Lawmakers blast airlines, which say they're fixing problems

Randall Padilla
May 8, 2017

Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, R-Pa., warned airlines to "seize the day" because if carriers do not reform their passenger policies, Congress will impose rules, and "you're not going to like it".

Some airlines say they're reviewing their passenger compensation policies when flights are overbooked.

If airlines don't act to improve, "I can assure you, you won't like the outcome", Shuster said. "Starting from the minute I go on to the computer to try and decide what flight I want to take", he said.

Peter A. DeFazio (Ore.), the ranking Democrat on the committee: "Very few passengers have any idea what their rights are", he said, noting that 40,000 ticketed passengers were bumped from their flights previous year.

Some lawmakers - and frequent flyers - are acknowledging that airline executives are in a tough spot as they testify before lawmakers at a hearing on problems with US air travel.

"It was a mistake of epic proportions, clearly, in hindsight", a contrite Munoz told a hearing of the transportation committee of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

United has taken a series of steps to reduce overbooking of flights since the incident and will raise to 10,000 USA dollars (£7,740) the limit on payments to customers who give up seats on oversold flights, Mr Munoz said. Munoz said United has adjusted its policies as a result, and will now limit the use of law enforcement to security issues only. "It is my mission to ensure we make the changes needed to provide our customers with the highest level of service and the deepest sense of respect".

David Dao suffered from a concussion and two broken teeth when being dragged off the flight since the airline needed to make room for crew members.

"We are calling for a consistent, uniform, comprehensive, clearly written set of passenger rights for USA airlines", he said. It also raised the cap on payments to customers who give up seats on overbooked flights to $10,000.

"You made your problem the customer's problem", Mr Larsen said.

They complained about cancelled flights and checked bag fees; questioned why some airlines charge hefty change fees and others do not; and bemoaned airlines' practice of selling more tickets than there are seats on planes, according to the Chicago Tribune.

United last week reached a settlement with the 69-year-old Dao, whose removal prompted intense public backlash when fellow passengers released video online showing aviation police dragging him down the aisle as passengers cried out and gasped at his bloodied face.

Munoz was joined at the hearing by United President Scott Kirby and executives from American Airlines (AAL.O), Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) and Alaska Airlines (ALK.N).

Airlines have faced greater public scrutiny following the United scandal as customers continue to record disputes and post them on social media. "We have a problem that shouldn't be as bad and unpleasant as it is and you're the only people who can fix it, and I encourage you to do so", he said.

An American Airlines executive also apologized for a male flight attendant who verbally abused a female passenger and then got into an angry confrontation with another passenger who intervened.

The incident on the United flight sparked a debate over customer service on U.S. airlines; the topic of the hearing today, which featured a range of airline executives in the spotlight.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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