Will Things Get Worse for Passengers after the United "Bumping" Incident?
Canada has proposed new legislation regarding "bumping" people off flights (UPDATE: and US legislation may be in the works). They did not comment directly about the United incident, but it's hard to think it wasn't a factor, as United is a partner to Air Canada. I have to admire the proactive and quick approach to dealing with a clear problem by the Canadians, but I have a hard time thinking this will benefit travelers in the future.
While airlines definitely operate in their own best interest, which is why flights are overbooked in the first place, their decisions are often utilitarian enough in principle when viewed from the outside. In fact, the incident that lead us here was because United decided the dissatisfaction of four travelers was less important than all the travelers who would have been misplaced from canceling an entire flight in Louisville. When seen (without the video of police intervention) from a distanced perspective, bumping those four people is preferential to essentially bumping a plane full of people. Of course, the other side of things is United could certainly afford to charter a private plane to get the crew to Louisville, if they wanted (and they probably would have if they could do things over again).
Giving people more rights once they are on the plane will probably just prevent airlines from putting people on the plane in the first place. It could even lead airlines to canceling entire flights, instead of bumping a few individuals, to avoid having to deal with potential legal consequences.