BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – As the world reacts to the violent, bloody removal of an airline passenger in Chicago, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority’s chief of police says he doubts what happened at O’Hare Airport last week would ever happen at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.
Chief George Gast said transit cops have removed passengers from airplanes at BNIA for breaking the law, not for taking up a seat on an overbooked flight, and on those occasions the removal was accomplished peacefully.
Chicago’s Aviation Police forcibly removed passenger Dr. David Dao for refusing to give up his seat to a United Airlines crew member, a seat that Dao paid for but was overbooked. When Dao refused to comply with the crew’s orders, he was dragged off the plane, causing physical injury.
Gast points out, Dao was not accused of committing a crime, and the ordeal has led to an international scandal.
Has that incident led the NFTA to re-evaluate its procedures for boarding flights to remove passengers? Gast said no, instead police brass reiterated the NFTA’s procedures to transit officers.
According to the chief, transit police are to board a plane only when requested by the plane’s pilot or the aircraft’s commander, and only if they believe the law is being broken, “Certainly we try to avoid this. We get on the flight, we try to diplomatically talk to the individual.”
Gast added the NFTA has a number of officers who are crisis intervention trained, “If possible we will use one of those officers, if the individual is being difficult or disruptive because they have special training to be able to deal with those kinds of situations.”
Overbookings of flights happen all the time, and Gast knows from years of experience, airlines generally know when a flight is overbooked before the passengers even board the plane.
The airlines will offer incentives, such as vouchers or other compensation, to get people to voluntarily forego a flight, rather than deciding after the passengers have already boarded to have them removed from the plane.