The internet (and media everywhere) went into meltdown when a United Airlines passenger was literally dragged from a plane after the carrier overbooked his flight and the man refused to budge.
Sure, United should’ve handled the situation better, but before you go tearing up your UA mileage card (like many in China have reportedly promised to do – the flyer was of Chinese origin) or vow to avoid the carrier altogether, keep in mind just how ubiquitous the practice of overbooking is amongst airlines, including in Australia.
Moreover, overbooking down under isn’t just common, but leaves those affected poorly off when compared to flyers in other parts of the world.
According to Shine Lawyers transport law department manager Thomas Janson, Aussie airlines weren’t great at considering passenger rights of bumped fliers, the ABC reported.
"There seems to be very little appetite by government and the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) to look into this issue," he said.
Like Mr Janson, consumer group CHOICE points to the European Union for how to treat bumped flyers.
"Unlike Europe, Australians are not entitled to set levels of compensation if their flight is overbooked and they are delayed," CHOICE spokesman Tom Godfrey said.
"Whether you get a meal voucher or just a pat the back after your flight is overbooked, is at the discretion of the airline. There is no requirement for them to compensate you for your loss.
"In line with the compensation scheme in Europe, we are calling for better compensation for passengers who suffer loss when an airline makes a mistake such as overbooking flights."
Under normal circumstances, air travellers in Europe are entitled to $900 if they arrive at their destination more than three hours late; they’re also given meals, two free phone calls and appropriate accommodation.
According to CHOICE data, over one in five (21%) Aussies flyers experienced delays or cancellations in 2015, with four percent of those bumped from their flight.
Airlines often overbook flights as a way of keeping airfares low, and do so under the assumption that some passengers simply wont turn up for their flights. But that doesn’t always happen. Just ask (former) United flyer David Dao.