“Legging-gate” has died down, but in its place, a pressing question has arisen: How easy is it to get kicked off a flight?
The answer is, it depends.
Every airline has a “contract of carriage,” which outlines, in fairly broad terms, the actions that could cause denial of a passenger boarding or their removal from a flight. Delta has a 51-page contract, Southwest Airlines has a 42-page contract and United has 30 rules in its contract. When passengers purchase tickets, they agree to all of these terms.
The enforcement of many of the rules, however, is largely at the discretion of the flight crew. Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said that flight crews must be vigilant about looking for warning signs of disruptive behavior that could escalate after takeoff. “Once you’re up in the air, you don’t have a lot of options. You can’t call for help. You can’t have someone taken away. It starts to become an issue that threatens the safety and security of the rest of the people on board,” she said.
This, Nelson said, is the first reason that someone might be turned away at the gate or get thrown off a plane. Alcohol may contribute to air rage (in fact, it was involved in a recent incident of threats against other passengers), and that’s something that the flight crew wants to avoid at all costs. “If your flight is delayed, you might want to sip those drinks at the bar a little more slowly, because you need to understand that you could get to a point where if you’re not really in control of what’s going on, you might not get on the plane,” Nelson said.