United Airlines CEO calls passenger incident 'epic' mistake

Owen Stevens
May 6, 2017

"Clearly what happened was wrong", said Kerry Philipovitch, the airline's senior vice president of customer experience, at the hearing.Airline stocks rose after the hearing and Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N) reported a gain in April traffic. "Airlines are good at filling up planes", he said, "but they often don't have a single empty seat, and the seats are getting smaller and closer together".

The House Transportation Committee is examining USA air travel in the wake of the two incidents and others.

The CEO of United Airlines, along with some other executives, faced lawmakers on Tuesday, May 2, over the airline's abusive practices and improper treatment of passengers. The airline settled out of court with the passenger, Dr. David Dao.

The question remains whether lawmakers believe airlines will address these issues on their own, or whether they will pass legislation to intervene on behalf of passengers.

Republican Duncan Hunter, who takes the only direct San Diego-Washington flight weekly when Congress is in session, said it was a "joke" to suggest there was competition.

The airline has since announced that Munoz will no longer take over as chairman of United's board in 2018, as was planned. If the airlines don't make changes, Congress is likely to step in, Shuster and other lawmakers said.

"If we act, it's going to be one-size-fits-all", Shuster warned.

The White House has not weighed in on whether new rules are needed to respond to airline customer service issues.

The U.S. airline industry's overbooking and bumping policies have come under intense fire following the United incident which sparked global outrage.

United has taken a series of steps to reduce overbooking of flights since the incident and will raise to 10,000 U.S. dollars (£7,740) the limit on payments to customers who give up seats on oversold flights, Mr Munoz said.

"It's shameful that an event like the one that we had at United needs to drive this conversation", Munoz said.

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., said he's 6-foot-3 (191 centimeters) and has a hard time on planes.

Also read: American Airlines employee accused of hitting mom with her baby's stroller.

US lawmakers blasted airline executives Tuesday and urged an end to added fees, cramped seats, and poor customer service after public outrage over a passenger dragged off a flight last month.

Dao's attorney has praised the airline and Munoz for accepting responsibility and not blaming others, including the city of Chicago, whose airport security officers yanked Dao from his seat and dragged him off the United Express plane.

Munoz apologized for the April 9 incident and the airline's response, telling the committee the initial episode was "a frightful failure", and his first response to it was "inadequate".

"You made your problem the customer's problem", Larsen told the executive. And just as predictably, they promised to perform better in the future, United for its part pointing to its recent pledge to make 10 "substantial changes to how it flies, serves and respects its customers".

Demetrio and the United CEO both described the settlement as "amicable". Jordan said the airline expects the change will cut the number of incidents where customers are denied boarding by about 80 percent.

Eight of the House's ten 10 recipients of airline transport campaign contributions in 2016 are on the Transportation Committee, including Shuster, the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Peter DeFazio of OR, and the chairman of its aviation subcommittee, Rep.

Other reports by VgToday

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