Airlines should do this more often.
Today in the Sky reports that Air Canada billed an unruly passenger for causing a 27 minute delay for one of their flights. Basically, the guy was in the wrong seat and got into an argument when they tried to make him move to the right one. It ended with him being escorted off the plane by police.
The airline refunded the amount of the ticket for his transatlantic flight since he wasn’t allowed to take that flight, but he was then billed $1,350 for the costs incurred by the airline to deal with him.
I absolutely think this is the right thing to do. And this is one of the more benign cases because it only involved a delay. Think of all the diversions that occur because someone gets out of hand. A diversion is extremely expensive because the airline has to pay the additional fuel required for the extra flight, landing fees at the second airport, extra crew time, late arriving aircraft that can cause delays on future flights. It gets expensive quickly, and the passenger should pay.
A more gray area is when there is a medical diversion. In an ideal world, I would think health insurance should pay for something like this, but I’m also realistic so it probably won’t happen. If a passenger takes a risk by flying and doesn’t disclose it to the airline, for instance if he’s diabetic and doesn’t bring insulin, then I’d say the passenger should pay. On the other hand, if something unexpected happens and insurance won’t pay, I don’t know who else could pony up the cash.