Following Incidents, Airline Officials Grilled About Customer Service at House Hearing

House Transportation Committee Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster R-Pa. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday

Following Incidents, Airline Officials Grilled About Customer Service at House Hearing

The chief catalyst for the hearing was the April 9 forceful removal of United passenger David Dao in Chicago, because he refused to leave to plane to make way for airline crew members who were flying to Louisville, Kentucky.

David Dao, the 69-year-old passenger, didn't want to give up his seat.

Bill Shuster, R-Pa. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, during the committee's hearing where United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz testified.

OVERBOOKING - Even at Tuesday's hearing, and in the aftermath of the United incident, the airlines have been making promises that they will no longer involuntarily remove passengers from overbooked flights after the passengers have boarded, unless it involves an issue of safety or security.

United Airlines Inc UAL.N executives faced harsh criticism from US lawmakers that demanded answers on Tuesday following the forcible removal of a passenger from an overbooked flight in April, with the carrier's chief executive again apologizing for the incident.

United has taken a series of steps to reduce overbooking of flights since the incident and will raise to 10,000 U.S. dollars (£7,740) the limit on payments to customers who give up seats on oversold flights, Mr Munoz said.

When Oscar Munoz, CEO of United, replied that he had worked for Coca-Cola (KO), Pepsico (PEP) and AT&T (T) "and that has worked out pretty well" in terms of pricing and choice of services, Hunter noted that with soda and telecom "you have a choice - but people have to fly, and have no other option".

The House Transportation Committee also went after American, Alaska, and Southwest Airline executives about their customer policies.

Kerry Philipovitch, a senior vice president of American, said the incident was improperly handled and is being investigated.

"If airlines don't get their act together, we are going to act; it is going to be one size fits all", said Bill Shuster, chairman of the House of Representatives' transportation committee.

United and other airlines have announced policy changes regarding overbooked flights. Seize this opportunity because if you don't, we're going to come, and you're not going to like it."After the hearing, Munoz said the message that change was needed was loud and clear". "Regardless of the contractual relationship between the airline and the ticket holder - it's just common decency and common sense that you don't treat a person that way, let alone a paying customer".

But United President Scott Kirby said almost all flights have competition, perhaps from connecting flights.

Shuster provided no specifics on what steps Congress would take to fix airline service. Most notably that shocking incident last month where a doctor was dragged off a United flight.

"We are not aware of other industries in America where the business is given this kind of free license to oversell the product, with so little accountability for failing to deliver", McGee said.

DeFazio also used the occasion to criticize the airlines industry's goal of spinning off air traffic control operation from the Federal Aviation Administration.

United has vowed to reduce - but not eliminate - overbooking.

"I've had the counter clerk be so hostile to me the point where she says 'don't ask me any more questions, i just don't know.'" Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D)-Mi. said. Jordan said the airline expected the change to cut the number of incidents where customers are denied boarding by about 80 percent.

"If the market were functioning well, this never could have happened", Esty said.

"It's important for American to take responsibility when we don't handle things well", she said.

Latest News