House lawmakers told the chief executive of United and officials of other airlines to improve their customer service in the wake of recent incidents or face possible new regulations, at a congressional hearing that was relatively free of fireworks.
CEO Oscar Munoz told members of the House Transportation Committee that the forcible removal of passenger David Dao from a United flight on April 9 was a “mistake of epic proportions,” and American Airlines’ Kerry Philipovitch said it was “wrong” that a flight attendant hit a passenger with a baby stroller last month.
Read: United CEO apologizes at House hearing after dragging incident: recap.
Also read: American Airlines employee accused of hitting mom with her baby’s stroller.
Instead of angrily calling for resignations or immediate action from Washington, lawmakers appeared content — for now — to let the airlines take their own steps to improve service.
“If we don’t see meaningful results that improve customer service, the next time this committee meets to address this issue, I can assure you, you will not like the outcome,” Chairman Bill Shuster, a Pennsylvania Republican, told Munoz and other executives.
Besides Philipovitch, who is senior vice president of customer experience for American
, United President Scott Kirby, Southwest Airlines’
Chief Commercial Officer Bob Jordan and Alaska Airlines’
Senior Vice President of External Relations Joseph Sprague testified.
Munoz said in testimony that United has taken a number of steps following the Dao incident, which was filmed by fellow passengers and widely shared on social media. United will reduce overbooking and offer up to $10,000 in vouchers to give up an overbooked seat, he said. Dao’s attorneys have said the Kentucky man and United have agreed to a settlement.
Read: $10,000 for being bumped and 9 other big changes United Airlines is making.
The most personal comment came from Rep. Duncan Hunter, a California Republican, who told Munoz, “I was going to ask, why do you hate the American people?”
Munoz has said he was hired to make United better and he will not resign.
Immediate action against the airlines and the executives seems unlikely after the hearing. Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, said he would ask the Government Accountability Office for a study on airline customer service.
On Monday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer was noncommittal about legislation on airlines, saying the industry is responding on its own.
“There’s an industry component, and then I’ll leave it up to Congress to decide whether or not it’s appropriate to address it legislatively. Once there was a piece of legislation…we would have an opportunity to weigh in on that,” he said.