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Politics Marc Garneau warns Canadian airlines that forcibly removing passengers won’t fly with him

Transport Minister Marc Garneau stands during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, on April 6, 2017.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Transport Minister Marc Garneau is warning Canadian airlines that forcibly removing passengers from overbooked flights will not be tolerated.

Mr. Garneau's written warning to airlines comes days after United Airlines passenger David Dao, 69, was dragged off a fully booked flight in Chicago after refusing to leave his seat to accommodate airline crew members. According to his lawyer, Mr. Dao suffered a concussion, broken nose and lost two teeth when three security officers removed him from the plane against his will.

"I am sure that you were as disturbed as I was, and as all Canadians were, over the appalling incident that took place onboard a United flight earlier this week, when a passenger was forcibly removed from his seat. I am writing to you today to convey that such an incident would be unacceptable in Canada," Mr. Garneau said in a letter to Canadian airlines Friday.

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At a Thursday news conference, Mr. Dao's lawyer, Thomas Demetrio, said his client may require reconstructive surgery. Mr. Demetrio said they will probably file a lawsuit against the airline.

United faced public outrage after footage of Sunday's incident went viral. In a letter Monday, United chief executive Oscar Munoz defended the airline's actions, saying Mr. Dao had been "disruptive and belligerent." He has since called Mr. Dao to apologize and said the company would no longer use law enforcement officers to remove passengers from overbooked flights.

United shares have lost about 1 per cent of their value since Monday.

Mr. Garneau said he will introduce a passenger bill of rights in Parliament in the coming weeks after months of consultation with Canadians on their concerns about air travel. According to Friday's letter, the bill will address various aspects of the traveller experience under the control of airlines, such as compensation for passengers who are bumped from flights.

"When passengers purchase an airline ticket, they expect and deserve that the airline will fulfill its part of the transaction. When that agreement is not fulfilled, passengers are entitled to clear, transparent and enforceable compensation."

With files from Reuters

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