United vows to do better after passenger dragged from plane

Both told the executives they need to improve or face action by Congress.

The hearing aimed for top airlines executives to testify as well as to decide Congress response if new policies, affecting passengers, were to be made. The hearing follows a slew of controversies involving airline workers and passengers, which have prompted some lawmakers to consider overhauling customer service policies.

Republican Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia said the airlines executives were showing great patience at the sometimes pointed questions from lawmakers.

The airline industry is one of the most powerful interests that lobbies lawmakers and contributes millions to their re-election campaigns, especially those that serve on the committee that oversees them.

The airline also said it will improve employee training.

"Some charge fees for baggage, some charge fees for oxygen, who knows?"Bill Shuster, chairman of the House of Representatives' transportation committee, said: "If airlines don't get their act together, we are going to act; it is going to be one size fits all". U.S. airlines have rushed in a set of promises following the April 9 United bumped-and-dragged passenger incident. Unlike other frustrated passengers who can't do much to change the system, the Congress has the power to force those changes if they don't occur willingly.

Apologizing for last month's incident that left a passenger bloodied, Munoz said Tuesday, "The reason I'm sitting here today is because on April 9, we had a serious breach of public trust".

"Alaska is actively reviewing sensitive customer policies, such as overbooking", Joseph Sprague, senior vice president at Alaska Airlines, said in testimony.

The settlement announcement came on the same day that United Airlines revealed some big policy changes, including raising the maximum incentive for a passenger to give up their seat when a flight is overbooked to $10,000.

The Transportation Committee grilled top airline executives for almost four hours after a string of bad behavior caught on camera.

"I've never seen a passenger rights bill introduced in Congress that ever got out of committee", he said.

First on the list are passengers who don't have seat assignments before boarding the aircraft.

But numerous House transport & infrastructure committee members who grilled United CEO Oscar Munoz and president Scott Kirby - and, to a lesser extent, other airline executives from Alaska, American and Southwest - mostly used their five minutes to make it clear that they are themselves frequent fliers. Most notably that shocking incident last month where a doctor was dragged off a United flight. Mr Munoz initially blamed Mr Dao, but later said he was horrified by the event and called it a failure on United's part.

Since the April 9 incident in Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, three airport officers have been suspended for the handling of Dao.

The House Transportation Committee is conducting an oversight hearing on the United incident and other passenger serviced issues with air travel. The committee wanted to know what airlines meant to do to win back customer trust, reminding Munoz and the others that they are in the customer service business as well as transportation. The incident ignited a debate about poor service and a lack of customer-friendly policies on US airlines.

  • Zachary Reyes