Daily Management Review

After Customer Disasters, U.S. Lawmakers Grill Airline Executives


05/03/2017




After Customer Disasters, U.S. Lawmakers Grill Airline Executives
After a passenger was hauled down the aisle of a flight last month, legislation aimed at improving customer service was threatened to be passed by U.S. lawmakers against United Airlines and other carriers on Tuesday.
 
Top airline executives promised to address customer service failures at the hearing held to consider ways to address passenger frustrations with problems such as overbooking as they testified to the House of Representatives transportation committee.
 
The lawmakers did not outline any immediate plans for increased oversight on the largely deregulated sector in the four-hour hearing and the industry breathed a sigh of relief after the it.
 
After he refused to give up his seat to make room for crew members, a video of 69-year-old passenger David Dao being dragged from a United flight at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport had become viral in April.
 
The United had reached a settlement last week for an undisclosed sum with Dao and its Chief Executive Oscar Munoz repeatedly apologized at the hearing for the removal of Dao. "In that moment for our customers and our company we failed, and so as CEO, at the end of the day, that is on me," Munoz said. The removal was called "a mistake of epic proportions" and was the result of a series of system failures, he said. Executives from American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines and United President Scott Kirby was also present at the hearing along with Munoz.
 
A passenger video showing a woman on a plane in tears holding a child in her arms and another at her side after an encounter with a flight attendant over a baby stroller on an American Airlines flight went viral and the airline also experienced its own public relations fiasco last month. "Clearly what happened was wrong," said Kerry Philipovitch, the airline's senior vice president of customer experience, at the hearing.
 
Delta Air Lines Inc reported a gain in April traffic and Airline stocks rose after the hearing.
 
Analyst Jim Corridore of CFRA Research were relieved that lawmakers did not outline plans for immediate moves to tighten regulations and said investors were focusing on news of Delta's improved unit revenue.
 
The frustrations customers routinely face, including complicated booking systems, confusing fees, long waits and unexplained flight delays, were recounted during the hearing by many lawmakers who fly weekly to and from Washington.
 
"We all know it's a terrible experience," said Representative Michael Capuano, a Democrat from Massachusetts, throwing his arms in the air in frustration. "Some charge fees for baggage, some charge fees for oxygen, who knows?"
  
Bill Shuster, chairman of the House of Representatives' transportation committee, said: "If airlines don't get their act together, we are going to act; it is going to be one size fits all. Seize this opportunity because if you don't, we're going to come, and you're not going to like it."
 
The message that change was needed was loud and clear, Munoz said after the hearing.
 
"I think the sense in the room was one of an admonition to get your collective stuff together," Munoz told reporters at the Capitol. The alternative is to face additional legislation, "which I think is fair," he added.
 
By reducing overbooked flights and offering passengers who give up their seats up to $10,000, United has changed its policies in response to the dragging incident.
 
(Source:www.reuters.com) 






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