Wednesday, 12 December, 2018

Congress Says Airline Customer Service Has to Improve

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz left prepares to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday Congress Says Airline Customer Service Has to Improve
Melissa Porter | 03 May, 2017, 11:21

United Airlines president Scott Kirby told the committee his company regretted how it handled the situation with the ejected passenger, but said "it is going to help us in the future, because we're going to learn and be a better airline".

An American Airlines executive also apologized at the hearing for an incident in which a male flight attendant upset a female passenger to the point of tears, then got into a heated confrontation with a male passenger who tried to come to the woman's defense.

Munoz said an investigation into the incident, which provoked worldwide condemnation, found that police should not have been involved and a seat shortage aboard the plane should not have occurred. Video of the incident has circulated widely on social media.

The airline has settled out of court with the passenger, Dr. David Dao.

The House Transportation Committee is examining US air travel in the wake of the two incidents and others.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty says lawmakers are looking for "assurances" from airlines so that legislation isn't necessary.

Other lawmakers seemed to just want to use the allotted time to vent their frustration with the airlines. While he generally opposes regulating industries, Shuster said, Congress "will not hesitate to act" to ensure constituents are treated with the "respect they deserve". If airlines don't make changes, it will prompt congressional action and, "I can assure you, you will not like the outcome".

Otherwise, he said, "we're going to act and you're not going to like it".

New actions from Congress risks a "one size fits all" approach bad for consumers, Shuster said.

The transportation panel is holding a hearing on airline service after a passenger was forcibly removed from a United flight last month.

An Indiana congressman defended United Airlines Tuesday, saying a passenger who was dragged off a plane shouldn't have resisted law enforcement.

In the case of the Dao incident, Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., told Munoz "you made your problem your customer's problem ... putting the solution on the customer".

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, Mr Munoz said.

Currently, JetBlue is one of the only USA carriers that has started to phase out overbooking flights.

FILE - In this June 2, 2016, file photo, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz waits to be interviewed in NY. Dao, a 69-year-old Kentucky physician, was treated in a way that no customer - or individual - should be treated, Munoz said, calling it a "terrible experience" that should never be repeated.

A Southwest Airlines executive told lawmakers Tuesday that the carrier will stop the unpopular practice of overbooking flights. Munoz initially blamed Dao, but later said he was horrified by the event and called it a failure on United's part.

But some members, including Republicans, raised the need for stricter oversight, citing industry consolidation, cumbersome fees and falling fuel costs they said had not been transferred to passengers in the form of lower fares.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines did not testify at the hearing, but said it has been briefing members of Congress and their staff on the airline's customer care policies and reliability.

Committee members teed off not just on Munoz, but also on the difficulties of flying in general.

Oscar Munoz testified before the House Transportation committee on Capital Hill in Washington, DC alongside 4 other airline executives from American Airlines, Southwest and Alaska.

The incident ignited a debate about poor service and a lack of customer-friendly policies on United States airlines.