VERIFY: Can police officers remove people from airplanes?

VERIFY: Airline passenger rights

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --

Debate erupted on social media Tuesday after video surfaced on social media of a man being dragged off a United Airlines flight that was reportedly overbooked.

A United Airlines spokesperson clarified Tuesday that the flight was, in fact, not oversold.

NEWS CENTER wanted to verify if police officers are allowed to remove passengers from airplanes.

Assistant Chief Vern Malloch of the Portland Police Department said that officers can remove passengers from planes.

"It puts officers in a bad position," said Malloch on when a person refuses to comply with a command, as the man in the video did. Malloch said officers have to balance the amount of force they use in similar situations.

Malloch said that Portland officers specifically assigned to the Portland Jetport have been called to remove passengers who are disorderly, but never ones who have simply refused to leave their seats.

United's "Contract of Carriage" states that if a flight is oversold, a passenger can be involuntarily denied boarding that flight, but only after personnel first ask for volunteers to give up their seats.

NEWS CENTER also spoke to Tricia Peightal, a travel agent at Around The World, LLC in Gorham, who said that airlines often overbook flights, but that she has never seen passengers be allowed to board the plane before figuring out which people will be bumped.

"When [airlines] offer the incentives before they start boarding the plane -- if they don't get people for a lower amount value for a voucher , a lot of times they will increase that to get to the number of people they need to voluntarily give up their seats," said Peightal.

Peightal said people should try to reserve their seat number ahead of time, but some airlines, such as United have policies that say seat assignments are not guaranteed, and are subject to change without notice.

The situation has caused a massive public relations issue for United Airlines.

WATCH: Social media responds to United Airlines situation

VERIFY: Sources

Assistant Chief Vern Malloch, Portland Police Dept.

United Airlines "Contract of Carriage"

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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