Frequent flyer and travel blogger Matthew Klint was recently kicked off a United Airlines flight from Newark to Istanbul after a flight attendant saw him take a picture of the back of the seat in front of him, and reported him to the pilot. The pilot told Mr. Klint, “You are not flying on this flight…. We’ll call the police if we have to.”
Perhaps unfortunately, Mr. Klint didn’t insist that the police be called, or call them himself, leaving him dealing with United Airlines’ public relations department rather than with legal authorities.
As a frequent flyer and blogger, Mr. Klint at least able to get the airline to talk to him, after the fact. But what can an ordinary traveler do in such a situation?
We talked about this last year in articles on Does an airline pilot have the right to refuse to let you fly? and What can you do if an airline pilot won’t let you fly? But it bears repeating:
Under Federal law, as common carriers, airlines must transport all would-be passengers willing to pay the applicable fare in their published tariff and comply with their published conditions of carriage. Not to do so is a serious violation of their duties.
If an airline refuses to allow you to fly, for any reason other than a violation of published laws, regulations, or conditions of carriage, you can and should make a formal complaint against the airline to the Department of Transportation.
A pilot can order you off the plane only if the pilot genuinely believes that you pose a hazard to the safe operation of the flight, in which case the pilot is required to log and report this safety incident.
If a pilot orders you off the flight for some other reason, or without logging and reporting his or her action as a safety incident, you can and should report the pilot to the FAA.
We’ve offered our support to Mr. Klint, should he wish to pursue a legal challenge to the actions of the airline and pilot against him.