CHICAGO – United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said he felt “shame” when watching viral videos of a passenger being dragged from his seat aboard a Sunday night flight, in an interview with “Good Morning America” on Wednesday.
“This will never happen again on a United Airlines flight,” Munoz said, apologizing to the passenger, David Dao, his family, passengers on that flight and United’s customers and employees.
Tuesday night, Munoz issued a second statement apologizing for the incident, in which Dao was dragged down the aisle of a flight, after United’s first apology added more fuel to the backlash. Asked Wednesday why his initial remarks failed to mention that sense of shame, Munoz said he wanted to first “get the facts and circumstances,” but that his earlier remarks “fell short” of expressing what he felt.
In the Wednesday interview, Munoz said United already has decided it will no longer call on law enforcement to remove paying passengers who have already been seated if a flight is overbooked.
Munoz also said the airline needs to give its employees more latitude to be flexible in trying to resolve situations like the one on the Sunday flight without resorting to calling in law enforcement.
Munoz on Tuesday promised a thorough review of United’s policies for handling situations where it has sold more tickets than seats available, including how it offers incentives to customers to take a later flight, and how United works with airport authorities and local law enforcement.
Dao was one of four passengers involuntarily bumped from a United Express flight from Chicago to Louisville, Ky., after airline employees failed to find volunteers willing to switch to a later flight. When Dao repeatedly refused to leave his seat, employees called in security personnel from the city’s Aviation Department, who dragged him off the aircraft.
United’s programs for incentivizing people to volunteer to switch to a later flight, typically in exchange for vouchers that can be redeemed for future travel, work pretty well at the gate, Munoz said.
More than 90 percent of passengers bumped from a flight on a major U.S. airline last year volunteered, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
But once passengers are in their seats, “that incentive program needs to change,” Munoz said. “We need to expand and adjust those policies to allow common sense.”
Munoz said he doesn’t think Dao was at fault in the incident. “He was a paying passenger sitting in our aircraft. No one should be treated that way,” he said.