The CEO of United Airlines, along with some other executives, faced lawmakers on Tuesday, May 2, over the airline's abusive practices and improper treatment of passengers.
As a reminder, United went under fire last month after it overbooked a flight and dragged a passenger out of the plane, although he had paid for his seat and booked the flight in due time.
Members of Congress held a four-and-a-half-hour hearing to scold United execs over that incident when the airline dragged and bloodied a passenger last month. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members also shared their own horror stories from their experience as frequent flyers, and Congress warned airlines that things have got to change.
Airlines' awful treatment of passengers has to stop, or else Congress will have no choice but to take action.
Airlines In Congress Hot Seat Over Lousy Passenger Treatment
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.
Lawmakers have basically been ranting about such issues just like millions of other travelers do, but there's a big difference. Unlike other frustrated passengers who can't do much to change the system, the Congress has the power to force those changes if they don't occur willingly.
Airlines have been treating customers badly for a good while and the highly mediatized United scandal was just the cherry on top. Members of Congress are fed up with apologies about United's violent removal of a passenger last month and it wants action, not words. Congress warned United CEO Oscar Munoz that unless things change, the airline will feel the wrath of lawmakers.
Congress Warns Airlines: No Half-Measures, Or Else
"This Committee and the Congress do not want half-measures or temporary fixes. This issue is not going away. We are not going away, we will hold you accountable, and we expect real results," said Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa.
"I shouldn't need to remind you that Congress will not hesitate to act, whenever necessary, to ensure your customers, our constituents, are treated with the respect they deserve," he added. "If we don't see meaningful results that improve customer service, the next time this committee meets to address the issue, I can assure you, you won't like the outcome."
The hearing took place five days after United settled with David Dao, the doctor that United staff dragged and bloodied a few weeks ago while trying to remove him from an overbooked flight to give his seat to someone else. The settlement was confidential.
Prior to the Congress hearing, United issued a statement last week pledging to implement 10 important changes to improve its service and the way it treats its customers. The airline's CEO again apologized for the April 9 incident when United staff dragged Dao off the flight.
"Our review shows that many things went wrong that day, but the headline is clear: our policies got in the way of our values and procedures interfered in doing what's right," said Munoz. "This is a turning point for all of us at United and it signals a culture shift toward becoming a better, more customer-focused airline."