Published: Fri, May 12, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

Congress grilling United over Dao; CEO Munoz apologizing

Congress grilling United over Dao; CEO Munoz apologizing

Committee chairman, Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., opened the hearing by saying Congress will take action if airlines do not act, and he warned that they "would not like the outcome". But it allowed lawmakers to vent the frustration of passengers and for executives to explain how they are trying to improve.

Lawmakers also asked the executives how their airlines determine who to bump involuntarily from an overbooked flight.

Airlines need to disclose their rules and policies to passengers in a clearer form than the legalistic so-called contracts of carriage, Representative Peter DeFazio, the highest ranking Democrat on the committee, said in an interview.

"I think the airline industry needs to focus on getting its own house in order instead of extending its reach to control of our skies", DeFazio said.

Munoz apologized repeatedly for the removal of David Dao, 69, who last month refused to give up his seat to make room for airline employees.

He began the morning with an apology for forcibly removing a passenger from an overbooked flight on April 9.

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

"We had a disgusting failure three weeks ago. It is not who we are", Munoz said.

"If the market were functioning well, this never could have happened", Esty said. "We will work incredibly hard to earn - not your business necessarily - but your trust".

United has taken a series of steps to reduce overbooking of flights since the incident and will raise to $10,000 the limit on payments to customers who give up seats on oversold flights, Munoz said.

"We need a consistent, uniform, comprehensive, clearly written set of passenger rights for United States airlines", Mr McGee said. "It's a terrible calculus to put people in".

The testimony comes almost a month after video spread across social media of a Kentucky doctor who was dragged off a United plan after the flight was overbooked, which prompted widespread outrage, a federal investigation, and a lawsuit by the doctor against the company.

But airlines had the lowest rate of involuntarily bumping passengers past year - 0.62 passengers for every 10,000 transported - since the Transportation Department began keeping track in 1995.

However, the carriers said they would no longer remove passengers once they are on board the aircraft for reasons unrelated to safety or security. United will reduce overbooking and offer up to $10,000 in vouchers to give up an overbooked seat, he said. While United, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines officials were there, Delta Air Lines didn't send a representative.

"I expect that number to go down 80% because of that policy change", he said.

The airline executives were grilled on overbooked flights, confusing and lengthy consumer rights information and increasing baggage fees, with numerous lawmakers recalling their own frustrating airborne experiences.

"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.

The Transportation Department on Tuesday issued a report that the USA airline industry made $13.5 billion in net profits in 2016.

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, left, and United Airlines President Scott Kirby, prepare to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, to testify before a House Transportation Committee oversight hearing. All major carriers were invited, he said.

Not all lawmakers criticized the airlines.

American Airlines, which has a hub in Philadelphia, said an April 21 episode when a flight attendant grabbed a stroller from a passenger, also captured on video, clearly was wrong.

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