United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz told lawmakers Tuesday on Capitol Hill that the violent removal of a passenger from a flight last month was a “horrible failure” and would not happen again.
“The reason I am sitting here today is that on April 9 we had a serious breach of public trust,” Munoz testified before the House Transportation Committee. “For the last three weeks, I’ve spent literally every single day thinking about how we got to this point. What chain of events culminates in the injury of a customer and the loss of trust in so many more?”
Munoz repeated his apology to 69-year-old Dr. David Dao, who was dragged off a flight by local law enforcement at the request of the airline after he refused to give up his seat on an overbooked flight from Chicago to Louisville, Ky. Videos showing a beaten and bloodied Dao quickly went viral, sparking outrage on social media and a public relations nightmare for the airline.
In response, Munoz said the company has implemented a series of policy changes, vowing to never ask a customer to give up their seat once they’re on board and offering up to $10,000 to those that agree prior to check-in. He also promised that the company would no longer use law enforcement to remove a passenger in a similar situation.
‘This has to be a turning point for the 87,000 people and professionals here at United,” Munoz told the committee. “It is not who we are. It is not this company, and frankly, it is not this industry.”
He added: “We will work incredibly hard not to re-earn your business necessarily, but your trust.”
William J. McGee, an aviation consultant who also testified at the hearing, said the Dao incident exposed a bigger problem within the airline industry.
“It really shouldn’t take a media event and a viral social to make executives in this industry rethink how they retreat their customers,” McGee said.
Rep. Mike Capuano, D-Mass., said Americans are so used to “miserable” flying experiences, it’s become expected.
Capuano then relayed several colorful comparisons from his personal experience.
“When I was a kid, I grew up in a neighborhood where every single playground was full of broken glass, broken basketball hoops and no swings, and everybody just accepted it,” he said. “The problem with the flying experience is, across the board, we all know it’s a terrible experience. Starting from the minute I go on the computer to try to figure out which flight I want to take … some charge fees, some don’t charge fees, some charge fees for bags, some charge fees for oxygen — who knows?”
“Then when I get to the airport, I go to the TSA lines, and now, being a regular flier I go to the express lines, which now are full of people who don’t know to take their keys out of their pocket,” Capuano continued. “Then I get to the gate — plane’s late, plane’s not late, never explained why.”
And while Capuano said he accepted Munoz’s apology and the policy changes, he stressed it can only be the beginning.
“I hope you all know this doesn’t stop today, and you will be judged on how it is implemented,” the congressman said. “If you walked out of here thinking the immediate situation is the only problem the American public has with the flying experience, you would have missed the point.”
Read more from Yahoo News:
- ‘One Free Carry Off’: Twitter roasts United with new airline slogans
- United passenger forcibly removed from flight after refusing to give up seat
- New video shows bloodied United passenger returning to plane
- Spicer: It’s disturbing to watch a human being ‘dragged down an aisle’
- United CEO apologizes in full: ‘No one should ever be mistreated this way’