From a doctor who was forcibly removed to a political commentator who was made to give up her pre-selected seat, airline controversies are neither few nor far between.
It’s a combination of the rising prominence of social media and a near-monopoly of the airline industry that is contributing to the growing news of airline customers being unduly inconvenienced as they travel, attorney Arthur Alan Wolk, who specializes in aviation law, told Fox News.
These incidents are “happening more because airlines feel that they’re empowered to abuse their passengers more and feel that there are no consequences,” Wolk said.
Wolk says that chances of the airline industry improving for customers is bleak, even “nill.”
Read on for a look at some recent airline controversies.
Harvard Law student Briana Williams claims she and her daughter were booted from an American Airlines flight this summer after she requested the 4-year-old's stroller while the plane was delayed, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday.
Williams, 24, told the newspaper their Aug. 21. New York City-bound flight was delayed for several hours. The plane reportedly went back to the gate and passengers were told to get off.
Williams asked the airline staff for the stroller, which had been checked, while she was deboarding, the Daily News said. They declined.
“I told a crew member that I was not going to be leaving the aircraft without my stroller,” Williams said. She later spoke to the "very disgruntled and aggressive" pilot, and says he contacted police to boot her from the flight.
Williams and her daughter were put on a flight in the morning, the report said.
“The pilot put me in a potentially dangerous situation with law enforcement as a young, black woman, saying that I was a ‘threat,’” Williams, who intends to pursue legal action, told the paper. "This type of rhetoric paralyzes the African-American community, and I want to ensure that policies are put in place that regulate the pilot’s discretionary abilities.”
She says she turned down American Airlines's offer of 25,000 miles.
The airline told Fox News putting her on a different flight was in "the best interest of everyone involved," and said it offered her the miles. The carrier also said it "does not tolerate discrimination of any kind."
This weekend, a Georgia woman said she was prohibited from singing the national anthem with fellow passengers aboard a Delta flight which was also carrying one of the four U.S. troops killed earlier this month during an attack in Niger.
Pamela Dee Gaudry, who is married to a Vietnam War veteran, enlisted the support of other passengers and planned to sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” to honor the fallen soldier and his family. But in a now-viral Facebook video, Gaudry said she was prevented from singing the national anthem by the chief flight attendant who informed her the song was against Delta’s policies.
She also said in her video that she is “humiliated” by what she sees as her “lack of courage” for following orders and not singing.
Since her video, Gaudry said she has been offered an apology from Delta, and the airline also confirmed that the national anthem is not against its policies.
In a series of tweets, right-wing commentator Ann Coulter slammed Delta for giving away her seat to another woman on a flight from New York to West Palm Beach on July 15.
Coulter later told Fox News that as she was boarding, a “ticket agent snatched the ticket out of” her hand and informed her that her seat had changed due to an “emergency.”
She said that she sat in the original seat anyway until she was told to move by a stewardess who was not able to give an explanation for the seat change.
“[The other passenger] was not an elderly person, was not a sickly person, a very tall person,” Coulter said.
Party of five
A family of five said they were unfairly kicked off of a JetBlue flight on July 2 after a confrontation with an airline employee.
Tamir and Mandy Raanan said they were traveling from Fort Lauderdale to New York with their three young daughters – one of whom had kicked the back of another passenger’s seat.
Mandy said she apologized to the other passenger, but the family was still asked to leave the plane.
JetBlue said in a statement that the incident was not as innocent as described.
“After a verbal altercation that included physical threats and profanities against a nearby customer, the aircraft door was reopened and our airports team politely asked the customers to step off to discuss the situation,” JetBlue said.
The airline thanked its employees for their “professional handling” of the situation and said it would “investigate whether the customers’ behavior warrants restrictions on JetBlue travel” in the future.
Quite the ‘erreur’
Lucie Bahetoukilae, who only speaks French, handed her ticket to an airline employee and boarded a plane in Newark, N.J., thinking the next stop would be Paris. When she got to her seat and found another woman in it, a flight attendant sat her in an empty seat.
"She could have been a terrorist and killed people on that flight and they didn't know they didn't catch it."
Nearly 3,000 miles later, Bahetoukilae touched down in San Francisco.
In what United Airlines deemed a “horrible failure” in May, Bahetoukilae boarded the wrong plane after her flight’s gate switched at the last minute. She said the announcement wasn’t made in French, and she didn’t receive an email notifying her of the gate change.
Once in San Francisco, Bahetoukilae had to wait 11 hours before United was able to get her on the correct flight to France.
Diane Miantsoko, the woman’s niece, told WABC-TV that she was worried about United’s security protocol.
"With everything going on in this country people have to be more careful," Miantsoko said. "They didn't pay attention. My aunt could have been anyone. She could have been a terrorist and killed people on that flight and they didn't know they didn't catch it."
United apologized for the mistake in a statement and said it is “working with our team in Newark to prevent this from happening again.”
Whose seat is it, anyway?
Delta apologized after a California couple and their two children were booted from the overbooked plane when the parents refused to give up an extra seat they had purchased.
Brian Schear said he, his wife and two children boarded a flight from Maui to Los Angeles on April 23 and were asked to give up an additional seat they had purchased for their older son who had ended up taking a different flight. Since the son wasn’t present, Schear said the family planned to use his seat for one of the younger children.
But the flight was overbooked, and Schear was asked to give up the seat. When the family refused, they were made to leave the plane. The family booked new tickets home on another airline.
“We are sorry for the unfortunate experience our customers had with Delta, and we’ve reached out to them to refund their travel and provide additional compensation,” the airline.
‘I’d rather go to jail’
Dr. David Dao was seated on a United fight in Chicago bound for Louisville on April 9 when he was asked to give up his seat on an overbooked flight to make room for crew members.
Dao refused, explaining that he is a doctor who needed to be at work early the next morning.
"I’d rather go to jail."
“I’m not going,” Dao repeatedly said. “I’d rather go to jail.”
Disturbing cell phone footage showing Dao being dragged off the plane, seemingly unconscious, by security officials went viral. During the altercation, Dao suffered a concussion, lost two of his teeth and broke his nose, his attorney said.
Dao and United “reached an amicable settlement” later in April.
“We look forward to implementing the improvements we have announced, which will put our customers at the center of everything we do,” United said in a statement at the time of the settlement.