a bad situation worse

It is not illegal or against the rules for airlines to overbook and bump ticket holders from flights. And the small print on United Airline contracts with ticket holders gives the company the right to bump passengers. But it appears, United may have misled the regulators back in 2014 when they said the purchase of a ticket gives the passenger the guaranteed right to a seat.

Dao, who is still in hospital, has hired lawyers to take action against United.

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