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Van Hollen finalizing bill in response to United removal

Seizing on the uproar over the forced removal of a man from a United Express flight over the weekend, Sen. Chris Van Hollen said Wednesday he is readying legislation to prohibit airlines from forcibly removing passengers due to overbooking or to free up seats for crew.

The Maryland Democrat released a letter to colleagues seeking sponsors for what he has called the “Customers Not Cargo Act.” His effort comes as others in Congress are demanding an explanation for an incident that has captured global attention.

“We were all shocked and outraged this week when United Airlines forcibly and brutally removed Dr. David Dao from Flight 3411,” Van Hollen in the letter. “It is outrageous that airlines can bodily remove passengers after boarding rather than providing appropriate incentives to encourage volunteers."

Van Hollen is still working on the text of the bill.

Bumping is not limited to flights that are oversold. It can happen if the plane is overweight or air marshals need a seat. Sometimes it happens because the airline needs room for employees who are commuting to work on another flight — that's what happened Sunday on United Express.

Flight 3411 was sold out — passengers had boarded, and every seat was filled — when the airline discovered that it needed to find room for four crew members.

In a series of three statements and an interview, United CEO Oscar Munoz became increasingly contrite. On Wednesday, he told ABC-TV that he would fix United's policies and that United will no longer call on police to remove passengers from full flights.

The Transportation Department said it is investigating the incident to determine if United violated consumer-protection or civil-rights laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

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