Airlines can expect more regulations if they don’t make big changes to improve the treatment of passengers and overall flying experience, said Rep. Michael E. Capuano (D-Mass.) during a congressional hearing on Tuesday.
“We are kind of sick of it as the consuming Americans, but we got to fly, you got us. And if you want to keep treating us this way, fine, I guess we can only do so much,” Capuano said during the hearing.
“But there will come a day when Congress won’t accept it anymore on behalf of the American people and that shouldn’t happen.”
United CEO Oscar Munoz, as well as leaders from American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Alaska Airlines, were grilled by lawmakers during the hearing, which was hosted by the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
While most representatives on the committee used their allotted five minutes to ask Munoz and the other execs questions about current customer service policies and internal practices, Capuano used his time to give the airlines a lecture.
“The problem with the flying experience is across the board. We all know it’s a terrible experience. Starting from the minute I go on to the computer to try and decide what flight I want to take,” he said.
Capuano scolded airlines for not holding themselves to a higher standard and warned them that while the hearing was spurred by the incident of a United passenger being dragged off a flight, all airlines should be looking internally to see how they can improve service.
“I hope you all know that this doesn’t stop today and that you will be judged on how it is implemented. And it is not just You Mr. Munoz, it happens to be you today, but it could be any one of you tomorrow,” Capuano said.
The incident involving United happened on April 9 aboard a plane in Chicago heading to Louisville. The passenger, 69-year-old David Dao, was dragged off the plane by Chicago Aviation police officers after refusing to give up his seat on the plane. A fellow passenger recorded the incident and the video quickly went viral.
The video sparked public outrage, not only against United, but against the airline industry in general for its practice of overbooking and treatment of passengers.
United, as well as several other airlines, have already taken steps to address issues like overbooking.
For example, United and Delta have both increased the amount they are willing to offer in the case of an overbooked flight to $10,000. What’s more, Southwest Airlines is ending the practice of overbooking completely.
“I don’t have any question because I do think you addressed the immediate situation,” Capuano said of the changes United has already promised to make to improve its servicee.
“But if you walked out of here thinking that the immediate situation is the only problem the American public has with the flying experience, you would have missed the point. 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.
“I don’t want to yell at you I just want to be able to go to the airport and get from point A to point B and have a more pleasant experience.”