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United was deeply in the wrong

The Sun's recent editorial regarding the forcefully removed United Airlines passenger merits some clarifications ("The unfriendly skies," April 12).

The flight was not overbooked, it was fully booked which is quite different and legally relevant. The problem arose simply because the airline wanted to transport employees by unseating seated passengers which appears to be illegal, rather than using such reasonable expedients as getting them seats on another carrier or chartering a small plane for the relatively short flight to Louisville.

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A lawyer posting on Reddit and quoted at Naked Capitalism wrote, "They did not overbook the flight; they had a fully booked flight, and not only did everyone already have a reserved confirmed seat, they were all sitting in them. The law allowing them to deny boarding in the event of an oversale does not apply. Even if it did apply, the law is unambiguously clear that airlines have to give preference to everyone with reserved confirmed seats when choosing to involuntarily deny boarding. They have to always choose the solution that will affect the least amount of reserved confirmed seats. This rule is straightforward, and United makes very clear in their own contract of carriage that employees of their own or of other carriers may be denied boarding without compensation because they do not have reserved confirmed seats. On its face, it's clear that what they did was illegal — they gave preference to their employees over people who had reserved confirmed seats..."

The officers involved were not police but airport security. This may or may not prove to be legally relevant, but it is a distinction.

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I personally do not regard David Dao's behavior as ill-mannered. The airline was unlawfully attempting to deny him passage they were legally obligated to provide, and he had strong, good reason to want to complete his trip as scheduled. He was quite reasonably angry. Moreover, whatever wrong he may have committed over 10 years ago is past and done and wholly irrelevant to the present incident. The effort by United or its friends in the media to discredit the man they had wronged is deeply offensive.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam

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