Illinois bill seeks to ban forcible removal of airline passengers

Illinois bill seeks to ban forcible removal of airline passengers

An Illinois lawmaker is introducing a measure in the state legislature that would prevent state and local employees from forcibly removing passengers from flights.

The bill, unveiled Monday, comes about a week after a passenger on a United Airlines flight out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was violently pulled out of his seat and dragged from the aircraft to make room for airline employees.

The incident, which was caught on video, stirred an international uproar over airlines' treatment of passengers, as well as their overbooking policies. It also prompted calls for a boycott of United and an apology from the carrier.

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The Illinois measure introduced by state Rep. Peter Breen (R) would also ensure that criminal charges are not brought against passengers that refuse to give up their seats, and would prohibit the state from doing business with airlines that have policies allowing for the forcible removal of passengers.

"Passengers place their total trust in our nation's commercial airlines to bring them safely from one place to another," the bill reads. "Without this special trust, our nation's transportation system would be crippled, harming our business community and our tourism industry."

The bill carves out exceptions for certain cases, for example, if a passenger poses a threat to the safety of others on the flight. 

The legislation isn't the first such measure to be introduced since the United episode. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) last week introduced the "Customers Not Cargo Act," which would also prohibit airlines from using force to remove passengers from flights due to overbooking or airlines looking to seat employees. 

A San Francisco city supervisor last week asked city attorneys to start drafting an ordinance that would ban city law enforcement officers from entering an aircraft to remove passengers refusing to get off the plane.