After a passenger was violently dragged off a United Airlines regional flight at Chicago O’Hare International Airport earlier this month, the airline promised to change how they would handle overbooked flights, and publicly announce those changes by April 30th. On Wednesday, they released a statement outlining improvements to their customer service policy, which includes reducing overbookings and offering passengers up to $10,000 in travel certificates to take a later flight.
On April 9th, a United Airlines employee called airline security to remove a “belligerent” passenger who had refused to voluntarily give up his seat in order to accommodate deadhead crew members who were needed to service a flight the next day in Louisville, Kentucky. Videos from passengers showed security officers dragging a semi-conscious 67- year-old doctor down the aisle. Dr. Dao was taken to a nearby hospital immediately following the incident and it was later reported that he suffered a concussion, broken nose and two missing teeth. Despite the video footage, the Chicago Police Department, surprisingly, issued a statement claiming that the passenger’s injuries were due to a fall after he became “irate.” (The four aviation security officers involved in the incident have since been placed on leave.)
Shortly after United Airlines released the Flight 3411 Review and Action Report, they also announced that they came to an amicable agreement with Dr. Dao over his involuntary deplaning on April 9th. “Dr. Dao has become the unintended champion for the adopting of changes which will certainly help improve the lives of literally millions of travelers,” said Thomas Demetrio, one of Dao’s two lawyers. However, that doesn’t end the legal troubles for United: another disgruntled passenger who was bumped from her seat on a different United Airlines flight has recently sued United Airlines for punitive damages to “to deter such behavior in the future.”
The ten policy changes promised by United Airlines are summarized below. The full report can be found on the United Airlines website.
1. United will limit use of law enforcement to safety and security issues only.
United will not ask law enforcement officers to remove customers from flights unless it is a matter of safety and security.
2. United will not require customers already seated on the plane to give up their seat involuntarily unless safety or security is at risk.
3. United will increase customer compensation incentives for voluntary denied boarding up to $10,000.
4. United will establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions.
United will create a team to proactively identify and provide gate agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportation to get customers and crews to their final destinations. Separately, the team also will work to provide solutions to help get crews to their final destinations.
5. United will ensure crews are booked onto a flight at least 60 minutes prior to departure.
6. United will provide agents with additional annual training.
7. United will create an automated system for soliciting volunteers to change travel plans.
Later this year, United will introduce a new automated check-in process, both at the airport and via the United app, that will gauge a customer’s interest in giving up his or her seat on overbooked flights in exchange for compensation. If selected, that customer will receive their requested compensation and be booked on a later United flight.
8. United will reduce its amount of overbooking.
United has evaluated its overbooking policy. As a result, adjustments have been made to reduce overbookings on flights that historically have experienced lower volunteer rates, particularly flights on smaller aircraft and the last flights of the day to a particular destination.
9. United will empower employees to resolve customer service issues in the moment.
Rolling out later this year, United will launch a new “in the moment” app for our employees to handle customer issues.
10. United will eliminate the red tape on lost bags.
United will adopt a new no-questions-asked policy on permanently lost bags. In these instances, United will pay a customer $1,500 for the value of the bag and its contents.
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