United CEO: not to fire employees involved in passenger-dragging incident

Gladys Abbott
April 20, 2017

United Airlines said on Wednesday it planned to testify at an upcoming U.S. House Transportation Committee hearing on commercial airline consumer issues after a passenger was dragged off an April 9 flight in Chicago to make room for crew members.

While he asserted that he took full responsibility "for making this right", he said that his organisation will review and update their policy on overbooked flights by the end of April.

After the incident triggered worldwide outrage, United Chief Executive Oscar Munoz apologized to Dao, his family and its customers, saying the carrier would no longer use law enforcement officers to remove passengers from overbooked flights.

He had initially said, in an internal email later leaked to journalists, that Dao had been "disruptive and belligerent" and staff were "left with no choice".

"I personally don't think they should be allowed to overbook", wrote Deboarah Baker. "There was never a consideration for firing an employee".

Shares in United's owner, United Continental Holdings Inc, were hammered, dropping 4 percent last week to close at $69 on Thursday, reducing the company's market cap by $770 million to $21.5 billion.

"It was a system failure across various areas", Mr Munoz continued. Other airline stocks also declined in the same period.

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Last week, United announced that it will no longer call police to remove passengers from overbooked planes.

United Airlines' reputation is circling the drain after the forcible removal of a passenger from one of its flights went viral and made worldwide headlines last week.

And some United States politicians have called for a total ban on overselling flights.

Even in normal times, airlines closely - even daily - scrutinize numbers such as advance sales and occupancy levels on planes.

Dao reportedly yelled that he was being discriminated against for being of Asian descent, a searing allegation given that United controls nearly 20 percent of USA airline traffic to China and has a partnership with Air China.

Whether business to China will be affected remains to be seen, United President Scott Kirby said on the earnings call. He said that United's forecast for the April-through-June quarter has not changed.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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