In the week since United Airlines made headlines when a ticketed passenger was aggressively hauled off his flight, the company has updated its crew travel policies to ensure passengers won’t get booted and compensated all travelers on the fateful fight. Now, the airline’s CEO says no employees will be fired over the incident.
United CEO Oscar Munoz called the debacle “a system failure” during an investor call Tuesday, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, adding that there was “never consideration” of firing any employee.
“This is a true learning opportunity and will ultimately prove to be a watershed moment for our company as we work harder than ever to put our customers at the center of everything we do,” Munoz said.
Executives with the company said on the call that it was too soon to know if the incident would have an effect on the airline’s bottomline.
Despite this, Munoz says that first-quarter earnings beat analysts exceptions, and gives the airline “confidence about the foundation” its building.
United’s President Scott Kirby told investors that corporate clients — the big spenders who buy large numbers of airline tickets each year — have been calling on the company to make changes to its customer service in the wake of this incident.
“There has been concern from corporate accounts, which is totally appropriate,” said Kirby, according to the Wall Street Journal. “They want us to fix things. They want us to do the right thing.”
For those unfamiliar with the situation, here’s a quick recap of the story so far: On April 9, United asked for volunteers to be bumped off a flight from Chicago to Louisville so that airline crew members could catch the flight. Nobody took the $800 offer, so the airline “randomly selected” some “volunteers” who would be told to leave the plane they had already boarded.
The first two grudgingly went, but the third refused. That’s when it got ugly: Several fellow travelers took — and shared — video of passenger Dr. David Dao being hauled out of his seat and dragged off the plane by police, which quickly went viral.
Since then, CEO Munoz has issued several attempts at an apology, most of which were panned by consumers, who saw them corporate-speak to discuss “re-accommodating” the passenger and calling him “disruptive and belligerent.” In his fourth apology, Munoz finally actually said, “I deeply apologize.”
Additionally, the airline has said it won’t use law enforcement to drag people off flights anymore, and has also promised some kind of compensation for every passenger who was on that April 9 flight.
On Monday, the airline sent an email to staff outlining changes to its crew travel policy, announcing that employees much have traveled arranged at lest an hour in advance.
As the company continues to attempt to put the incident in the past, Munoz says it will continue to review policies for handling oversold flights, including taking to passengers and employees, Munoz said Tuesday.