United CEO to Congress: 'We Will Do Bet­ter'

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - Hill for an in­ci­dent in which a pas­sen­ger was forcibly re­moved from a flight and vowed to do bet­ter as he and other air­line ex­ec­u­tives

WASH­ING­TON - United Air­lines CEO Os­car Munoz apol­o­gized Tues­day on Capi­tol faced tough ques­tions from law­mak­ers. Munoz told a con­gres­sional hear­ing that pas­sen­ger David Dao was treated in a way that no cus­tomer — or in­di­vid­ual — should be treated, call­ing it a "ter­ri­ble ex­pe­ri­ence" that should never be re­peated. "We will do bet­ter," Munoz said.

United has taken a se­ries of steps to re­duce over­book­ing of flights since the April 9 in­ci­dent and will raise to $10,000 the limit on pay­ments to cus­tomers who give up seats on over­sold flights, Munoz said. The air­line also said it will im­prove em­ployee train­ing.

"This is a turn­ing point for United, and our 87,000 pro­fes­sion­als," Munoz said. "It is my mis­sion to en­sure we make the changes needed to pro­vide our cus­tomers with the high­est level of ser­vice and the deep­est sense of re­spect."

The hear­ing by the House Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee comes amid world­wide out­rage sparked when Dao was dragged off a United flight af­ter re­fus­ing to give up his seat to a crew mem­ber. The in­ci­dent ig­nited a de­bate about poor ser­vice and a lack of cus­tomer­friendly poli­cies on U.S. air­lines.

Trans­porta­tion Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bill Shus­ter, R-Pa., said the hear­ing will give law­mak­ers "an op­por­tu­nity to get much­needed an­swers about air­line cus­tomer ser­vice poli­cies and what is be­ing done to im­prove ser­vice for the fly­ing pub­lic."

United moved to head off crit­i­cism last week by reach­ing a set­tle­ment with Dao and is­su­ing new poli­cies de­signed to pre­vent cus­tomer-ser­vice fail­ures. United and lawyers for Dao have de­clined to dis­close fi­nan­cial terms of the set­tle­ment.

United Pres­i­dent Scott Kirby joined Munoz at the hear­ing, along with top ex­ec­u­tives of Amer­i­can Air­lines, Alaska Air­lines and South­west Air­lines.

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.

Dao was wait­ing to fly to Louisville, Kentucky, on April 9 when the air­line de­cided it needed four seats for Repub­lic Air­line crew mem­bers who needed to travel to work on an­other United Ex­press flight in Louisville the next morn­ing. When Dao and his wife were se­lected for bump­ing, he re­fused to leave.

Video of the in­ci­dent has sparked more than two weeks of with­er­ing crit­i­cism and mock­ery of United. Munoz ini­tially blamed Dao, but later said he was hor­ri­fied by the event and called it a fail­ure on United's part.

United has vowed to re­duce - but not elim­i­nate - over­book­ing, which oc­curs when more tick­ets are sold than there are seats on the plane.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF TWIT­TER

CEO Os­car Munoz, United Air­lines

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF YOUTUBE.COM

Dao's at­tor­ney, Thomas Demetrio 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.

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