Could The United Incident Ever Happen In Australia?

by Zac George

If you’re not living under a rock, you would of most definitely seen the recent United dragging a passenger of an aircraft incident in the last few days. If you haven’t, here’s a quick rundown:

A passenger was dragged off an aircraft with excessive force (bleeding from the mouth) as United had overbooked the flight and needed someone to get off to make way for apparently off-duty staff. They tried to offer compensation of $400, no one accepted then $800 and still no one took it.

I’m not going to go in-depth and give my opinion on the incident because not all of the facts are known, I wasn’t on the aircraft so I feel like I don’t really need to make a comment on how I feel.

If you want to see the actual video of the incident, here’s a video of it from a passenger on the flight:

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see what the actual conditions are in Australia for overbooking and conditions of carriage etc.

Virgin Australia,

We may overbook flights to account for guests who do not arrive for their ticketed flight. If you are refused carriage because your flight has been overbooked, and you hold a valid Ticket and have complied with these Conditions in relation to Bookings, ticketing and check-in, then you may be entitled to compensation.

The compensation payable will:

i. depend on the difference in time between when you were scheduled to arrive at your destination and when you actually arrive; and

ii. be in accordance with applicable Laws, or otherwise, in accordance with our Policies.


Airline flights may be overbooked. This means there is a slight chance that there may be more reservations than available seats on your flight. In these circumstances, where practicable, we will offer an incentive for volunteers not to travel on their booked flight. Volunteers will not be entitled to any further payment, refund or compensation. If there are not enough volunteers, we may need to deny boarding to one or more Passengers involuntarily.

If you are denied boarding due to an overbooking of our flight for which you have a valid Ticket and a confirmed reservation, and you have met our Check-In Deadline and complied with all applicable requirements for travel as set out in these Conditions of Carriage, we will offer you a seat on the next available flight on our services. If this is not acceptable to you, we will provide compensation and any care required by any law which may apply or in accordance with our policy if there is no applicable law. This will depend on the jurisdiction in which the denied boarding occurs.

Our denied boarding compensation policy is available on request.

As you can see with both airlines, they will provide compensation for overbooking and they do have the right to deny boarding if the aircraft is full.

Would if ever go as far as dragging someone off a plane? It’s hard to say. If a passenger was getting violent and starting damaging property I think yes of course, but if a passenger was just not agreeing I think they’d start to increase the incentives in hope of the passenger agreeing to leave the aircraft.

Have I ever seen overbooking in Australia?

I’ve only ever seen a flight overbooked once in my life in Australia. This was the day of a sporting grand final when flights are absolutely packed. It was an early Qantas flight to Sydney from Brisbane. The staff were offering compensation and a few people gladly took it.

it’s also good to note that our airlines allow flight changes on most fares at the airport as an elite member. Both Qantas and Virgin Australia have fly ahead systems were you’ll be able to get on a later or earlier flight free of charge, this can all happen from the airport lounge, many people use this all the time myself included.



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Dragonfly April 12, 2017 - 4:01 pm

Wondered if there was any staff (non-operational) on the flight? These would be the ones to be off loaded. Qantas has done this – part of their staff travel policy.

Zac George April 12, 2017 - 5:06 pm

It’s hard to say as United haven’t said exactly what they were. It still isn’t right how the situation was handled.

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