It was a story viewed around the world and made headlines in every single news publication. When Dr. David Doa, a 69 year old passenger on board a United Airlines flight was violently dragged out of his seat in order to make room for airline employees, the entire world was a-gasp.

The even stirred up a great deal of controversy for United Airlines, and for all airlines, in general. It also brought to light a lot of questions and concerns among travelers. How could this happen? Did United Airlines have the right to remove the passenger? What if it happens to me? What are my rights when traveling on a plane? How would I handle such a situation?

While the United Airlines incident was, without a doubt, tragic and horrific, travelers can take it as an opportunity to learn some very valuable lessons. As someone who has worked in the travel industry – and travels frequently – I would like to share some of the lessons that we can take away from the horrible United Airlines incident.

Was United Airlines Allowed to Remove the Passenger?

It may seem hard to believe it, but yes, United Airlines did have the right to remove the passenger from the plane. Airlines are permitted to remove anyone from a flight, particularly if the person is in breach of the airline’s contract of carriage. In the case of Dr Dao, the flight was overbooked and did not have enough seats to provide for their employees who were also traveling on the flight. Since they are obligated to provide a seat for their employees, they had a right to remove a passenger in order to make room.

However, the manner in which Dr Dao was removed from the flight was completely incorrect and nobody had the right to treat him in such a manner, despite the fact that the airline did have the right to ask him to leave his seat.

What happens if you are bumped from a flight?

If you are bumped from a flight, you will be offered compensation, especially if the bump was involuntary. You are entitled to maximum compensation, which must be paid in cash. As per the DOT, the maximum compensation for an involuntary bump is $1,350. However, do keep in mind that this is dependent on the situation. If the airline can get you on another flight that will get you to your destination close to the time that you should have arrived on your initial flight, you may not be entitled to any compensation.

Can you protect yourself from a similar incident?

If you ever experience such an incident, you want to make sure that you are protected. Purchasing travel insurance will help to protect you financially from any issues that may arise as a result of being bumped off a flight. If you are asked to leave a flight and you are not able to reach your destination on time, for example, travel insurance will reimburse you the money that you spent to pay for your trip, including the cost of the airfare, your hotel and any other charges that you may have already paid for or that you may incur.

If you are forcibly and violently removed from the airline, like Dr Dao was, your travel insurance will also protect you from any medical expenses that may arise. Dr Dao suffered a concussion and dental damage as a result of the incident. Of course, his travel insurance policy would provide him with the money that he would need for medical care; however, in a case like this, the airline would end up having to foot the bill.

Comply with the Airline

While it may seem ridiculous that you would have to do so, you should comply with the airline if you are ever asked to leave a flight. It may seem unfair, but if you don’t comply, you could end up being in a situation that was similar to the situation that Dr Dao experienced. In order to avoid such a tragedy, comply with the airline and de-board the plan. You will be able to deal with the aftermath of having to leave the flight without having to deal with any physical harm. Of course, your travel insurance will also kick in if it turns out that your trip is impacted. For example, if you can’t get another flight or reach your destination, the money you spend on your trip will be reimbursed.

The United Airlines fiasco was truly that; a fiasco. However, despite how horrific it was, it did impart some valuable lessons, which I think are important for all travelers to be aware of. I know that after that incident, I did a lot of research myself, and I am much more aware when I am traveling.