US Lawmakers Chide Beleaguered United Airlines Chief Over Passenger Abuse

"Seize this opportunity, because if you don't, we're going to act and you're not going to like it", Shuster said.

United, as well as several other airlines, have already taken steps to address issues like overbooking.

Munoz outlined numerous failings of old policies, and acknowledged United never should have called in law enforcement to remove a paid passenger from a plane for refusing to give up his seat for an airline employee who needed to be on the same flight.

But Munoz defended the policy of overbooking, saying it helps the airline better serve passengers. "It is not who we are", Munoz said.

He told the hearing that passenger David Dao was treated in a way that no customer should be handled, calling it a "terrible experience" that should never be repeated. To a suit, the executives often took turns reciting the industry's mantra: Air travel has never been safer.

In the end, it's all about treating everyone with decency, and up until now, the airlines have been tone deaf on that, McGee said. Lines are long, planes are delayed yet prices keep going up, he said.

Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster said lawmakers want answers about customer-service policies and what is being done to improve service for the flying public.

"We called law enforcement when a safety or security issue did not exist", he said. He can't sit up straight, and his legs stick out.

David Dao suffered from a concussion and two broken teeth when being dragged off the flight since the airline needed to make room for crew members.

The policy arm of the nonprofit Consumer Reports called on Congress to enact a "consistent, uniform, comprehensive, clearly written set of passenger rights for US airlines".

They complained about cancelled flights and checked bag fees; questioned why some airlines charge hefty change fees and others do not; and bemoaned airlines' practice of selling more tickets than there are seats on planes, according to the Chicago Tribune.

United and Dao's attorney last week announced a settlement had been reached. United and lawyers for Dao have declined to disclose financial terms of the settlement.

A trade association for the carriers says airlines are "Taking action to deliver a better experience for the 2.2 million customers." and insists "competition is alive and well in the airline industry".

Transportation Committee Ranking Member Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in his opening statement that the recent incidents undercut the airlines' argument for corporatizing the Air Traffic Control system. A video of the incident shows the mother in tears as another passenger confronts the flight attendant. American takes responsibility for incident and is making progress to improve customer service, she said. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. asked.

Members of Congress complained about having to squeeze uncomfortably into tight seats, paying fees to check bags or change flights, having their luggage lost, paying extra to get a window or an aisle seat, and so on. He said this allows airlines to disregard passengers' interests.

Chief Executive Officer of United Airlines Oscar Munoz speaks in NY in 2016.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, left, and other airline-industry executives testify Tuesday before the House Transportation Committee about customer service in the wake of a passenger being violently removed from a United flight.

  • Zachary Reyes