United CEO Oscar Munoz was scolded during a congressional hearing for neglecting to immediately apologize to the passenger who was forcibly removed from a flight in an incident that ignited public backlash.
“I was appalled at your comments at first,” Congressman Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa., told Munoz during the Tuesday hearing.
Public fury toward the airline intensified after Munoz released two statements that placed blame on the passenger, David Dao, calling him “disruptive” and “belligerent.” Dao suffered a concussion and lost teeth after being dragged off the plane. Munoz eventually issued a public apology.
“It was the wrong thing to say at the wrong time,” Munoz said of his initial statement.
Members of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing with Munoz and other airline leaders to discuss ways to improve customer satisfaction.
Airlines have faced greater public scrutiny following the United scandal as customers continue to record disputes and post them on social media. American Airlines suspended an employee in late April after a video went viral showing a flight attendant challenging a customer to a fight after allegedly hitting a woman with a stroller.
United has since released customer service policy changes, including limiting the use of law enforcement, increasing compensation incentives for volunteers giving up their seats, and reducing the amount of overbooking.
“I’m very disappointed that you’re not mentioning a change to the policy as to how you would select a passenger for removal,” Smucker said.
Munoz replied by saying passengers will no longer being removed from flights once they are physically on the plane.