Before people forget this, the pressure should me mounted on DOT in framing/correcting the existing rules and make them more passenger friendly. Today its United and tomorrow it can be some other airline and one of us can be a victim.
This. The USA needs an EU261 style regulation desperately. Right now it's a joke that the airline can drag you off (literally in UAs case) and you get nothing.. haha.
In the U.S., we have "denied boarding compensation." This is the compensation that a passenger must be offered, if there are insufficient volunteers to resolve an overbooking situation.
If the airline can't arrange alternate transportation that gets the passenger to the destination within two hours, then he shall get a refund of 400% of his ticket, up to $1350. If travel can be arranged, such that the passenger gets to his destination in 60 minutes to 119 minutes, then the compensation is 200% of the ticket, up to $675. If the airline can get the passenger to his destination within an hour of his original arrival time, then the passenger gets no compensation.
This is from 14 CFR Sec. 250.5
In the situation, if a passenger had volunteered, he would have flown out on UA the next morning. But, if you are denied boarding, than UA was obligated to not only look at its schedules systemwide, but also look at AA, DL, and any other airline with which it has an interline agreement (i.e., no Southwest out of MDW).